Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/252

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this question let us pause for a moment, and, with Prof, Huxley's help, let us make ourselves quite clear what duty is, I have already shown that it differs from a passive obedience to external laws, in being a voluntary and active obedience to a law that is internal; but its logical aim is analogous—that is to say, the good of the community, ourselves included. Prof, Huxley describes it thus—"to devote one's self to the service of humanity, including intellectual and moral self-culture under that name"; "to pity and help all men to the best of one's ability"; "to be strong and patient," "to be ethically pure and noble"; and to push our devotion to others "to the extremity of self-sacrifice," All these phrases are Prof. Huxley's own. They are plain enough in themselves; but, to make what he means yet plainer, he tells us that the best examples of the duty he has been describing are to be found among Christian martyrs and saints, such as Catherine of Sienna, and above all in the ideal Christ—"the noblest ideal of humanity," he calls it, "which mankind has yet worshiped." Finally, he says that "religion, properly understood, is simply the reverence and love for [this] ethical ideal, and the desire to realize that ideal in life which every man ought to feel," That man "ought" to feel this desire, and "ought" to act on it, "is," he says, "surely indisputable," and "agnosticism has no more to do with it than it has with music or painting."

Here, then, we come to something at last which Prof. Huxley, despite all his doubts, declares to be certain—to a conclusion which agnosticism itself, according to his view, admits to be "indisputable." Agnosticism, however, as he has told us already, lays it down as a "fundamental axiom" that no conclusions are indisputable but such as are "demonstrated or demonstrable," The conclusion, therefore, that we ought to do our duty, and that we ought to experience what Prof, Huxley calls "religion," is evidently a conclusion which, in his opinion, is demonstrated or demonstrable with the utmost clearness and cogency. Before, however, inquiring how far this is the case, we must state the conclusion in somewhat different terms, but still in terms which we have Prof. Huxley's explicit warrant for using. Duty is a thing which men in general, "as they always have been, and probably ever will be," have lamentably failed to do, and to do which is very difficult, going as it does against some of the strongest and most victorious instincts of our nature. Prof. Huxley's conclusion, then, must be expressed thus: "We ought to do something which most of us do not do, and which we can not do without a severe and painful struggle, often involving the extremity of self-sacrifice."

And now, such being the case, let us proceed to this crucial question—What is the meaning of the all-important word "ought"?