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came self-conscious was confined to these two spheres of action, flying (by combination and otherwise) for life and killing for life. There were creatures whom it was natural for him to kill, and others who, it was equally natural, should kill him. This was the state of things in which he found himself a living, thinking being; this was the law which he found not only confronting him on every side of his exterior life, but also deep rooted in his inmost nature as an indubitable, unanswerable fact.
Having arrived at this point, let us as our next step remind ourselves that it is impossible to imagine a rational human being in whom there is not present the assurance that he has a right to himself, to be allowed to live in the first place, afterward (as the result maybe of long years of evolution) to be allowed to live happily. That no one has a right to take my life from me is a thought inseparable from myself, it is at any rate the first piece of knowledge of which I become possessed. The infant's cry for nourishment and warmth contains this much meaning to those who can discern how moral feelings grew out of physical conditions. But then this thought remains a mere mystery, and therefore quite unsuitable for affording a basis on which to explain the origin of conscience, until we set it in the light of evolution. So regarded, the mystery vanishes in an instant. For this thought is merely the necessary result of the correlation of the first self-conscious being with his environment, and conscience is the struggle for existence become aware of itself in the mind of a thinking person. The first man, in however dumb, inarticulate a fashion, did nevertheless practically contrive to claim of the universe, of Nature, of creatures like bimself, nay, ultimately of the unknown Author of all things, that they should not destroy the life which they had originated. He made his appeal (makes it in truth now) to all the tremendous forces amid which he moved, and in the balance and play of which he endeavored to maintain an independent personal existence, that they should minister to him, the one thinking creature among them, and therefore (for the first man was also the first philosopher) their centre and final cause.
It seemed to him, in short, right, could not indeed seem otherwise, the past being what it had been, that his environment should be such as would make life possible to him at once, and in due time useful and enjoyable.
Observe that the condition essential to all knowledge, namely, contrast or the perception of dissimilarities, is here present. As light is meaningless without darkness, or heat without cold, so is right without its contrast of force or wrong. No doubt primeval man may have for long perceived by sensation the contrast of heat and cold, day and night, before he so far separated the ideas as to give them abstract names. So, too, the same man may have for long felt the indescribable contrast between the external force that was everywhere threatening his existence and the internal force that was resolutely bent on con
tinuing to be, before he called the two by the names right and wrong. But as the mere fact that the contrast was there, and always had been there, at the very root of things, produced at once the appropriate feeling in the first mind, so did the feeling produce in due time the words in which it is expressed. Take the first and commonest action in the struggle for existence. The meanest creature that lives seeks instinctively to escape from its enemy by flight. But man alone can think, as he flies from his pursuer, with an energy quickened by his knowledge of what death is and means: “All this is unutterably wrong.
I have a right to save my life, this thing or creature has no right to take it from me.” Such, or something like this, were the first thoughts of the first conscience, the first expression of the conviction that there was a rightness in the world.
Whatever else may be urged against this account of the origin of conscience, it seems to me certain that those phenomena, upon which intuitionalists have particularly relied as being beyond the reach of analysis, and therefore of discovery, are fully and precisely accounted for. Take, for instance, the word creation, which men have used because of their feeling that there were things in the world of instantaneous, and therefore of specially divine, origin-a feeling which gave rise to the most sublime utterance of antiquity : “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” Now the poetical beauty and religious truth of such phrases are surely not in the least degree prejudiced by the scientific statement that these “creations” correspond to those critical epochs in the progress of evolution when, by the union or marriage of one set of conditions with another, a third is instantaneously, and for the first time, called into being. Such an epoch, resulting in the origin of conscience, was that in which a being conscious of himself said, or thought, or felt, “I am," and then, confronted with a world of opposing and destructive forces, added, “and I have a right to be.”
So, too, the truth contained in the assertion that conscience is innate, intuitional, and imperative, is seen to be in harmony with the foregoing account of its origin. It is innate in the sense that, though undoubtedly impressed from without during long periods upon man in his animal state, it was not gradually impressed upon him in his intelligent state, but was, from the first, part of the mental furniture with which as a rational being he commenced his life upon earth. It is, in short, not a composition, i. e., the result of various tendencies such as pleasure, utility, and the like, but, in the sense explained above, a creation, coeval with man himself, the inheritance of the first human being no less than of the last.
Again, it is intuitional in the sense that it has a direct necessary and immediate perception of an external something, named rightness, with which it is correlated. Man, by virtue of his conscience, is obliged to believe that there is right and wrong, just as by virtue of his eye he is obliged to believe there is light and darkness. And this belief exists
and must exist independently of all theories as to what in the abstract constitutes right and wrong, and in spite of mistakes in particular cases.
Lastly, conscience is imperative, because the inwrought consciousness in human nature that man has a right to himself makes
other consideration whatsoever subordinate to itself. This is the right which must be at every cost pursued by myself and conceded to me by others, which dominates every action, lies at the root of all human progress, shapes every institution of our devising, and presides over the destiny of mankind to its remotest end. For, travel as far as we please, we can never escape
from the conditions under which we were called into being. So far, then, the task we set before us of ascertaining how the sense of rightness came into the world has been in some degree accomplished. The process by which from this prolific germ the vast fabric of human morality, together with the exquisitely delicate machinery of the individual conscience, as we now see it, has by slow degrees grown up, can be indicated in a sentence. Morality consists in transferring to other beings like ourselves those rights which we feel tbat we ourselves possess, in learning that what is due to us from them is also due to them from us, in ascertaining in what those mutual rights consist, in adjusting the rights of individuals within the limits of one society, lastly, in forming to ourselves notions of abstract right and wrong by the methods of philosophical inquiry. Manifestly, therefore, this account of the origin of conscience does not conflict with any one proposition that has ever been formulated by any of the great masters of experimental philosophy; it does but claim to add to them that undefinable something which seemed to the common-sense of mankind deficient in their account of conscience. The true method of inquiry is surely not to ask what such words as “conscience,” “ought,” “duty," "happiness," mean in the mind of a modern thinker, but to discover, if we can, what they meant, or rather to what instinctive impressions they corresponded, in the minds of the forefathers of our race. For the question is not“ How did I come by my conscience ?” but “How did those remote ancestors of mine, the first man and after him the first society of men, come by theirs ?”
The history of the process by which, under the influence of social life, its wants, obligations, utilities, arrangements, and sanctions, the sense of a right due to ourselves was elaborated into the voice of conscience prescribing what is due to others, would be a valuable and interesting contribution to moral science. But though quite beyond our present limits it is, I think, possible to sketch in mere outline the stages through which conscience passed till it reached its full growth. I disclaim any pedantic desire to show that these stages are chronologically successive; on the contrary, they act and react upon each other, and may be immensely varied in their operations among different races or at different times. But with this proviso the seven ages of conscience may be briefly indicated as follows:
1. The Animal Stage. Mr. Darwin's book has familiarized us with the idea that the moral and mental elements in man's nature, no less than the physical and material, were derived from irrational creatures by the process of evolution. How far this is capable of being proved in other respects it is not for me to say (whatever I may believe), but I am sure that it is true of that element which seems at first sight most opposed to it-the conscience. Making all allowance for the temptation and tendency to read our own thoughts into the minds of animals, and also for the effect upon the animals themselves of man's moral control, it yet remains certain that the materials out of which conscience has been constructed are everywhere discernible, like the rough unhewed stones of a quarry, in animal life and in Nature itself. The mere fact that animals can be taught and made to feel what they ought to do (how can we avoid using the word “ought ? ”) settles the question. But, without relying upon this, is it not evident that the contrast between the external force that would destroy and the internal power that will live existed long before it became an object of perception and reflection in the brain of a reasoning creature? And this contrast produced such actions as the following - flight, combination for defense, appealing looks, cries of remonstrance, self-defense to the last moment of existence. For instance, the sight of an object accustomed to prey upon a weaker animal then and there stimulated that animal to immediate flight by putting into motion the appropriate muscles and limbs. But the animals with which man is in closest alliance were those whose weakness must certainly have made the necessity of escape a large part of their experience. With this would come a great number of painful and also pleasant emotions. The need of horrible exertions, the terror of anticipation, the sense of unavailing wrath, sometimes the ecstasy of deliverance, which must have been so strong in the heart of every hunted animal that turned to bay at last, are seen to border closely upon that instinct of rightness which so evidently belongs to our individual inherited experience. It needed but the touch of self-consciousness to make the instinctive feeling pass by a bound into an instinctive thought in the mind of a being that “could look before and after." And whatever difficulty there may be in accounting for the evolution of man lies not in his moral but in his mental growth. How he became conscious of himself we may possibly never be able even to imagine, but that being conscious of himself he was by mere force of circumstances possessed of the germ of conscience, is a statement that presents no difficulty at all.
2. The Intermediate Stage. What was the moral condition of the “ape-like man?” He was a creature who had a vivid and intense conception of his own right to exist, and no conception whatever as to the rights of other creatures to the same existence. He was the inheritor of conditions and tendencies which wrought in him such thoughts as these : “ You shall die before I will ; ” “I will use you to please my
self;” “I am born to pursue my own happiness;” “The whole world is mine to occupy, plunder, and rule over, so far as I find a power within me to do it and to prevent others.” He was, in short, the incarnation of perfect selfishness. No one, of course, supposes that these “thoughts” amounted to anything more than vague impressions in the minds of the first men, till they grew into positive convictions under the fostering power of progressive and multiplied experiences. All that seems certain is, that there was an era in the history of man when there was added to his nascent conscience that sense of physical or necessary obligation expressed in our word “must.” If he was to avoid destruction, it was borne in upon his mind that he "must" act in such and such a way; his perception of right, that is, of his claim to existence, demanded of him a certain course of action (hardly yet perhaps of conduct), and demanded it in the most brief and imperative fashion. In this stage of human life, before men entered into social relations, we can plainly discern that aspect of conscience which we have described by the word “instantaneous,” and which has seemed to so many minds independent of, and prior to, any social experiences. We do but reproduce this ancient fashion of our race when, putting aside all opposing considerations, and refusing to listen to arguments based upon expediency or advantage, we say peremptorily and decisively, “ I owe it to myself to do this at once.”
3. The Family Stage. The phenomena of primeval family life are so obscure, so varied, and so complicated by institutions like polygamy and polyandry, that in making even the most general and apparently common-sense observations we are obliged to express ourselves with caution and reserve. One indubitable fact, however, stands out impressively amid all the chaos, and affords us a sufficient standpoint for indicating the precise growth of conscience at this stage of its existence. I mean, of course, the maternal care of offspring. It was from this deeply-rooted instinct that men first learned to transfer to the beings whom they loved, and whose helpless weakness appealed to them for protection, the same rights which they claimed for themselves. But however important and indeed enormous is the step thus made in the evolution of conscience, we must beware of making too much of it at this stage of its growth. For the first parents, even when preserving and protecting their children, could only regard their children's rights as part of their own, which they were entitled to defend against all opposing forces ; nor could they possibly have imagined that their children had any rights as against themselves. Still, when every deduction has been made, the fact remains that the sense of an obligation due to others besides ourselves, and perhaps too from ourselves, became part of the human consciousness, and men learned that if they wished to do well unto themselves they must make efforts of care and protection for the life and for the welfare of others. All the earlier annals of our race seem to show that this consideration for others, even those dearest to