Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/240

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
230
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lished on purely prudential grounds, the same holds good of relations between human beings themselves. Men begin to perceive that, even from a purely personal point of view, peace is preferable to war. If war is unhappily still prevalent, it is at least not war in which every clan is fighting with its neighbors, and where conquest means slavery or extirpation. Millions of men are at peace within the limits of a modern state, and can go about their business without cutting each other's throats. When they fight with other nations they do not enslave nor massacre their prisoners. Taking the purely selfish ground, a Hobbes can prove conclusively that everybody has benefited by the social compact which substituted peace and order for the original state of war. Is this, then, a reversal of the old state of thingsā€”a combating of a "cosmic process"? I should rather say that it is a development of the tacit alliances, and a modification so far of the direct or internecine conflict. Both were equally implied in the older conditions and both still exist. Some races form alliances, while others are crowded out of existence. Of course, I cease to do some things which I should have done before. I don't attack the first man I meet in the street and take his scalp. The reason is that I don't expect that he will take mine; for, if I did, I fear that even as a civilized being, I should try to anticipate his intentions. This merely means that we have both come to see that we have a common interest in keeping the peace. And this, again, merely means that the alliance which was always an absolutely necessary condition of the survival of the species has now been extended through a wider area. The species could not have got on at all if there had not been so much alliance as is necessary for its reproduction and for the preservation of its young for some years of helplessness. The change is simply that the small circle which included only the primitive family or class has extended, so that we can meet members of the same race on terms which were previously confined to the minuter group. We have still to exterminate and still to preserve. The mode of employing our energies has changed, but not the essential nature.

Morality proper, however, has so far not emerged. It begins when sympathy begins; when we really desire the happiness of others; or, as Kant says, when we treat other men as an end and not simply as a means. Undoubtedly this involves a new principle no less than the essential principle of all true morality. Still I have to ask whether it implies a combating or a continuation of a cosmic process. Now, as I have observed, even the animal mother shows what I have called a de facto altruism. She has instincts which, though dangerous to the individual, are essential for the race. The human mother sacrifices herself with a consciousness of the results to herself, and her personal fears are overcome by