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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/559

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537
MR. MALLOCK ON OPTIMISM.

given, and what will be the further stages of the process. But when we once recognize the fact that the problem is being worked out, we see that an answer is actually given in some degree by the very facts before us. That is really the nature of the change in the point of view implied in the acceptance of the evolution theory."[1]

Having thus shown to how large an extent Mr. Mallock has drawn upon his imagination in regard to the importance assigned in modern ethical theories to the idea of progress, it is easy to show that what he has said on the subject of sympathy is equally destitute of foundation. The emancipated modern thinker tries to take stock of human nature as it is: the age for constructing ideals of a purely imaginative kind has passed. We want to ascertain just how much sympathy there is in average human nature, so that we may know what we have to depend on. We want to discover also how far the quantity now existing admits of increase. Auguste Comte studied this question closely; and, far from unduly magnifying the sympathetic element in human nature, he continually speaks of it as being very weak in comparison with the egoistic, and therefore requiring all the re-enforcement we can give it. His whole system is an elaborate effort to draw out sympathy and make it more widely and powerfully operative in human affairs. For this purpose his followers think it right and profitable to dwell much upon the history of the human race, and to bring into strong relief the organic dependence of the individual upon society at large. Many who, perhaps, would not care to acknowledge any obligations to Comte, are to-day doing the same thing—so much so that the prominence given to the thought of society as an organic whole, infusing its own larger life into its individual members, may be said to be an especial note of the present age. If it be asked what object there can be in quickening sympathy between a man and his fellows, the answer is, the promotion of more harmonious social action, resulting in economy of force and increase of happiness. Upon this point Mr Mallock seems to be all astray, owing doubtless to the too abstract manner in which he chose to treat the question. He seems to think that the whole effect of sympathy is confined to the mental representation of others' pains and pleasures. He forgets, apparently, that it has its natural outcome in action; and that, except as a basis for action, there would be no useful purpose in cultivating it. This is the true and obvious answer to his paradoxical contention that an increase of sympathy could not make for happiness, seeing that if, on the one hand, it enabled us to enter more heartily into the joys of others, it would, on the other, bring home to us more poignantly their sorrows. We can

  1. "Science of Ethics," p. 34.