Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/42

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
32
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it is in part a question of numbers, and the smaller groups may consist of the more capable warriors), there would still be an adequate answer. It is only during the earlier stages of human progress that the development of strength, courage, and cunning, are of chief importance. After societies of considerable size have been formed and the subordination needed for organizing them produced, other and higher faculties become those of chief importance; and the struggle for existence carried on by force, does not always further the survival of the fittest. The fact that but for a mere accident Persia would have conquered Greece, and the fact that the Tartar hordes very nearly overwhelmed European civilization, show that offensive war can be trusted to subserve the interests of the race only when the capacity for a high social life does not exist, and that in proportion as this capacity develops, offensive war tends more and more to hinder, rather than to further, human welfare. In brief we may say that the arrival at a stage in which ethical considerations come to be entertained, is the arrival at a stage in which offensive war, by no means certain to further predominance of races fitted for a high social life, and certain to cause injurious moral reactions on the conquering as well as on the conquered, ceases to be justifiable; and only defensive war retains a quasi-ethical justification.

And here it is to be remarked that the self-subordination which defensive war involves, and the need for such qualification of the abstract principle of justice as it implies, belong to that transitional state necessitated by the physical-force-conflict of races; and that they must disappear when there is reached a peaceful state. That is to say, all questions concerning the extent of such qualifications pertain to what we distinguished as relative ethics; and are not recognized by that absolute ethics which is concerned with the principles of right conduct in a society formed of human beings fully adapted to social life.

This distinction I emphasize here because throughout succeeding chapters we shall find that recognition of it helps us to disentangle the involved problems of political ethics.—Nineteenth Century.

 


 
The constantly receding character of the unexplained was illustrated by Dr. Burdon Sanderson, in his address at the British Association, by reference to the discovery of the cell, which seemed to be a very close approach to the mechanism of life; "but now we are striving to get even closer, with the same result. Our measurements are more exact, our methods finer; but these very methods bring us to close quarters with phenomena which, although within reach of exact investigation, are, as regards their essence, involved in a mystery which is the more profound the more it is brought into contact with the exact knowledge we possess of surrounding conditions."