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Charles Darwin Descent Of Man Chapter 04


Descent of Man [ 1871 ]

Charles Darwin [ 1809 – 1882 ]


Chapter IV – Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals (continued)

I FULLY subscribe to the judgment of those writers* who maintain
that of all the differences between man and the lower animals, the
moral sense or conscience is by far the most important. This sense, as
Mackintosh*(2) remarks, "has a rightful supremacy over every other
principle of human action"; it is summed up in that short but
imperious word ought, so full of high significance. It is the most
noble of all the attributes of man, leading him without a moment's
hesitation to risk his life for that of a fellow-creature; or after
due deliberation, impelled simply by the deep feeling of right or
duty, to sacrifice it in some great cause. Immanuel Kant exclaims,
"Duty! Wondrous thought, that workest neither by fond insinuation,
flattery, nor by any threat, but merely by holding up thy naked law in
the soul, and so extorting for thyself always reverence, if not always
obedience; before whom all appetites are dumb, however secretly they
rebel; whence thy original?"*(3)

* See, for instance, on this subject, Quatrefages, Unite de l'Espece
Humaine, 1861, p. 21, &c.
*(2) Dissertation an Ethical Philosophy, 1837, p. 231, &c.
*(3) Metaphysics of Ethics translated by J. W. Semple, Edinburgh,
1836, p. 136.

This great question has been discussed by many writers* of
consummate ability; and my sole excuse for touching on it, is the
impossibility of here passing it over; and because, as far as I
know, no one has approached it exclusively from the side of natural
history. The investigation possesses, also, some independent interest,
as an attempt to see how far the study of the lower animals throws
light on one of the highest psychical faculties of man.

* Mr. Bain gives a list (Mental and Moral Science, 1868, pp.
543-725) of twenty-six British authors who have written on this
subject, and whose names are familiar to every reader; to these, Mr.
Bain's own name, and those of Mr. Lecky, Mr. Shadworth Hodgson, Sir J.
Lubbock, and others, might be added.

The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable-
namely, that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social
instincts,* the parental and filial affections being here included,
would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience, as soon as its
intellectual powers had become as well, or nearly as well developed,
as in man. For, firstly, the social instincts lead an animal to take
pleasure in the society of its fellows, to feel a certain amount of
sympathy with them, and to perform various services for them. The
services may be of a definite and evidently instinctive nature; or
there may be only a wish and readiness, as with most of the higher
social animals, to aid their fellows in certain general ways. But
these feelings and services are by no means extended to all the
individuals of the same species, only to those of the same
association. Secondly, as soon as the mental faculties had become
highly developed, images of all past actions and motives would be
incessantly passing through the brain of each individual: and that
feeling of dissatisfaction, or even misery, which invariably
results, as we shall hereafter see, from any unsatisfied instinct,
would arise, as often as it was perceived that the enduring and always
present social instinct had yielded to some other instinct, at the
time stronger, but neither enduring in its nature, nor leaving
behind it a very vivid impression. It is clear that many instinctive
desires, such as that of hunger, are in their nature of short
duration; and after being satisfied, are not readily or vividly
recalled. Thirdly, after the power of language had been acquired,
and the wishes of the community could be expressed, the common opinion
how each member ought to act for the public good, would naturally
become in a paramount degree the guide to action. But it should be
borne in mind that however great weight we may attribute to public
opinion, our regard for the approbation and disapprobation of our
fellows depends on sympathy, which, as we shall see, forms an
essential part of the social instinct, and is indeed its
foundation-stone. Lastly, habit in the individual would ultimately
play a very important part in guiding the conduct of each member;
for the social instinct, together with sympathy, is, like any other
instinct, greatly strengthened by habit, and so consequently would
be obedience to the wishes and judgment of the community. These
several subordinate propositions must now be discussed, and some of
them at considerable length.

* Sir B. Brodie, after observing that man is a social animal
(Psychological Enquiries, 1854, p. 192), asks the pregnant question,
"Ought not this to settle the disputed question as to the existence of
a moral sense?" Similar ideas have probably occurred to many
persons, as they did long ago to Marcus Aurelius. Mr. J. S. Mill
speaks, in his celebrated work, Utilitarianism, pp. 459, 460, of the
social feelings as a "powerful natural sentiment," and as "the natural
basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality." Again he says, "Like the
other acquired capacities above referred to, the moral faculty, if not
a part of our nature, is a natural out-growth from it; capable, like
them, in a certain small degree of springing up spontaneously." But in
opposition to all this, he also remarks, "If, as in my own belief, the
moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that
reason less natural." It is with hesitation that I venture to differ
at all from so profound a thinker, but it can hardly be disputed
that the social feelings are instinctive or innate in the lower
animals; and why should they not be so in man? Mr. Bain (see, for
instance, The Emotions and the Will, 1865, p. 481) and others
believe that the moral sense is acquired by each individual during his
lifetime. On the general theory of evolution this is at least
extremely improbable. The ignoring of all transmitted mental qualities
will, as it seems to me, be hereafter judged as a most serious blemish
in the works of Mr. Mill.

It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain
that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to
become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire
exactly the same moral sense as ours. In the same manner as various
animals have some sense of beauty, though they admire widely-different
objects, so they might have a sense of right and wrong, though led
by it to follow widely different lines of conduct. If, for instance,
to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same
conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our
unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred
duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their
fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.*
Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, would gain in our
supposed case, as it appears to me, some feeling of right or wrong, or
a conscience. For each individual would have an inward sense of
possessing certain stronger or more enduring instincts, and others
less strong or enduring; so that there would often be a struggle as to
which impulse should be followed; and satisfaction, dissatisfaction,
or even misery would be felt, as past impressions were compared during
their incessant passage through the mind. In this case an inward
monitor would tell the animal that it would have been better to have
followed the one impulse rather than the other. The one course ought
to have been followed, and the other ought not; the one would have
been right and the other wrong; but to these terms I shall recur.

Mr. H. Sidgwick remarks, in an able discussion on this subject
(the Academy, June 15, 1872, p. 231), "A superior bee, we may feel
sure, would aspire to a milder solution of the popular question."
Judging, however, from the habits of many or most savages, man
solves the problem by female infanticide, polyandry and promiscuous
intercourse; therefore it may well be doubted whether it would be by a
milder method. Miss Cobbe, in commenting ("Darwinism in Morals,"
Theological Review, April, 1872, pp. 188-191) on the same
illustration, says, the principles of social duty would be thus
reversed; and by this, I presume, she means that the fulfillment of
a social duty would tend to the injury of individuals; but she
overlooks the fact, which she would doubtless admit, that the
instincts of the bee have been acquired for the good of the community.
She goes so far as to say that if the theory of ethics advocated in
this chapter were ever generally accepted, "I cannot but believe
that in the hour of their triumph would be sounded the knell of the
virtue of mankind!" It is to be hoped that the belief in the
permanence of virtue on this earth is not held by many persons on so
weak a tenure.

Sociability.- Animals of many kinds are social; we find even
distinct species living together; for example, some American
monkeys; and united flocks of rooks, jackdaws, and starlings. Man
shews the same feeling in his strong love for the dog, which the dog
returns with interest. Every one must have noticed how miserable
horses, dogs, sheep, &c., are when separated from their companions,
and what strong mutual affection the two former kinds, at least,
shew on their reunion. It is curious to speculate on the feelings of a
dog, who will rest peacefully for hours in a room with his master or
any of the family, without the least notice being taken of him; but if
left for a short time by himself, barks or howls dismally. We will
confine our attention to the higher social animals; and pass over
insects, although some of these are social, and aid one another in
many important ways. The most common mutual service in the higher
animals is to warn one another of danger by means of the united senses
of all. Every sportsman knows, as Dr. Jaeger remarks,* how difficult
it is to approach animals in a herd or troop. Wild horses and cattle
do not, I believe, make any danger-signal; but the attitude of any one
of them who first discovers an enemy, warns the others. Rabbits
stamp loudly on the ground with their hindfeet as a signal: sheep
and chamois do the same with their forefeet, uttering likewise a
whistle. Many birds, and some mammals, post sentinels, which in the
case of seals are said*(2) generally to be the females. The leader
of a troop of monkeys acts as the sentinel, and utters cries
expressive both of danger and of safety.*(3) Social animals perform
many little services for each other: horses nibble, and cows lick each
other, on any spot which itches: monkeys search each other for
external parasites; and Brehm states that after a troop of the
Cercopithecus griseoviridis has rushed through a thorny brake, each
monkey stretches itself on a branch, and another monkey sitting by,
"conscientiously" examines its fur, and extracts every thorn or burr.

* Die Darwin'sche Theorie, s. 101.
*(2) Mr. R. Brown in Proc. Zoolog. Soc., 1868, p. 409.
*(3) Brehm, Illustriertes Thierleben, B. i., 1864, ss. 52, 79. For
the case of the monkeys extracting thorns from each other, see s.
54. With respect to the Hamadryas turning over stones, the fact is
given (s. 76), on the evidence of Alvarez, whose observations Brehm
thinks quite trustworthy. For the cases of the old male baboons
attacking the dogs, see s. 79; and with respect to the eagle, s. 56.

Animals also render more important services to one another: thus
wolves and some other beasts of prey hunt in packs, and aid one
another in attacking their victims. Pelicans fish in concert. The
Hamadryas baboons turn over stones to find insects, &c.; and when they
come to a large one, as many as can stand round, turn it over together
and share the booty. Social animals mutually defend each other. Bull
bisons in N. America, when there is danger, drive the cows and
calves into the middle of the herd, whilst they defend the outside.
I shall also in a future chapter give an account of two young wild
bulls at Chillingham attacking an old one in concert, and of two
stallions together trying to drive away a third stallion from a
troop of mares. In Abyssinia, Brehm encountered a great troop of
baboons who were crossing a valley; some had already ascended the
opposite mountain, and some were still in the valley; the latter
were attacked by the dogs, but the old males immediately hurried
down from the rocks, and with mouths widely opened, roared so
fearfully, that the dogs quickly drew back. They were again encouraged
to the attack; but by this time all the baboons had reascended the
heights, excepting a young one, about six months old, who, loudly
calling for aid, climbed on a block of rock, and was surrounded. Now
one of the largest males, a true hero, came down again from the
mountain, slowly went to the young one, coaxed him, and triumphantly
led him away- the dogs being too much astonished to make an attack.
I cannot resist giving another scene which was witnessed by this
same naturalist; an eagle seized a young Cercopithecus, which, by
clinging to a branch, was not at once carried off; it cried loudly for
assistance, upon which the other members of the troop, with much
uproar, rushed to the rescue, surrounded the eagle, and pulled out
so many feathers, that he no longer thought of his prey, but only
how to escape. This eagle, as Brehm remarks, assuredly would never
again attack a single monkey of a troop.*

* Mr. Belt gives the case of a spider-monkey (Ateles) in
Nicaragua, which was heard screaming for nearly two hours in the
forest, and was found with an eagle perched close by it. The bird
apparently feared to attack as long as it remained face to face; and
Mr. Belt believes, from what he has seen of the habits of these
monkeys, that they protect themselves from eagles by keeping two or
three together. The Naturalist in Nicaragua, 1874, p. 118.

It is certain that associated animals have a feeling of love for
each other, which is not felt by non-social adult animals. How far
in most cases they actually sympathise in the pains and pleasures of
others, is more doubtful, especially with respect to pleasures. Mr.
Buxton, however, who had excellent means of observation,* states
that his macaws, which lived free in Norfolk, took "an extravagant
interest" in a pair with a nest; and whenever the female left it,
she was surrounded by a troop "screaming horrible acclamations in
her honour." It is often difficult to judge whether animals have any
feeling for the sufferings of others of their kind. Who can say what
cows feel, when they surround and stare intently on a dying or dead
companion; apparently, however, as Houzeau remarks, they feel no pity.
That animals sometimes are far from feeling any sympathy is too
certain; for they will expel a wounded animal from the herd, or gore
or worry it to death. This is almost the blackest fact in natural
history, unless, indeed, the explanation which has been suggested is
true, that their instinct or reason leads them to expel an injured
companion, lest beasts of prey, including man, should be tempted to
follow the troop. In this case their conduct is not much worse than
that of the North American Indians, who leave their feeble comrades to
perish on the plains; or the Fijians, who, when their parents get old,
or fall ill, bury them alive.*(2)

* Annals and Magazine of Natural History, November, 1868, p. 382.
*(2) Sir J. Lubbock, Prehistoric Times, 2nd ed., p. 446.

Many animals, however, certainly sympathise with each other's
distress or danger. This is the case even with birds. Captain
Stansbury* found on a salt lake in Utah an old and completely blind
pelican, which was very fat, and must have been well fed for a long
time by his companions. Mr. Blyth, as he informs me, saw Indian
crows feeding two or three of their companions which were blind; and I
have heard of an analogous case with the domestic cock. We may, if
we choose, call these actions instinctive; but such cases are much too
rare for the development of any special instinct.*(2) I have myself
seen a dog, who never passed a cat who lay sick in a basket, and was a
great friend of his, without giving her a few licks with his tongue,
the surest sign of kind feeling in a dog.

* As quoted by Mr. L. H. Morgan, The American Beaver, 1868, p.
272. Capt. Stansbury also gives an interesting account of the manner
in which a very young pelican, carried away by a strong stream, was
guided and encouraged in its attempts to reach the shore by half a
dozen old birds.
*(2) As Mr. Bain states, "Effective aid to a sufferer springs from
sympathy proper": Mental and Moral Science, 1868, p. 245.

It must be called sympathy that leads a courageous dog to fly at any
one who strikes his master, as he certainly will. I saw a person
pretending to beat a lady, who had a very timid little dog on her lap,
and the trial had never been made before; the little creature
instantly jumped away, but after the pretended beating was over, it
was really pathetic to see how perseveringly he tried to lick his
mistress's face, and comfort her. Brehm* states that when a baboon
in confinement was pursued to be punished, the others tried to protect
him. It must have been sympathy in the cases above given which led the
baboons and Cercopitheci to defend their young comrades from the
dogs and the eagle. I will give only one other instance of sympathetic
and heroic conduct, in the case of a little American monkey. Several
years ago a keeper at the Zoological Gardens showed me some deep and
scarcely healed wounds on the nape of his own neck, inflicted on
him, whilst kneeling on the floor, by a fierce baboon. The little
American monkey, who was a warm friend of this keeper, lived in the
same compartment, and was dreadfully afraid of the great baboon.
Nevertheless, as soon as he saw his friend in peril, he rushed to
the rescue, and by screams and bites so distracted the baboon that the
man was able to escape, after, as the surgeon thought, running great
risk of his life.

* Illustriertes Thierleben, B. i., s. 85.

Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected
with the social instincts, which in us would be called moral; and I
agree with Agassiz* that dogs possess something very like a

* De l'Espece et de la Classe, 1869, p. 97.

Dogs possess some power of self-command, and this does not appear to
be wholly the result of fear. As Braubach* remarks, they will
refrain from stealing food in the absence of their master. They have
long been accepted as the very type of fidelity and obedience. But the
elephant is likewise very faithful to his driver or keeper, and
probably considers him as the leader of the herd. Dr. Hooker informs
me that an elephant, which he was riding in India, became so deeply
bogged that he remained stuck fast until the next day, when he was
extricated by men with ropes. Under such circumstances elephants
will seize with their trunks any object, dead or alive, to place under
their knees, to prevent their sinking deeper in the mud; and the
driver was dreadfully afraid lest the animal should have seized Dr.
Hooker and crushed him to death. But the driver himself, as Dr. Hooker
was assured, ran no risk. This forbearance under an emergency so
dreadful for a heavy animal, is a wonderful proof of noble

* Die Darwin'sche Art-Lehre, 1869, s. 54.
*(2) See also Hooker's Himalayan Journals, vol. ii., 1854, p. 333.

All animals living in a body, which defend themselves or attack
their enemies in concert, must indeed be in some degree faithful to
one another; and those that follow a leader must be in some degree
obedient. When the baboons in Abyssinia* plunder a garden, they
silently follow their leader; and if an imprudent young animal makes a
noise, he receives a slap from the others to teach him silence and
obedience. Mr. Galton, who has had excellent opportunities for
observing the half-wild cattle in S. Africa, says,*(2) that they
cannot endure even a momentary separation from the herd. They are
essentially slavish, and accept the common determination, seeking no
better lot than to be led by any one ox who has enough self-reliance
to accept the position. The men who break in these animals for
harness, watch assiduously for those who, by grazing apart, shew a
self-reliant disposition, and these they train as fore-oxen. Mr.
Galton adds that such animals are rare and valuable; and if many
were born they would soon be eliminated, as lions are always on the
look-out for the individuals which wander from the herd.

* Brehm, Illustriertes Thierleben, B. i., s. 76
*(2) See his extremely interesting paper on "Gregariousness in
Cattle, and in Man," Macmillan's Magazine, Feb., 1871, p. 353.

With respect to the impulse which leads certain animals to associate
together, and to aid one another in many ways, we may infer that in
most cases they are impelled by the same sense of satisfaction or
pleasure which they experience in performing other instinctive
actions; or by the same sense of dissatisfaction as when other
instinctive actions are checked. We see this in innumerable instances,
and it is illustrated in a striking manner by the acquired instincts
of our domesticated animals; thus a young shepherd-dog delights in
driving and running round a flock of sheep, but not in worrying
them; a young fox-hound delights in hunting a fox, whilst some other
kinds of dogs, as I have witnessed, utterly disregard foxes. What a
strong feeling of inward satisfaction must impel a bird, so full of
activity, to brood day after day over her eggs. Migratory birds are
quite miserable if stopped from migrating; perhaps they enjoy starting
on their long flight; but it is hard to believe that the poor pinioned
goose, described by Audubon, which started on foot at the proper
time for its journey of probably more than a thousand miles, could
have felt any joy in doing so. Some instincts are determined solely by
painful feelings, as by fear, which leads to self-preservation, and is
in some cases directed towards special enemies. No one, I presume, can
analyse the sensations of pleasure or pain. In many instances,
however, it is probable that instincts are persistently followed
from the mere force of inheritance, without the stimulus of either
pleasure or pain. A young pointer, when it first scents game,
apparently cannot help pointing. A squirrel in a cage who pats the
nuts which it cannot eat, as if to bury them in the ground, can hardly
be thought to act thus, either from pleasure or pain. Hence the common
assumption that men must be impelled to every action by experiencing
some pleasure or pain may be erroneous. Although a habit may be
blindly and implicitly followed, independently of any pleasure or pain
felt at the moment, yet if it be forcibly and abruptly checked, a
vague sense of dissatisfaction is generally experienced.
It has often been assumed that animals were in the first place
rendered social, and that they feel as a consequence uncomfortable
when separated from each other, and comfortable whilst together; but
it is a more probable view that these sensations were first developed,
in order that those animals which would profit by living in society,
should be induced to live together, in the same manner as the sense of
hunger and the pleasure of eating were, no doubt, first acquired in
order to induce animals to eat. The feeling of pleasure from society
is probably an extension of the parental or filial affections, since
the social instinct seems to be developed by the young remaining for a
long time with their parents; and this extension may be attributed
in part to habit, but chiefly to natural selection. With those animals
which were benefited by living in close association, the individuals
which took the greatest pleasure in society would best escape
various dangers, whilst those that cared least for their comrades, and
lived solitary, would perish in greater numbers. With respect to the
origin of the parental and filial affections, which apparently lie
at the base of the social instincts, we know not the steps by which
they have been gained; but we may infer that it has been to a large
extent through natural selection. So it has almost certainly been with
the unusual and opposite feeling of hatred between the nearest
relations, as with the worker-bees which kill their brother drones,
and with the queen-bees which kill their daughter-queens; the desire
to destroy their nearest relations having been in this case of service
to the community. Parental affection, or some feeling which replaces
it, has been developed in certain animals extremely low in the
scale, for example, in star-fishes and spiders. It is also
occasionally present in a few members alone in a whole group of
animals, as in the genus Forficula, or earwigs.
The all-important emotion of sympathy is distinct from that of love.
A mother may passionately love her sleeping and passive infant, but
she can hardly at such times be said to feel sympathy for it. The love
of a man for his dog is distinct from sympathy, and so is that of a
dog for his master. Adam Smith formerly argued, as has Mr. Bain
recently, that the basis of sympathy lies in our strong
retentiveness of former states of pain or pleasure. Hence, "the
sight of another person enduring hunger, cold, fatigue, revives in
us some recollection of these states, which are painful even in idea."
We are thus impelled to relieve the sufferings of another, in order
that our own painful feelings may be at the same time relieved. In
like manner we are led to participate in the pleasures of others.* But
I cannot see how this view explains the fact that sympathy is excited,
in an immeasurably stronger degree, by a beloved, than by an
indifferent person. The mere sight of suffering, independently of
love, would suffice to call up in us vivid recollections and
associations. The explanation may lie in the fact that, with all
animals, sympathy is directed solely towards the members of the same
community, and therefore towards known, and more or less beloved
members, but not to all the individuals of the same species. This fact
is not more surprising than that the fears of many animals should be
directed against special enemies. Species which are not social, such
as lions and tigers, no doubt feel sympathy for the suffering of their
own young, but not for that of any other animal. With mankind,
selfishness, experience, and imitation, probably add, as Mr. Bain
has shown, to the power of sympathy; for we are led by the hope of
receiving good in return to perform acts of sympathetic kindness to
others; and sympathy is much strengthened by habit. In however complex
a manner this feeling may have originated, as it is one of high
importance to all those animals which aid and defend one another, it
will have been increased through natural selection; for those
communities, which included the greatest number of the most
sympathetic members, would flourish best, and rear the greatest number
of offspring.

* See the first and striking chapter in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral
Sentiments. Also Mr. Bain's Mental and Moral Science, 1868, pp. 244,
and 275-282. Mr. Bain states, that, "Sympathy is, indirectly, a source
of pleasure to the sympathiser"; and he accounts for this through
reciprocity. He remarks that "The person benefited, or others in his
stead, may make up, by sympathy and good offices returned, for all the
sacrifice." But if, as appears to be the case, sympathy is strictly an
instinct, its exercise would give direct pleasure, in the same
manner as the exercise, as before remarked, of almost every other

It is, however, impossible to decide in many cases whether certain
social instincts have been acquired through natural selection, or
are the indirect result of other instincts and faculties, such as
sympathy, reason, experience, and a tendency to imitation; or again,
whether they are simply the result of long-continued habit. So
remarkable an instinct as the placing sentinels to warn the
community of danger, can hardly have been the indirect result of any
of these faculties; it must, therefore, have been directly acquired.
On the other hand, the habit followed by the males of some social
animals of defending the community, and of attacking their enemies
or their prey in concert, may perhaps have originated from mutual
sympathy; but courage, and in most cases strength, must have been
previously acquired, probably through natural selection.
Of the various instincts and habits, some are much stronger than
others; that is, some either give more pleasure in their
performance, and more distress in their prevention, than others; or,
which is probably quite as important, they are, through inheritance,
more persistently followed, without exciting any special feeling of
pleasure or pain. We are ourselves conscious that some habits are much
more difficult to cure or change than others. Hence a struggle may
often be observed in animals between different instincts, or between
an instinct and some habitual disposition; as when a dog rushes
after a hare, is rebuked, pauses, hesitates, pursues again, or returns
ashamed to his master; or as between the love of a female dog for
her young puppies and for her master,-for she may be seen to slink
away to them, as if half ashamed of not accompanying her master. But
the most curious instance known to me of one instinct getting the
better of another, is the migratory instinct conquering the maternal
instinct. The former is wonderfully strong; a confined bird will at
the proper season beat her breast against the wires of her cage, until
it is bare and bloody. It causes young salmon to leap out of the fresh
water, in which they could continue to exist, and thus unintentionally
to commit suicide. Every one knows how strong the maternal instinct
is, leading even timid birds to face great danger, though with
hesitation, and in opposition to the instinct of self-preservation.
Nevertheless, the migratory instinct is so powerful, that late in
the autumn swallows, house-martins, and swifts frequently desert their
tender young, leaving them to perish miserably in their nests.*

* This fact, the Rev. L. Jenyns states (see his edition of White's
Nat. Hist. of Selborne, 1853, p. 204), was first recorded by the
illustrious Jenner, in Phil. Transact., 1824, and has since been
confirmed by several observers, especially by Mr. Blackwall. This
latter careful observer examined, late in the autumn, during two
years, thirty-six nests; he found that twelve contained young dead
birds, five contained eggs on the point of being hatched, and three,
eggs not nearly hatched. Many birds, not yet old enough for a
prolonged flight, are likewise deserted and left behind. See
Blackwall, Researches in Zoology, 1834, pp. 108, 118. For some
additional evidence, although this is not wanted, see Leroy, Lettres
Phil., 1802, p. 217. For swifts, Gould's Introduction to the Birds
of Great Britain, 1823, p. 5. Similar cases have been observed in
Canada by Mr. Adams; Pop. Science Review, July, 1873, p. 283.

We can perceive that an instinctive impulse, if it be in any way
more beneficial to a species than some other or opposed instinct,
would be rendered the more potent of the two through natural
selection; for the individuals which had it most strongly developed
would survive in larger numbers. Whether this is the case with the
migratory in comparison with the maternal instinct, may be doubted.
The great persistence, or steady action of the former at certain
seasons of the year during the whole day, may give it for a time
paramount force.
Man a social animal.- Every one will admit that man is a social
being. We see this in his dislike of solitude, and in his wish for
society beyond that of his own family. Solitary confinement is one
of the severest punishments which can be inflicted. Some authors
suppose that man primevally lived in single families; but at the
present day, though single families, or only two or three together,
roam the solitudes of some savage lands, they always, as far as I
can discover, hold friendly relations with other families inhabiting
the same district. Such families occasionally meet in council, and
unite for their common defence. It is no argument against savage man
being a social animal, that the tribes inhabiting adjacent districts
are almost always at war with each other; for the social instincts
never extend to all the individuals of the same species. Judging
from the analogy of the majority of the Quadrumana, it is probable
that the early ape-like progenitors of man were likewise social; but
this is not of much importance for us. Although man, as he now exists,
has few special instincts, having lost any which his early progenitors
may have possessed, this is no reason why he should not have
retained from an extremely remote period some degree of instinctive
love and sympathy for his fellows. We are indeed all conscious that we
do possess such sympathetic feelings;* but our consciousness does
not tell us whether they are instinctive, having originated long ago
in the same manner as with the lower animals, or whether they have
been acquired by each of us during our early years. As man is a social
animal, it is almost certain that he would inherit a tendency to be
faithful to his comrades, and obedient to the leader of his tribe; for
these qualities are common to most social animals. He would
consequently possess some capacity for self-command. He would from
an inherited tendency be willing to defend, in concert with others,
his fellow-men; and would be ready to aid them in any way, which did
not too greatly interfere with his own welfare or his own strong

* Hume remarks (An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals,
ed. of 1751, p. 132), "There seems a necessity for confessing that the
happiness and misery of others are not spectacles altogether
indifferent to us, but that the view of the former... communicates a
secret joy; the appearance of the latter... throws a melancholy damp
over the imagination."

The social animals which stand at the bottom of the scale are guided
almost exclusively, and those which stand higher in the scale are
largely guided, by special instincts in the aid which they give to the
members of the same community; but they are likewise in part
impelled by mutual love and sympathy, assisted apparently by some
amount of reason. Although man, as just remarked, has no special
instincts to tell him how to aid his fellow-men, he still has the
impulse, and with his improved intellectual faculties would
naturally be much guided in this respect by reason and experience.
Instinctive sympathy would also cause him to value highly the
approbation of his fellows; for, as Mr. Bain has clearly shewn,* the
love of praise and the strong feeling of glory, and the still stronger
horror of scorn and infamy, "are due to the workings of sympathy."
Consequently man would be influenced in the highest degree by the
wishes, approbation, and blame of his fellow-men, as expressed by
their gestures and language. Thus the social instincts, which must
have been acquired by man in a very rude state, and probably even by
his early ape-like progenitors, still give the impulse to some of
his best actions; but his actions are in a higher degree determined by
the expressed wishes and judgment of his fellow-men, and unfortunately
very often by his own strong selfish desires. But as love, sympathy
and self-command become strengthened by habit, and as the power of
reasoning becomes clearer, so that man can value justly the
judgments of his fellows, he will feel himself impelled, apart from
any transitory pleasure or pain, to certain lines of conduct. He might
then declare- not that any barbarian or uncultivated man could thus
think- I am the supreme judge of my own conduct, and in the words of
Kant, I will not in my own person violate the dignity of humanity.

* Mental and Moral Science, 1868, p. 254.

The more enduring Social Instincts conquer the less persistent
Instincts.- We have not, however, as yet considered the main point, on
which, from our present point of view, the whole question of the moral
sense turns. Why should a man feel that he ought to obey one
instinctive desire rather than another? Why is he bitterly
regretful, if he has yielded to a strong sense of self-preservation,
and has not risked his life to save that of a fellow-creature? Or
why does he regret having stolen food from hunger?
It is evident in the first place, that with mankind the
instinctive impulses have different degrees of strength; a savage will
risk his own life to save that of a member of the same community,
but will be wholly indifferent about a stranger: a young and timid
mother urged by the maternal instinct will, without a moment's
hesitation, run the greatest danger for her own infant, but not for
a mere fellow-creature. Nevertheless many a civilized man, or even
boy, who never before risked his life for another, but full of courage
and sympathy, has disregarded the instinct of self-preservation, and
plunged at once into a torrent to save a drowning man, though a
stranger. In this case man is impelled by the same instinctive motive,
which made the heroic little American monkey, formerly described, save
his keeper, by attacking the great and dreaded baboon. Such actions as
the above appear to be the simple result of the greater strength of
the social or maternal instincts rather than that of any other
instinct or motive; for they are performed too instantaneously for
reflection, or for pleasure or pain to be felt at the time; though, if
prevented by any cause, distress or even misery might be felt. In a
timid man, on the other hand, the instinct of self-preservation, might
be so strong, that he would be unable to force himself to run any such
risk, perhaps not even for his own child.
I am aware that some persons maintain that actions performed
impulsively, as in the above cases, do not come under the dominion
of the moral sense, and cannot be called moral. They confine this term
to actions done deliberately, after a victory over opposing desires,
or when prompted by some exalted motive. But it appears scarcely
possible to draw any clear line of distinction of this kind.* As far
as exalted motives are concerned, many instances have been recorded of
savages, destitute of any feeling of general benevolence towards
mankind, and not guided by any religious motive, who have deliberately
sacrificed their lives as prisoners,*(2) rather than betray their
comrades; and surely their conduct ought to be considered as moral. As
far as deliberation, and the victory over opposing motives are
concerned, animals may be seen doubting between opposed instincts,
in rescuing their offspring or comrades from danger; yet their
actions, though done for the good of others, are not called moral.
Moreover, anything performed very often by us, will at last be done
without deliberation or hesitation, and can then hardly be
distinguished from an instinct; yet surely no one will pretend that
such an action ceases to be moral. On the contrary, we all feel that
an act cannot be considered as perfect, or as performed in the most
noble manner, unless it be done impulsively, without deliberation or
effort, in the same manner as by a man in whom the requisite qualities
are innate. He who is forced to overcome his fear or want of
sympathy before he acts, deserves, however, in one way higher credit
than the man whose innate disposition leads him to a good act
without effort. As we cannot distinguish between motives, we rank
all actions of a certain class as moral, if performed by a moral
being. A moral being is one who is capable of comparing his past and
future actions or motives, and of approving or disapproving of them.
We have no reason to suppose that any of the lower animals have this
capacity; therefore, when a Newfoundland dog drags a child out of
the water, or a monkey faces danger to rescue its comrade, or takes
charge of an orphan monkey, we do not call its conduct moral. But in
the case of man, who alone can with certainty be ranked as a moral
being, actions of a certain class are called moral, whether
performed deliberately, after a struggle with opposing motives, or
impulsively through instinct, or from the effects of slowly-gained

* I refer here to the distinction between what has been called
material and formal morality. I am glad to find that Professor
Huxley (Critiques and Addresses, 1873, p. 287) takes the same view
on this subject as I do. Mr. Leslie Stephen remarks (Essays on Free
Thinking and Plain Speaking, 1873, p. 83), "The metaphysical
distinction between material and formal morality is as irrelevant as
other such distinctions."
*(2) I have given one such case, namely of three Patagonian
Indians who preferred being shot, one after the other, to betraying
the plans of their companions in war (Journal of Researches, 1845,
p. 103).

But to return to our more immediate subject. Although some instincts
are more powerful than others, and thus lead to corresponding actions,
yet it is untenable, that in man the social instincts (including the
love of praise and fear of blame) possess greater strength, or have,
through long habit, acquired greater strength than the instincts of
self-preservation, hunger, lust, vengeance, &c. Why then does man
regret, even though trying to banish such regret, that he has followed
the one natural impulse rather than the other; and why does he further
feel that he ought to regret his conduct? Man in this respect
differs profoundly from the lower animals. Nevertheless we can, I
think, see with some degree of clearness the reason of this
Man, from the activity of his mental faculties, cannot avoid
reflection: past impressions and images are incessantly and clearly
passing through his mind. Now with those animals which live
permanently in a body, the social instincts are ever present and
persistent. Such animals are always ready to utter the
danger-signal, to defend the community, and to give aid to their
fellows in accordance with their habits; they feel at all times,
without the stimulus of any special passion or desire, some degree
of love and sympathy for them; they are unhappy if long separated from
them, and always happy to be again in their company. So it is with
ourselves. Even when we are quite alone, how often do we think with
pleasure or pain of what others think of us,- of their imagined
approbation or disapprobation; and this all follows from sympathy, a
fundamental element of the social instincts. A man who possessed no
trace of such instincts would be an unnatural monster. On the other
hand, the desire to satisfy hunger, or any passion such as
vengeance, is in its nature temporary, and can for a time be fully
satisfied. Nor is it easy, perhaps hardly possible, to call up with
complete vividness the feeling, for instance, of hunger; nor indeed,
as has often been remarked, of any suffering. The instinct of
self-preservation is not felt except in the presence of danger; and
many a coward has thought himself brave until he has met his enemy
face to face. The wish for another man's property is perhaps as
persistent a desire as any that can be named; but even in this case
the satisfaction of actual possession is generally a weaker feeling
than the desire: many a thief, if not an habitual one, after success
has wondered why he stole some article.*

* Enmity or hatred seems also to be a highly persistent feeling,
perhaps more so than any other that can be named. Envy is defined as
hatred of another for some excellence or success; and Bacon insists
(Essay ix.), "Of all other affections envy is the most importune and
continual." Dogs are very apt to hate both strange men and strange
dogs, especially if they live near at hand, but do not belong to the
same family, tribe, or clan; this feeling would thus seem to be
innate, and is certainly a most persistent one. It seems to be the
complement and converse of the true social instinct. From what we hear
of savages, it would appear that something of the same kind holds good
with them. If this be so, it would be a small step in any one to
transfer such feelings to any member of the same tribe if he had
done him an injury and had become his enemy. Nor is it probable that
the primitive conscience would reproach a man for injuring his
enemy; rather it would reproach him, if he had not revenged himself.
To do good in return for evil, to love your enemy, is a height of
morality to which it may be doubted whether the social instincts
would, by themselves, have ever led us. It is necessary that these
instincts, together with sympathy, should have been highly
cultivated and extended by the aid of reason, instruction, and the
love or fear of God, before any such golden rule would ever be thought
of and obeyed.

A man cannot prevent past impressions often repassing through his
mind; he will thus be driven to make a comparison between the
impressions of past hunger, vengeance satisfied, or danger shunned
at other men's cost, with the almost ever-present instinct of
sympathy, and with his early knowledge of what others consider as
praiseworthy or blameable. This knowledge cannot be banished from
his mind, and from instinctive sympathy is esteemed of great moment.
He will then feel as if he had been baulked in following a present
instinct or habit, and this with all animals causes dissatisfaction,
or even misery.
The above case of the swallow affords an illustration, though of a
reversed nature, of a temporary though for the time strongly
persistent instinct conquering another instinct, which is usually
dominant over all others. At the proper season these birds seem all
day long to be impressed with the desire to migrate; their habits
change; they become restless, are noisy and congregate in flocks.
Whilst the mother-bird is feeding, or brooding over her nestlings, the
maternal instinct is probably stronger than the migratory; but the
instinct which is the more persistent gains the victory, and at
last, at a moment when her young ones are not in sight, she takes
flight and deserts them. When arrived at the end of her long
journey, and the migratory instinct has ceased to act, what an agony
of remorse the bird would feel, if, from being endowed with great
mental activity, she could not prevent the image constantly passing
through her mind, of her young ones perishing in the bleak north
from cold and hunger.
At the moment of action, man will no doubt be apt to follow the
stronger impulse; and though this may occasionally prompt him to the
noblest deeds, it will more commonly lead him to gratify his own
desires at the expense of other men. But after their gratification
when past and weaker impressions are judged by the ever-enduring
social instinct, and by his deep regard for the good opinion of his
fellows, retribution will surely come. He will then feel remorse,
repentance, regret, or shame; this latter feeling, however, relates
almost exclusively to the judgment of others. He will consequently
resolve more or less firmly to act differently for the future; and
this is conscience; for conscience looks backwards, and serves as a
guide for the future.
The nature and strength of the feelings which we call regret, shame,
repentance or remorse, depend apparently not only on the strength of
the violated instinct, but partly on the strength of the temptation,
and often still more on the judgment of our fellows. How far each
man values the appreciation of others, depends on the strength of
his innate or acquired feeling of sympathy; and on his own capacity
for reasoning out the remote consequences of his acts. Another element
is most important, although not necessary, the reverence or fear of
the Gods, or Spirits believed in by each man: and this applies
especially in cases of remorse. Several critics have objected that
though some slight regret or repentance may be explained by the view
advocated in this chapter, it is impossible thus to account for the
soul-shaking feeling of remorse. But I can see little force in this
objection. My critics do not define what they mean by remorse, and I
can find no definition implying more than an overwhelming sense of
repentance. Remorse seems to bear the same relation to repentance,
as rage does to anger, or agony to pain. It is far from strange that
an instinct so strong and so generally admired, as maternal love,
should, if disobeyed, lead to the deepest misery, as soon as the
impression of the past cause of disobedience is weakened. Even when an
action is opposed to no special instinct, merely to know that our
friends and equals despise us for it is enough to cause great
misery. Who can doubt that the refusal to fight a duel through fear
has caused many men an agony of shame? Many a Hindoo, it is said,
has been stirred to the bottom of his soul by having partaken of
unclean food. Here is another case of what must, I think, be called
remorse. Dr. Landor acted as a magistrate in West Australia, and
relates* that a native on his farm, after losing one of his wives from
disease, came and said that, "He was going to a distant tribe to spear
a woman, to satisfy his sense of duty to his wife. I told him that
if he did so, I would send him to prison for life. He remained about
the farm for some months, but got exceedingly thin, and complained
that he could not rest or eat, that his wife's spirit was haunting
him, because he had not taken a life for hers. I was inexorable, and
assured him that nothing should save him if he did." Nevertheless
the man disappeared for more than a year, and then returned in high
condition; and his other wife told Dr. Landor that her husband had
taken the life of a woman belonging to a distant tribe; but it was
impossible to obtain legal evidence of the act. The breach of a rule
held sacred by the tribe, will thus, as it seems, give rise to the
deepest feelings,- and this quite apart from the social instincts,
excepting in so far as the rule is grounded on the judgment of the
community. How so many strange superstitions have arisen throughout
the world we know not; nor can we tell how some real and great crimes,
such as incest, have come to be held in an abhorrence (which is not
however quite universal) by the lowest savages. It is even doubtful
whether in some tribes incest would be looked on with greater
horror, than would the marriage of a man with a woman bearing the same
name, though not a relation. "To violate this law is a crime which the
Australians hold in the greatest abhorrence, in this agreeing
exactly with certain tribes of North America. When the question is put
in either district, is it worse to kill a girl of a foreign tribe,
or to marry a girl of one's own, an answer just opposite to ours would
be given without hesitation."*(2) We may, therefore, reject the
belief, lately insisted on by some writers, that the abhorrence of
incest is due to our possessing a special God-implanted conscience. On
the whole it is intelligible, that a man urged by so powerful a
sentiment as remorse, though arising as above explained, should be led
to act in a manner, which he has been taught to believe serves as an
expiation, such as delivering himself up to justice.

* Insanity in Relation to Law, Ontario, United States, 1871, p. 1.
*(2) E. B. Tylor, in Contemporary Review, April, 1873, p. 707.

Man prompted by his conscience, will through long habit acquire such
perfect self-command, that his desires and passions will at last yield
instantly and without a struggle to his social sympathies and
instincts, including his feeling for the judgment of his fellows.
The still hungry, or the still revengeful man will not think of
stealing food, or of wreaking his vengeance. It is possible, or as
we shall hereafter see, even probable, that the habit of
self-command may, like other habits, be inherited. Thus at last man
comes to feel, through aequired and perhaps inherited habit, that it
is best for him to obey his more persistent impulses. The imperious
word ought seems merely to imply the consciousness of the existence of
a rule of conduct, however it may have originated. Formerly it must
have been often vehemently urged that an insulted gentleman ought to
fight a duel. We even say that a pointer ought to point, and a
retriever to retrieve game. If they fail to do so, they fail in
their duty and act wrongly.
If any desire or instinct leading to an action opposed to the good
of others still appears, when recalled to mind, as strong as, or
stronger than, the social instinct, a man will feel no keen regret
at having followed it; but he will be conscious that if his conduct
were known to his fellows, it would meet with their disapprobation;
and few are so destitute of sympathy as not to feel discomfort when
this is realised. If he has no such sympathy, and if his desires
leading to bad actions are at the time strong, and when recalled are
not over-mastered by the persistent social instincts, and the judgment
of others, then he is essentially a bad man;* and the sole restraining
motive left is the fear of punishment, and the conviction that in
the long run it would be best for his own selfish interests to
regard the good of others rather than his own.

* Dr. Prosper Despine, in his Psychologie Naturelle, 1868 (tom.
i., p. 243; tom. ii., p. 169) gives many curious cases of the worst
criminals who apparently have been entirely destitute of conscience.

It is obvious that every one may with an easy conscience gratify his
own desires, if they do not interfere with his social instincts,
that is with the good of others; but in order to be quite free from
self-reproach, or at least of anxiety, it is almost necessary for
him to avoid the disapprobation, whether reasonable or not, of his
fellow-men. Nor must he break through the fixed habits of his life,
especially if these are supported by reason; for if he does, he will
assuredly feel dissatisfaction. He must likewise avoid the reprobation
of the one God or gods in whom. according to his knowledge or
superstition, he may believe; but in this case the additional fear
of divine punishment often supervenes.
The strictly Social Virtues at first alone regarded.- The above view
of the origin and nature of the moral sense, which tells us what we
ought to do, and of the conscience which reproves us if we disobey it,
accords well with what we see of the early and undeveloped condition
of this faculty in mankind. The virtues which must be practised, at
least generally, by rude men, so that they may associate in a body,
are those which are still recognised as the most important. But they
are practised almost exclusively in relation to the men of the same
tribe; and their opposites are not regarded as crimes in relation to
the men of other tribes. No tribe could hold together if murder,
robbery, treachery, &c., were common; consequently such crimes
within the limits of the same tribe "are branded with everlasting
infamy";* but excite no such sentiment beyond these limits. A
North-American Indian is well pleased with himself, and is honoured by
others, when he scalps a man of another tribe; and a Dyak cuts off the
head of an unoffending person, and dries it as a trophy. The murder of
infants has prevailed on the largest scale throughout the world,*(2)
and has met with no reproach; but infanticide, especially of
females, has been thought to be good for the tribe, or at least not
injurious. Suicide during former times was not generally considered as
a crime,*(3) but rather, from the courage displayed, as an
honourable act; and it is still practised by some semi-civilised and
savage nations without reproach, for it does not obviously concern
others of the tribe. It has been recorded that an Indian Thug
conscientiously regretted that he had not robbed and strangled as many
travellers as did his father before him. In a rude state of
civilisation the robbery of strangers is, indeed, generally considered
as honourable.

* See an able article in the North British Review, 1867, p. 395. See
also Mr. W. Bagehot's articles on the "Importance of Obedience and
Coherence to Primitive Man, " in the Fortnightly Review, 1867, p. 529,
and 1868, p. 457, &c.
*(2) The fullest account which I have met with is by Dr. Gerland, in
his Ober den Aussterben der Naturvolker, 1868: but I shall have to
recur to the subject of infanticide in a future chapter.
*(3) See the very interesting discussion on suicide in Lecky's
History of European Morals, vol. i., 1869, p. 223. With respect to
savages, Mr. Winwood Reade informs me that the negroes of west
Africa often commit suicide. It is well known how common it was
amongst the miserable aborigines of South America after the Spanish
conquest. For New Zealand, see The Voyage of the Novara, and for the
Aleutian Islands, Muller, as quoted by Houzeau, Les Facultes Mentales,
&c., tom. ii., p. 136.

Slavery, although in some ways beneficial during ancient times,*
is a great crime; yet it was not so regarded until quite recently,
even by the most civilised nations. And this was especially the
case, because the slaves belonged in general to a race different
from that of their masters. As barbarians do not regard the opinion of
their women, wives are commonly treated like slaves. Most savages
are utterly indifferent to the sufferings of strangers, or even
delight in witnessing them. It is well known that the women and
children of the North American Indians aided in torturing their
enemies. Some savages take a horrid pleasure in cruelty to
animals,*(2) and humanity is an unknown virtue. Nevertheless,
besides the family affections, kindness is common, especially during
sickness, between the members of the same tribe, and is sometimes
extended beyond these limits. Mungo Park's touching account of the
kindness of the negro women of the interior to him is well known. Many
instances could be given of the noble fidelity of savages towards each
other, but not to strangers; common experience justifies the maxim
of the Spaniard, "Never, never trust an Indian." There cannot be
fidelity without truth; and this fundamental virtue is not rare
between the members of the same tribe: thus Mungo Park heard the negro
women teaching their young children to love the truth. This, again, is
one of the virtues which becomes so deeply rooted in the mind, that it
is sometimes practised by savages, even at a high cost, towards
strangers; but to lie to your enemy has rarely been thought a sin,
as the history of modern diplomacy too plainly shews. As soon as a
tribe has a recognised leader, disobedience becomes a crime, and
even abject submission is looked at as a sacred virtue.

* See Mr. Bagehot, Physics and Politics, 1872, p. 72.
*(2) See, for instance, Mr. Hamilton's account of the Kaffirs,
Anthropological Review, 1870, p. xv.

As during rude times no man can be useful or faithful to his tribe
without courage, this quality has universally been placed in the
highest rank; and although in civilised countries a good yet timid man
may be far more useful to the community than a brave one, we cannot
help instinctively honouring the latter above a coward, however
benevolent. Prudence, on the other hand, which does not concern the
welfare of others, though a very useful virtue, has never been
highly esteemed. As no man can practise the virtues necessary for
the welfare of his tribe without self-sacrifice, self-command, and the
power of endurance, these qualities have been at all times highly
and most justly valued. The American savage voluntarily submits to the
most horrid tortures without a groan, to prove and strengthen his
fortitude and courage; and we cannot help admiring him, or even an
Indian Fakir, who, from a foolish religious motive, swings suspended
by a hook buried in his flesh.
The other so-called self-regarding virtues, which do not
obviously, though they may really, affect the welfare of the tribe,
have never been esteemed by savages, though now highly appreciated
by civilised nations. The greatest intemperance is no reproach with
savages. Utter licentiousness, and unnatural crimes, prevail to an
astounding extent.* As soon, however, as marriage, whether polygamous,
or monogamous, becomes common, jealousy will lead to the inculcation
of female virtue; and this, being honoured, will tend to spread to the
unmarried females. How slowly it spreads to the male sex, we see at
the present day. Chastity eminently requires self-command;
therefore, it has been honoured from a very early period in the
moral history of civilised man. As a consequence of this, the
senseless practice of celibacy has been ranked from a remote period as
a virtue.*(2) The hatred of indecency, which appears to us so
natural as to be thought innate, and which is so valuable an aid to
chastity, is a modern virtue, appertaining exclusively, as Sir G.
Staunton remarks,*(3) to civilised life. This is shewn by the
ancient religious rites of various nations, by the drawings on the
walls of Pompeii, and by the practices of many savages.

* Mr. M'Lennan has given (Primitive Marriage, 1865, p. 176) a good
collection of facts on this head.
*(2) Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. i., 1869, p. 109.
*(3) Embassy to China, vol. ii., p. 348.

We have now seen that actions are regarded by savages, and were
probably so regarded by primeval man, as good or bad, solely as they
obviously affect the welfare of the tribe,- not that of the species,
nor that of an individual member of the tribe. This conclusion
agrees well with the belief that the so-called moral sense is
aboriginally derived from the social instincts, for both relate at
first exclusively to the community.
The chief causes of the low morality of savages, as judged by our
standard, are, firstly, the confinement of sympathy to the same tribe.
Secondly, powers of reasoning insufficient to recognise the bearing of
many virtues, especially of the self-regarding virtues, on the general
welfare of the tribe. Savages, for instance, fail to trace the
multiplied evils consequent on a want of temperance, chastity, &c.
And, thirdly, weak power of self-command; for this power has not
been strengthened through long-continued, perhaps inherited, habit,
instruction and religion.
I have entered into the above details on the immorality of savages,*
because some authors have recently taken a high view of their moral
nature, or have attributed most of their crimes to mistaken
benevolence.*(2) These authors appear to rest their conclusion on
savages possessing those virtues which are serviceable, or even
necessary, for the existence of the family and of the tribe,-
qualities which they undoubtedly do possess, and often in a high

* See on this subject copious evidence in chap. vii. of Sir J.
Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, 1870.
*(2) For instance Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. i., p.

Concluding Remarks.- It was assumed formerly by philosophers of
the derivative* school of morals that the foundation of morality lay
in a form of Selfishness; but more recently the "Greatest happiness
principle" has been brought prominently forward. It is, however,
more correct to speak of the latter principle as the standard, and not
as the motive of conduct. Nevertheless, all the authors whose works
I have consulted, with a few exceptions,*(2) write as if there must be
a distinct motive for every action, and that this must be associated
with some pleasure or displeasure. But man seems often to act
impulsively, that is from instinct or long habit, without any
consciousness of pleasure, in the same manner as does probably a bee
or ant, when it blindly follows its instincts. Under circumstances
of extreme peril, as during a fire, when a man endeavours to save a
fellow-creature without a moment's hesitation, he can hardly feel
pleasure; and still less has he time to reflect on the dissatisfaction
which he might subsequently experience if he did not make the attempt.
Should he afterwards reflect over his own conduct, he would feel
that there lies within him an impulsive power widely different from
a search after pleasure or happiness; and this seems to be the
deeply planted social instinct.

* This term is used in an able article in the Westminster Review,
Oct., 1869, p. 498; For the "Greatest happiness principle," see J.
S. Mill, Utilitarianism, p. 448.
*(2) Mill recognises (System of Logic, vol. ii., p. 422) in the
clearest manner, that actions may be performed through habit without
the anticipation of pleasure. Mr. H. Sidgwick also, in his "Essay on
Pleasure and Desire" (The Contemporary Review, April, 1872, p. 671),
remarks: "To sum up, in contravention of the doctrine that our
conscious active impulses are always directed towards the production
of agreeable sensations in ourselves, I would maintain that we find
everywhere in consciousness extra-regarding impulse, directed
towards something that is not pleasure; that in many case the
impulse is so far incompatible with the self-regarding that the two do
not easily co-exist in the same moment of consciousness." A dim
feeling that our impulses do not by any means always arise from any
contemporaneous or anticipated pleasure, has, I cannot but think, been
one chief cause of the acceptance of the intuitive theory of morality,
and of the rejection of the utilitarian or "Greatest happiness"
theory. With respect to the latter theory the standard and the
motive of conduct have no doubt often been confused, but they are
really in some degree blended.

In the case of the lower animals it seems much more appropriate to
speak of their social instincts, as having been developed for the
general good rather than for the general happiness of the species. The
term, general good, may be defined as the rearing of the greatest
number of individuals in full vigour and health, with all their
faculties perfect, under the conditions to which they are subjected.
As the social instincts both of man and the lower animals have no
doubt been developed by nearly the same steps, it would be
advisable, if found practicable, to use the same definition in both
cases, and to take as the standard of morality, the general good or
welfare of the community, rather than the general happiness; but
this definition would perhaps require some limitation on account of
political ethics.
When a man risks his life to save that of a fellow-creature, it
seems also more correct to say that he acts for the general good,
rather than for the general happiness of mankind. No doubt the welfare
and the happiness of the individual usually coincide; and a contented,
happy tribe will flourish better than one that is discontented and
unhappy. We have seen that even at an early period in the history of
man, the expressed wishes of the community will have naturally
influenced to a large extent the conduct of each member; and as all
wish for happiness, the "greatest happiness principle" will have
become a most important secondary guide and object; the social
instinct, however, together with sympathy (which leads to our
regarding the approbation and disapprobation of others), having served
as the primary impulse and guide. Thus the reproach is removed of
laying the foundation of the noblest part of our nature in the base
principle of selfishness; unless, indeed, the satisfaction which every
animal feels, when it follows its proper instincts, and the
dissatisfaction felt when prevented, be called selfish.
The wishes and opinions of the members of the same community,
expressed at first orally, but later by writing also, either form
the sole guides of our conduct, or greatly reinforce the social
instincts; such opinions, however, have sometimes a tendency
directly opposed to these instincts. This latter fact is well
exemplified by the Law of Honour, that is, the law of the opinion of
our equals, and not of all our countrymen. The breach of this law,
even when the breach is known to be strictly accordant with true
morality, has caused many a man more agony than a real crime. We
recognise the same influence in the burning sense of shame which
most of us have felt, even after the interval of years, when calling
to mind some accidental breach of a trifling, though fixed, rule of
etiquette. The judgment of the community will generally be guided by
some rude experience of what is best in the long run for all the
members; but this judgment will not rarely err from ignorance and weak
powers of reasoning. Hence the strangest customs and superstitions, in
complete opposition to the true welfare and happiness of mankind, have
become all-powerful throughout the world. We see this in the horror
felt by a Hindoo who breaks his caste, and in many other such cases.
It would be difficult to distinguish between the remorse felt by a
Hindoo who has yielded to the temptation of eating unclean food,
from that felt after committing a theft; but the former would probably
be the more severe.
How so many absurd rules of conduct, as well as so many absurd
religious beliefs, have originated, we do not know; nor how it is that
they have become, in all quarters of the world, so deeply impressed on
the mind of men; but it is worthy of remark that a belief constantly
inculcated during the early years of life, whilst the brain is
impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct;
and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed
independently of reason. Neither can we say why certain admirable
virtues, such as the love of truth, are much more highly appreciated
by some savage tribes than by others;* nor, again, why similar
differences prevail even amongst highly civilised nations. Knowing how
firmly fixed many strange customs and superstitions have become, we
need feel no surprise that the self-regarding virtues, supported as
they are by reason, should now appear to us so natural as to be
thought innate, although they were not valued by man in his early

* Good instances are given by Mr. Wallace in Scientific Opinion,
Sept. 15, 1869; and more fully in his Contributions to the Theory of
Natural Selection, 1870, p. 353.

Not withstanding many sources of doubt, man can generally and
readily distinguish between the higher and lower moral rules. The
higher are founded on the social instincts, and relate to the
welfare of others. They are supported by the approbation of our
fellow-men and by reason. The lower rules, though some of them when
implying self-sacrifice hardly deserve to be called lower, relate
chiefly to self, and arise from public opinion, matured by
experience and cultivation; for they are not practised by rude tribes.
As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into
larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual
that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the
members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This
point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to
prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and
races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great
differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us
how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures.
Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower
animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is
apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little
the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial
exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was
new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the
noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from
our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until
they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is
honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction
and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in
public opinion.
The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise
that we ought to control our thoughts, and "not even in inmost thought
to think again the sins that made the past so pleasant to us."*
Whatever makes any bad action familiar to the mind, renders its
performance by so much the easier. As Marcus Aurelius long ago said,
"Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of
thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts."*(2)

* Tennyson, Idylls of the King, p. 244.
*(2) Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Bk. V, sect. 16.

Our great philosopher, Herbert Spencer, has recently explained his
views on the moral sense. He says, "I believe that the experiences
of utility organised and consolidated through all past generations
of the human race, have been producing corresponding modifications,
which, by continued transmission and accumulation, have become in us
certain faculties of moral intuition- certain emotions responding to
right and wrong conduct, which have no apparent basis in the
individual experiences of utility."* There is not the least inherent
improbability, as it seems to me, in virtuous tendencies being more or
less strongly inherited; for, not to mention the various
dispositions and habits transmitted by many of our domestic animals to
their offspring, I have heard of authentic cases in which a desire
to steal and a tendency to lie appeared to run in families of the
upper ranks; and as stealing is a rare crime in the wealthy classes,
we can hardly account by accidental coincidence for the tendency
occurring in two or three members of the same family. If bad
tendencies are transmitted, it is probable that good ones are likewise
transmitted. That the state of the body by affecting the brain, has
great influence on the moral tendencies is known to most of those
who have suffered from chronic derangements of the digestion or liver.
The same fact is likewise shewn by the "perversion or destruction of
the moral sense being often one of the earliest symptoms of mental
derangement";*(2) and insanity is notoriously often inherited.
Except through the principle of the transmission of moral
tendencies, we cannot understand the differences believed to exist
in this respect between the various races of mankind.

* Letter to Mr. Mill in Bain's Mental and Moral Science, 1868, p.
*(2) Maudsley, Body and Mind, 1870, p. 60.

Even the partial transmission of virtuous tendencies would be an
immense assistance to the primary impulse derived directly and
indirectly from the social instincts. Admitting for a moment that
virtuous tendencies are inherited, it appears probable, at least in
such cases as chastity, temperance, humanity to animals, &c., that
they become first impressed on the mental organization through
habit, instruction and example, continued during several generations
in the same family, and in a quite subordinate degree, or not at
all, by the individuals possessing such virtues having succeeded
best in the struggle for life. My chief source of doubt with respect
to any such inheritance, is that senseless customs, superstitions, and
tastes, such as the horror of a Hindoo for unclean food, ought on
the same principle to be transmitted. I have not met with any evidence
in support of the transmission of superstitious customs or senseless
habits, although in itself it is perhaps not less probable than that
animals should acquire inherited tastes for certain kinds of food or
fear of certain foes.

Finally the social instincts, which no doubt were acquired by man as
by the lower animals for the good of the community, will from the
first have given to him some wish to aid his fellows, some feeling
of sympathy, and have compelled him to regard their approbation and
disapprobation. Such impulses will have served him at a very early
period as a rude rule of right and wrong. But as man gradually
advanced in intellectual power, and was enabled to trace the more
remote consequences of his actions; as he aequired sufficient
knowledge to reject baneful customs and superstitions; as he
regarded more and more, not only the welfare, but the happiness of his
fellow-men; as from habit, following on beneficial experience,
instruction and example, his sympathies became more tender and
widely diffused, extending to men of all races, to the imbecile,
maimed, and other useless members of society, and finally to the lower
animals,- so would the standard of his morality rise higher and
higher. And it is admitted by moralists of the derivative school and
by some intuitionists, that the standard of morality has risen since
an early period in the history of man.*

* A writer in the North British Review (July, 1869, p. 531), well
capable of forming a sound judgment, expresses himself strongly in
favour of this conclusion. Mr. Lecky (History of Morals, vol. i., p.
143) seems to a certain extent to coincide therein.

As a struggle may sometimes be seen going on between the various
instincts of the lower animals, it is not surprising that there should
be a struggle in man between his social instincts, with their
derived virtues, and his lower, though momentarily stronger impulses
or desires. This, as Mr. Galton* has remarked, is all the less
surprising, as man has emerged from a state of barbarism within a
comparatively recent period. After having yielded to some temptation
we feel a sense of dissatisfaction, shame, repentance, or remorse,
analogous to the feelings caused by other powerful instincts or
desires, when left unsatisfied or baulked. We compare the weakened
impression of a past temptation with the ever present social
instincts, or with habits, gained in early youth and strengthened
during our whole lives, until they have become almost as strong as
instincts. If with the temptation still before us we do not yield,
it is because either the social instinct or some custom is at the
moment predominant, or because we have learnt that it will appear to
us hereafter the stronger, when compared with the weakened
impression of the temptation, and we realise that its violation
would cause us suffering. Looking to future generations, there is no
cause to fear that the social instincts will grow weaker, and we may
expect that virtuous habits will grow stronger, becoming perhaps fixed
by inheritance. In this case the struggle between our higher and lower
impulses will be less severe, and virtue will be triumphant.

* See his remarkable work on Hereditary Genius, 1869, p. 349. The
Duke of Argyll (Primeval Man, 1869, p. 188) has some good remarks on
the contest in man's nature between right and wrong.

Summary of the last two Chapters.- There can be no doubt that the
difference between the mind of the lowest man and that of the
highest animal is immense. An anthropomorphous ape, if he could take a
dispassionate view of his own case, would admit that though he could
form an artful plan to plunder a garden- though he could use stones
for fighting or for breaking open nuts, yet that the thought of
fashioning a stone into a tool was quite beyond his scope. Still less,
as he would admit, could he follow out a train of metaphysical
reasoning, or solve a mathematical problem, or reflect on God, or
admire a grand natural scene. Some apes, however, would probably
declare that they could and did admire the beauty of the coloured skin
and fur of their partners in marriage. They would admit, that though
they could make other apes understand by cries some of their
perceptions and simpler wants, the notion of expressing definite ideas
by definite sounds had never crossed their minds. They might insist
that they were ready to aid their fellow-apes of the same troop in
many ways, to risk their lives for them, and to take charge of their
orphans; but they would be forced to acknowledge that disinterested
love for all living creatures, the most noble attribute of man, was
quite beyond their comprehension.
Nevertheless the difference in mind between man and the higher
animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.
We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions
and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity,
imitation, reason, &c., of which man boasts, may be found in an
incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the
lower animals. They are also capable of some inherited improvement, as
we see in the domestic dog compared with the wolf or jackal. If it
could be proved that certain high mental powers, such as the formation
of general concepts, self-consciousness, &c., were absolutely peculiar
to man, which seems extremely doubtful, it is not improbable that
these qualities are merely the incidental results of other
highly-advanced intellectual faculties; and these again mainly the
result of the continued use of a perfect language. At what age does
the new-born infant possess the power of abstraction, or become
self-conscious, and reflect on its own existence? We cannot answer;
nor can we answer in regard to the ascending organic scale. The
half-art, half-instinct of language still bears the stamp of its
gradual evolution. The ennobling belief in God is not universal with
man; and the belief in spiritual agencies naturally follows from other
mental powers. The moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest
distinction between man and the lower animals; but I need say
nothing on this head, as I have so lately endeavoured to shew that the
social instincts,- the prime principle of man's moral constitution*
- with the aid of active intellectual powers and the effects of habit,
naturally lead to the golden rule, "As ye would that men should do
to you, do ye to them likewise"; and this lies at the foundation of

* Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Bk. V, sect. 55.

In the next chapter I shall make some few remarks on the probable
steps and means by which the several mental and moral faculties of man
have been gradually evolved. That such evolution is at least possible,
ought not to be denied, for we daily see these faculties developing in
every infant; and we may trace a perfect gradation from the mind of an
utter idiot, lower than that of an animal low in the scale, to the
mind of a Newton.

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