Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/31

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ON JUSTICE.

with, advancing organization, superiority-has been perpetually fostered, and further advances caused.

On the other hand, it is true that to this self-sacrificing care for the young and this struggle for existence among adults, has been due the carnage and the death by starvation which have characterized the evolution of life from the beginning. It is also true that the processes consequent on conformity to these principles are responsible for the production of torturing parasites, which outnumber in their kinds all other creatures.

To those who take a pessimist view of animal-life in general, contemplation of these principles can of course yield only dissatisfaction. But to those who take an optimist view, or a meliorist view, of life in general, and who accept the postulate of hedonism, contemplation of these principles must yield greater or less satisfaction, and fulfillment of them must be ethically approved.

Otherwise considered, these principles are either, according to the current belief, expressions of the Divine will, or, according to the agnostic belief, indicate the mode in which works the Unknowable Power throughout the Universe; and in either case they have the warrant hence derived.

 

But here, leaving aside the ultimate controversy of pessimism versus optimism, it will suffice for present purposes to set out with a hypothetical postulate, and to limit it to a single species. If the preservation and prosperity of such species are to be desired, there inevitably emerge one most general conclusion and from it three less general conclusions.

The most general conclusion is that, in order of obligation, the preservation of the species takes precedence of the preservation of the individual. It is true that the species has no existence save as an aggregate of individuals; and it is true that, therefore, the welfare of the species is an end to be subserved only as subserving the welfares of individuals. But since disappearance of the species, implying disappearance of all individuals, involves absolute failure in achieving the end, whereas disappearance of individuals, though carried to a great extent, may leave outstanding such number as can, by continuance of the species, make subsequent fulfillment of the end possible; the preservation of the individual must, in a variable degree according to circumstances, be subordinated to the preservation of the species, where the two conflict. The resulting corollaries are these:

First, that among adults there must be conformity to the law that benefits received shall be directly proportionate to merits possessed: merits being measured by power of self-sustentation. For, otherwise, the species must suffer in two ways. It must suffer immediately by sacrifice of superior to inferior, which entails a