Atlantis Online
May 29, 2023, 08:12:31 pm
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Site provides evidence for ancient comet explosion
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

Descent of Man [ 1871]

Pages: 1 ... 8 9 10 11 12 13 [14] 15   Go Down
Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 2925 times)
Hero Member
Posts: 230

« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 03:07:53 pm »

* "On the Limits of Natural Selection," in the North American
Review, Oct., 1870, p. 295.

  The development of the moral qualities is a more interesting
problem. The foundation lies in the social instincts, including
under this term the family ties. These instincts are highly complex,
and in the case of the lower animals give special tendencies towards
certain definite actions; but the more important elements are love,
and the distinct emotion of sympathy. Animals endowed with the
social instincts take pleasure in one another's company, warn one
another of danger, defend and aid one another in many ways. These
instincts do not extend to all the individuals of the species, but
only to those of the same community. As they are highly beneficial
to the species, they have in all probability been acquired through
natural selection.
  A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past
actions and their motives- of approving of some and disapproving of
others; and the fact that man is the one being who certainly
deserves this designation, is the greatest of all distinctions between
him and the lower animals. But in the fourth chapter I have
endeavoured to shew that the moral sense follows, firstly, from the
enduring and ever-present nature of the social instincts; secondly,
from man's appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of his
fellows; and thirdly, from the high activity of his mental
faculties, with past impressions extremely vivid; and in these
latter respects he differs from the lower animals. Owing to this
condition of mind, man cannot avoid looking both backwards and
forwards, and comparing past impressions. Hence after some temporary
desire or passion has mastered his social instincts, he reflects and
compares the now weakened impression of such past impulses with the
ever-present social instincts; and he then feels that sense of
dissatisfaction which all unsatisfied instincts leave behind them,
he therefore resolves to act differently for the future,- and this
is conscience. Any instinct, permanently stronger or more enduring
than another, gives rise to a feeling which we express by saying
that it ought to be obeyed. A pointer dog, if able to reflect on his
past conduct, would say to himself, I ought (as indeed we say of
him) to have pointed at that hare and not have yielded to the
passing temptation of hunting it.
  Social animals are impelled partly by a wish to aid the members of
their community in a general manner, but more commonly to perform
certain definite actions. Man is impelled by the same general wish
to aid his fellows; but has few or no special instincts. He differs
also from the lower animals in the power of expressing his desires
by words, which thus become a guide to the aid required and
bestowed. The motive to give aid is likewise much modified in man:
it no longer consists solely of a blind instinctive impulse, but is
much influenced by the praise or blame of his fellows. The
appreciation and the bestowal of praise and blame both rest on
sympathy; and this emotion, as we have seen, is one of the most
important elements of the social instincts. Sympathy, though gained as
an instinct, is also much strengthened by exercise or habit. As all
men desire their own happiness, praise or blame is bestowed on actions
and motives, according as they lead to this end; and as happiness is
an essential part of the general good, the greatest-happinesss
principle indirectly serves as a nearly safe standard of right and
wrong. As the reasoning powers advance and experience is gained, the
remoter effects of certain lines of conduct on the character of the
individual, and on the general good, are perceived; and then the
self-regarding virtues come within the scope of public opinion, and
receive praise, and their opposites blame. But with the less civilised
nations reason often errs, and many bad customs and base superstitions
come within the same scope, and are then esteemed as high virtues, and
their breach as heavy crimes.
  The moral faculties are generally and justly esteemed as of higher
value than the intellectual powers. But we should bear in mind that
the activity of the mind in vividly recalling past impressions is
one of the fundamental though secondary bases of conscience. This
affords the strongest argument for educating and stimulating in all
possible ways the intellectual faculties of every human being. No
doubt a man with a torpid mind, if his social affections and
sympathies are well developed, will be led to good actions, and may
have a fairly sensitive conscience. But whatever renders the
imagination more vivid and strengthens the habit of recalling and
comparing past impressions, will make the conscience more sensitive,
and may even somewhat compensate for weak social affections and
  The moral nature of man has reached its present standard, partly
through the advancement of his reasoning powers and consequently of
a just public opinion, but especially from his sympathies having
been rendered more tender and widely diffused through the effects of
habit, example, instruction, and reflection. It is not improbable that
after long practice virtuous tendencies may be inherited. With the
more civilised races, the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing
Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality.
Ultimately man does not accept the praise or blame of his fellows as
his sole guide, though few escape this influence, but his habitual
convictions, controlled by reason, afford him the safest rule. His
conscience then becomes the supreme judge and monitor. Nevertheless
the first foundation or origin of the moral sense lies in the social
instincts, including sympathy; and these instincts no doubt were
primarily gained, as in the case of the lower animals, through natural

  The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the
greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man
and the lower animals. It is however impossible, as we have seen, to
maintain that this belief is innate or instinctive in man. On the
other hand a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be
universal; and apparently follows from a considerable advance in man's
reason, and from a still greater advance in his faculties of
imagination, curiosity and wonder. I am aware that the assumed
instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument
for His existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be
compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant
spirits, only a little more powerful than man; for the belief in
them is far more general than in a beneficent Deity. The idea of a
universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of
man, until he has been elevated by long-continued culture.
  He who believes in the advancement of man from some low organised
form, will naturally ask how does this bear on the belief in the
immortality of the soul. The barbarous races of man, as Sir J. Lubbock
has shewn, possess no clear belief of this kind; but arguments derived
from the primeval beliefs of savages are, as we have just seen, of
little or no avail. Few persons feel any anxiety from the
impossibility of determining at what precise period in the development
of the individual, from the first trace of a minute germinal
vesicle, man becomes an immortal being; and there is no greater
cause for anxiety because the period cannot possibly be determined
in the gradually ascending organic scale.*
Report Spam   Logged
Pages: 1 ... 8 9 10 11 12 13 [14] 15   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy