COMPARISON OF THE MENTAL POWERS OF MAN AND THE LOWER ANIMALS--continued.
The moral sense--Fundamental proposition--The qualities of social animals-- Origin of sociability--Struggle between opposed instincts--Man a social animal--The more enduring social instincts conquer other less persistent instincts--The social virtues alone regarded by savages--The self-regarding virtues acquired at a later stage of development--The importance of the judgment of the members of the same community on conduct--Transmission of moral tendencies--Summary.
I fully subscribe to the judgment of those writers (1. See, for instance, on this subject, Quatrefages, 'Unite de l'Espece Humaine,' 1861, p. 21, etc.) 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. 'Dissertation an Ethical Philosophy,' 1837, p. 231, etc.) 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. 'Metaphysics of Ethics,' translated by J.W. Semple, Edinburgh, 1836, p. 136.)
This great question has been discussed by many writers (4. 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.) 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.
The following proposition seems to me in a high degree probable--namely, that any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts (5. 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,' (1864, pp. 45, 46), 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.