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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/281

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

extinction. By the observation, the thought, the suffering of many, experience is gained, and by self-control and self-direction that experience is applied to the government of life. If the individual, with his narrower personal experience, wishes to share in the general fund of wisdom and morality acquired by the social aggregate to which he belongs, he can only do it by conscious effort. The customary morality of the community is impressed upon him, in the first place, by public opinion, and it is left to him to check his purely individual impulses in the degree necessary for realizing (perchance transcending) the social ideal. It may further be observed that the ideal toward which the individual strives is identical with the standard of conduct which he is disposed to exact from his neighbor. Thus, to each man, conscience is the echo of the demands he makes upon others in the matter of conduct. Every man wants truth and justice and kindly help when necessary from his fellow-man; why, then, should he not yield them in return? How can he fail to at least profess a conformity with the standard he sets up for others? And if he continually professes to acknowledge that standard, how can he fail to strive more or less to adjust himself to it? If this involves conflict, on the one hand, it promises escape from conflict on the other—the conflict between a man's inner and outer self, between his professions and his practice.

We are thus very naturally led to see that the sense of effort in the individual is in no way incompatible with the existence of general tendencies by which human conduct is raised to successively higher levels. We scarcely gather from our contemporary's article above referred to that he has taken any pains to familiarize himself with the arguments of the evolutionist school. If he will not shun the effort needed for this purpose, but will read with attention Herbert Spencer's "Data of Ethics," or even so brief a treatise as Mr. Fiske's "Destiny of Man," we think he will find himself confronted with indubitable evidence that there has been an evolution in morals and in thought as well as in physical structure; and that this has been carried on, in the main, independently of mere individual volition. What the individual has to do is to keep up with the procession, and take a front rank in it if he can; he does not make the procession, nor can ho greatly accelerate or retard the speed of its movement.

We might, indeed, turn our contemporary's argument against him by asking how it is, if a certain moral constitution was imparted to man at the outset, that so much struggle should be involved in getting back to it. Reversion is generally, if not always, an easy process; the difficult thing is to add something to the ancestral inheritance. Evolutionists say that, if wrongdoing is easier than right-doing, it is because wrong-doing implies falling back on the more deeply implanted primitive instincts, and right-doing the exercise of more recently acquired and morally higher instincts. To be sensual merely requires a yielding to appetite; to be unjust, a compliance with some selfish motive; to be cruel, the indulgence of the instinct for destruction. Primitive man, wherever we find him, is sensual, unjust, and cruel; and the hoodlums and ruffians of our great towns show to-day the same characteristic. If, then, men have to struggle in order to be moral, in order to attain to "righteousness," it is because the higher moral attributes are of comparatively recent development, and not as yet as thoroughly worked into human nature as the primitive, self-regarding instincts. We are glad to have had this opportunity of discussing an important and interesting question; and we trust the "Journal of