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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/66

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for others, it should be with a good motive. The act was declared to be of no subjective value unless the motive was lofty, thus: "Do not your alms before men to be seen of them, otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven." Calling attention thus to motives was doubtless a great advance upon the preceding times. This improved form of altruism was, however, indiscriminate. Nothing was said or implied, in the above precept, as to the character of the persons to whom alms were to be given. Nothing was hinted or thought of the ultimate effect upon the recipient of giving alms, much less of taking steps to prevent any from needing alms. Elsewhere the intimation was that all who were poor should receive, as indicated by the direction "Go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord." "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Here the extreme of altruism was proposed, but utterly without discrimination as to the objective effect.

Just as all people assume the moral character of benevolence and charity, so there is a disposition to assume that all altruism is good—in other words, to use it as a synonym. Some writers of much prominence have not properly treated the subject of altruism, and religious writers especially fail to measure its true character—that is, we see forms of altruism held up as the summum bonum; its teachings are said to be almost or quite divine. A professor in Johns Hopkins University has recently, in "The Congregationalist" spoken of altruism as the opposite of selfishness, which latter term he also confounds with egoism (and spells it "egotism"). This is very unfortunate. We shall never work out social problems with such confusion of ideas. Seeing men in such positions treat altruism as always a good thing, and seeing them urge its practice without consideration or without limitation, have prompted this attempt to distinguish between justifiable altruism and unjustifiable altruism as carefully as moralists distinguish between justifiable egoism (self-love or self-interest) and unjustifiable egoism (selfishness). And right here the moral philosophers must be alluded to. They have been so zealous to destroy selfishness that they have urged the doing of good to others without sufficiently distinguishing between seeming good and the evil effects thereof. They have too much determined the quality of acts by an examination of the motives under which the acts were performed, and too little by an examination of the effects produced. They ought long since to have studied the character of altruism.

For eighteen hundred years the world has had an altruism which failed to discriminate as to the object, and, as will appear