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lasting satisfaction, that they persisted and became the parent of much of our present-day morality. An increasing part in this progress has been played by the conscious recognition of the advantages of code over code; but long before such explicit perception of advantage, the blind instincts and emotions of men were making for the gradual humanizing of morals, the selection of ideals and laws that make for human happiness.
As civilization advances, the consideration of mere preservation counts for less, and that of happiness for more; the margin, the breathing-space, for liberal interests, grows. Men become interested in causes for which they willingly risk their lives. But, except as these causes are fanatical, off the real track of moral progress, they make for human happiness. And the center of interest can never shift too far. For not only is premature death an evil in itself, it precludes the cultivation of the humane pursuits that life might have allowed. Men have to learn to find their happiness not in what saps health or invites death, but in what makes for health and life.
What definition of morality emerges from this?
The foregoing summary permits us to formulate a definition of morality. Historically, there has been a gradual, though not continuous, progress toward codes of conduct which make for the preservation of life and for happiness. These codes have received an imaginative consecration, and all sorts of secondary sanctions; but it is their underlying utility that is of ultimate importance. Very simple and obvious causes have continually tended to destroy customs which made in the contrary direction and to select those which, however originating, made for either or both of these two ends. It is these customs, important for the welfare of
the individual or tribe, which we call morality. If the original instincts of mankind had been delicately enough adjusted to their needs, there would have been no need of these secondary and overruling impulses, and the differentiation of impulse and duty, of the natural and the spiritual man, would never have arisen. But actually, mankind inherited from its brute ancestry instincts which, unguided, wrought great harm. Without the development of some system of checks men would forever have been the prey of overindulgence, sexual wantonness, civil strife, and apathy. They would have remained beasts and never won their dominance on the earth. Even rudimentary moral codes came as an amelioration of this dangerous and unhappy situation; they enabled men, by abstention from dangerous passions and from idleness, to make their lives efficient, interesting, and comparatively free from pain; by coöperation and mutual service to resist their enemies and develop a civilization. Morality thus has been the greatest instrument of progress, the most fundamental of man's achievements, the most important part of the wisdom of the race.
Is moral progress certain?
A measure of hopefulness is to be won from the observation that, quite apart from the conscious effort of men, natural laws have been making for moral progress. And unquestionably there has been a great advance in morality within historic times. We are forever past the age of cannibalism, of slavery, of widespread human torture or infanticide. War between nations is likely to vanish within a few generations. Never before was there so much sympathy, so much conscious dedication to human service, in the world. We are apt to idealize the past; we sigh for a "return to nature," or to the golden age of Greece. And there is some justification in our regrets. Simplicity of living, hospitality,
one virtue or another has been more conspicuous in some particular age than ever before or since. Moral progress wavers, and not all that is won is retained. But on the whole there can be no doubt that we stand on a higher level morally than the Greeks who had vices and sins that we scarcely hear of to-day- and incomparably higher than savage races. Even within a lifetime one can see the wave of moral advance push forward.
Yet this observable progress is not so certain of continuance that we can lapse into inertia and trust it to go on of itself. With the softening of the struggle for existence among men, with the disappearance of danger from wild animals, and the increasing conquest over nature, the chief means of moral progress hitherto are being removed. More and more we must rely on man's conscious efforts on personal consecration and self-mastery, on improved and extended legislation, on the growth of a moralized public opinion, on organizations and institutions that shall work for specific
Moreover, with the changing situations in which man finds himself, and especially with the growing complexification of society, new opportunities for sin and new temptations continually arise. No sooner is one immoral habit stamped out than another begins insidiously, and perhaps unnoticed, to form. The battle-line moves on, but new foes constantly appear; it will not be an easy road to the millennium. On the whole, our material and intellectual advance has outrun our moral progress; at present our chief need is to catch up morally.' We may note several reasons for this eddy in the moralizing process, this counter-movement
1 Cf. Alfred Russel Wallace, in his last book, Social Environment and Moral Progress (p. 50): "This rapid growth of wealth and increase of our power over Nature put too great a strain upon our crude civilization and our superficial Christianity; and it was accompanied by various forms of social immorality, almost as amazing and unprecedented."
toward the development of new sins and the renascence of old ones.
(1) With the growth of large cities and the development of individual interests we come to live less and less in one another's eyes. In primitive life it is almost impossible for a man to indulge in any vice or sin without its being immediately known to his fellows; but to-day millions live such isolated lives in the midst of crowded communities that all sorts of immorality may flourish without detection. Under early conditions foodstuffs or other goods were consumed if not by the producer, at least by his neighbors; and any adulteration or sham was a dangerous matter. To-day we seldom know who slaughtered the meat or canned the fruit we eat, who made the clothing or utensils we use; shoddy articles and unwholesome food can be sold in quantity with little fear of the consumer's anger. All sorts of intangible and hardly traceable injuries can be wrought to-day by malicious or careless men injuries to reputation, to credit, to success. In a city the criminal can hide and escape far more easily, can associate with his own kind, have a certain code of his own (cf. "honor among thieves"), and more completely escape the pangs of conscience, than under the surveillance of village life. In a hundred ways there are increased opportunities for doing evil with impunity.1
1 Cf. E. A. Ross, Sin and Society, pp. 32 ff.: "The popular symbol for the criminal is a ravening wolf; but alas, few latter-day crimes can be dramatized with a wolf and a lamb as the cast! Your up-to-date criminal presses the button of a social mechanism, and at the other end of the land or the year innocent lives are snuffed out. . . . As society grows complex, it can be harmed in more ways. .. Each advance to higher organization runs us into a fresh zone of danger, so there is more than ever need to be quick to detect and foil the new public enemies that present themselves. The public needs a victim to harrow up its feelings. . . . The injury that is problematic, or general, or that falls in undefined ways upon unknown persons, is resented feebly, or not at all. The fiend who should rack his victim with torments such as typhoid inflicts would be torn to pieces. The villain who should taint his enemy's cup with fever germs would stretch
(2) With the gentler conditions of civilized life there is a general tendency toward the relaxing of social restraints. The harsh penalties of early days would shock us by their cruelty; and early codes are full of prohibitions and injunctions on matters which are now left to the individual conscience. Needlessly cramping and cruel as these primitive laws often were, they were powerful deterrents, and their lapse has often been followed by greater moral laxity. The passionate pursuit of liberty, which has been so prominent in modern times, though on the whole of great advantage to man, has not been without its ill effects.
(3) The monotonously specialized and unnatural work which confines a large proportion of our men, women, and youths to-day, promotes restlessness and the craving for excitement. The normal all-round occupations of primitive men tended to work off their energies and satisfy their natural impulses. But the dulled and tired worker released from eight or ten hours' drudgery in a factory is apt to be in a psychological state that demands variety, excitement, pleasure at any cost. It does not pay to repress human nature too much, or to try to make out of a red-blooded young man or woman a mere machine. Gambling, drunkenness, prostitution, and all sorts of pathological vices flourish largely as a reaction from the dullness and monotony of the day's work. We are paying this heavy penalty for our increase of material efficiency at the expense of normal human living.
(4) With the increased possibilities of undetected sin, above mentioned, and the opportunity which criminals now have of forming within a city a little community of their own hemp. But-think of it! the corrupt boss who, in order to extort fat contracts for his firm, holds up for a year the building of a filtration plant designed to deliver his city from the typhoid scourge, and thereby dooms twelve hundred of his townspeople to sink to the tomb through the flaming abyss of fever, comes off scatheless."