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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/336

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before the stag loses his proud antlers, the bird its song and much of its beauty, the plants their fairest colors. The butterfly sheds its wings and expires, while alone and unweakened it might have lived through half the year. This is the course of nature in the development of beings out of one another; the stream flows on, though one wave is lost in the wave that succeeds it" (Bk. II., ch. 2).

But although Herder thus clearly remarked these characteristics of nature's dealings, he did not deduce from them either the biological or the philosophical consequences which have since become so familiar. It did not occur to him to find in the facts of the over-production of organisms and the struggle for existence an explanation—such as Maupertuis had already proposed—of that progressive production and selection of more highly organized and better adapted beings, the reality of which he so fully recognized. Nor was he led, by his apprehension of a universal tendency to the maximum production of living things, to erect the notion of 'unconscious will' into the central conception of a metaphysical system.

5. In his accounts of the beginnings of human society, and of the moral instincts without which society could not exist, Herder points out that these beginnings were made possible and necessary by a prior peculiarity in the physiological constitution which distinguishes the human species—namely, by the greater length of the period of helpless infancy. This, of course, is an idea upon which many evolutionary moralists and 'sociologists' have latterly delighted to dwell. Herder clearly sets forth how the prolongation of infancy was the condition and the chief cause of man's moral nature—how it provided the true training school in which the featherless biped was fitted for the social state: "The first society arose in the paternal habitation, bound together, by the ties of blood, of mutual reliance, and of love. Thus to destroy the savagery of men and to habituate them to domestic intercourse, it was necessary that the infancy in our species should continue for some years. Nature held them together by tender bonds, so that they might not separate and forget one another, like the beasts that soon reach maturity. The father becomes the teacher of his son, as the mother has been his nurse, and thus a new tie of humanity is formed. Herein lay the ground of the necessity of human society, without which it would have been impossible for a human being to grow up, and for the species to multiply. Man is thus born for society; this the affection of his parents tells him, this the years of his longer infancy show" (Bk. IV., ch. 6).

This conception, however, was by no means a new idea of Herder's own. It is, therefore a little curious to find the idea put forward by evolutionary writers of the end of the nineteenth century as a fresh and striking discovery. Even so learned a man as the late Mr. John