Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Problems of Conduct - 5/68 -

"Who is my neighbour?" It can be found in the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. By what means was social morality produced?

(1) The earliest source of social morality lies in the maternal instinct; the first animal that took care of its young stood at the beginning of this wonderful advance. The originating causes of the first slight care of eggs or offspring lay, no doubt, in some obscure physiological readjustments, due to forces irrelevant to morality. But the young that had even such slight care had a survival advantage over their rivals, and would transmit the rudimentary instinct to their offspring. Thus, given a start in that direction, natural selection, steadily favoring the more maternally disposed, produced species with a highly developed and long continuing maternal love. In similar manner but in lesser degree a paternal instinct was developed. The existence of these instincts implied the power of sympathy and altruistic action that is, action by one individual for another's welfare. From sympathy for offspring to sympathy for mate and other members of the group was but a step; and all sympathetic action may have its ultimate source in mother love.

(2) Not only was natural selection early at work in the rivalry for existence between individuals, protecting those stocks that had the stronger maternal and paternal instincts, but it played an important part in the struggle between groups. Those species that developed the ability to keep together for mutual protection or for advantage. And within a species those particular herds or flocks or tribes that cooperated best outlived the others. With the strongest animals, such as lions and tigers, and with the weakest, such as rabbits and mice, the instinct to stand by one another is of no value and so was never fostered by natural selection. But in many species of animals of intermediate strength, that by cooperation might be able to resist attack or overcome enemies that they would singly be impotent against, the cooperative instinct became strongly developed. Notably in such case was man; and we find group consciousness, tribal loyalty, continually enhanced by the killing off of the tribes in which it was feebler. The dominant races in man's internecine struggles have been those of passionate patriotism and capacity for working together. Nature has socialized man by a repeated application of the method hinted at in the adage "United we stand, divided we fall." Successful war demands loyalty and obedience, self-forgetfulness and mutual service. It demands also the cessation of internal squabbling, the restraint of individual greed, lust, and caprice. At first instinctive, these virtues came with clearing consciousness to be deliberately cultivated by the tribe, in ways which we shall in a moment indicate.

(3) As in the development of personal morality, the hostility of inanimate nature, coupled with the urgency of inner needs, has also played its part in the socialization of man. The satisfying of hunger, protection against storm, flood, and other physical calamities, is greatly forwarded by cooperation. The rearing of a shelter, for example, that shall be at all comfortable and secure, demands the labor of several. With the development of civilization, mutual assistance and the division of labor become more and more imperative. As man developed more and more into a reflective animal, the comprehension of these advantages became clearer and clearer to him. Resentment against mere individualism grew keener; and any member whose laziness or passions led him to pull apart from the common good had to incur the anger of his fellows. Under these three heads--the selection of the maternal instinct, with its potentialities of universal sympathy, through the struggle between individuals; the selection of the various powers of loyalty and cooperation through the struggle between groups; and the production of cooperative habits through the struggle with inanimate nature-we may group the causes of social morality in man. How has morality been fostered by the tribe? Social morality, like personal morality, is passed on from generation to generation by heredity and by imitation. Both, in historic man, are also deliberately cultivated by the tribe. We have discriminated between the two aspects of morality for theoretic reasons which will later become apparent; but no discrimination is possible or needful for the savage. Courage and prudence and industriousness and temperance in its members are assets of the tribe, and are included among its requirements. We shall now consider in what ways the group brings pressure to bear upon the individual and influences his moral development.

(1) It needs no great powers of observation to convince the members of a tribe severally that immorality of any sort-laziness, cowardice, unrestrained lust, recklessness, quarrelsomeness, insubordination, etc. in another member is detrimental to him personally. His own security and the satisfaction of his needs are thereby in some degree decreased. Contentment at the morality of the other members of the group, and anger at their immorality, are therefore among the earliest psychological reactions. No men, however savage, are insensitive to these attitudes of their fellows; and the emotional response of others to their acts is from the beginning a powerful force for morality. When contentment becomes explicitly expressed, becomes praise, commendation, honor; when anger becomes openly uttered blame, contempt, ridicule, rebuke, their power is well nigh irresistible. A civilized man, with his manifold resources, may defy public opinion; the savage, who cannot with safety live alone and has few personal interests to fill his mind, is unavoidably subject to its sting. His impulses and passions lead him often to immoral conduct, but he is pretty sure to suffer from the condemnation of his fellows. The memory of that penalty in his own case, or the sight of it in the case of others, may be a considerable deterrent; while, on the other hand, the craving for applause and esteem may be a powerful incentive.

(2) Even among some of the animals, the resentment against the misconduct of a member of the herd finds expression in outward punishment maltreatment or death. Among men, punishments for the immoral and outward honors for the virtuous antedate history. Decorations, tattoos, songs, for the conspicuously brave and efficient, death or some lesser penalty for the cowardly, the traitorous, the insubordinate, figure largely in primitive life. These honors are capricious, uncertain, and transitory; but they are undoubtedly more stimulating to the savage, who lives in the moment, than they are in the more complex existence of the modern man. And while in general the savage is more callous to punishments, he has to fear much severer penalties than our humane conscience allows. They are inflicted, of course, with greatest frequency for those sins which instinctively arouse the hottest anger; that in turn varies with different types of men and various accidental circumstances that have determined the tribal points of view. But in general it is the virtues that most obviously benefit the tribe that are rewarded, and those that most obviously harm it that are punished.

(3) Another important means of securing morality in the tribe is the education of the young. This includes not only deliberate instruction, encouragement, and warning, but various symbolic rites and customs, whose value in impressing the plastic minds of the boys and girls of the tribe is only half realized. Initiation into manhood is accompanied in many races of men by solemn ceremonies, which instill into the youth the necessity and glory of courage, endurance, self-control, and other virtues. The maidens are taught by equally solemn rites the obligatoriness of chastity. The lowest races studied by anthropologists which, however, represent, of course, the result of ages of evolution have commonly an elaborate provision for the guidance of the young into the paths of the tribal morals.

(4) Further, all occasions upon which the tribe gets together for common work or play strengthen the group loyalty and make the group welfare appeal to the member as his own good. Hunting expeditions and wars, the sowing and reaping of the communal harvest, births, marriages, and deaths, in which usually the group as a whole takes a keen interest, feasts and dances, bard recitals, in common undertakings, dangers, calamities, triumphs, and celebrations, merge the individuality of the separate members into a unity. In many primitive races these influences are so strong that the individual has scarcely any separate life, but lives from childhood till death for the tribe and its welfare.

(5) Religion is, until late in civilization, almost wholly a group affair. The gods are tribal gods, their commands are chiefly the more obvious duties to the tribe. The fear of their displeasure and the hope of their assistance are among the most powerful of the sanctions of early morality. Where a special set of men are set aside as priests, to foster the religious consciousness and insure obedience to the divine behests, he is rash who dares openly to transgress. The idea of "taboo" of certain acts which must not be done, certain objects which must not be touched, etc. i extraordinarily prominent among many early peoples. The taboo may not be clearly connected with a divine prohibition; but, whether vague and mysterious or explicit, it brings the awe of the supernatural to bear upon daily conduct. The worship of the gods is one of the most important of the common activities, covered by the preceding paragraph, which make for the unifying of a tribe; and the sense of their presence and jealous interest in its welfare one of the strongest motives that restrain the individual from cowardice or lust or any anti-social conduct.

(6) With the development of language, the moral experience of a people becomes crystallized into maxims, proverbs, and injunctions, which the elders pass on to the boys and girls together with their comments and personal instruction. Oral precepts thus condense the gist of recurrent experience for the benefit of each new generation. Such saws as "Honesty is the best policy," "Lies are short lived," "Ill gotten gains do not prosper," date, no doubt, well back toward the origin of articulate language. The gathering antiquity of this inherited counsel adds prestige to the personal authority of the old men who love to repeat it; and the customs once instinctive and unconsciously imitated, or adopted from fear and the hope of praise, are now consciously cultivated as intrinsically desirable. There is, of course, very little realization of WHY some acts are commended and others prohibited; the mere fact that such and such are the tribal customs, that thus and so things have been done, is enough. Primitive peoples are highly innovation. So that the moral habits which were established before the age of reflection and articulate speech remain for the most part after they have become crystallized into precepts and commands, and by this articulating process become much more firmly entrenched. Then from the existence of miscellaneous maxims and prohibitions, taught by the elders and linked with whatever impulsive and haphazard punishments are customary, to the formulation of legal codes, with definite penalties attached to specific infringements, is an easy transition. With the invention of written language these laws could become still better fixed and more clearly known. The appointment of certain men of authority as judges, to investigate alleged cases of transgression and award the proper penalties, completes the evolution of a civilized legal system, the most powerful of all deterrents from flagrantly anti- social acts. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chaps. II, III. H. Spencer, Data of Ethics, chap. II, secs. 5, 6. J. Fiske, Cosmic Philosophy, part II, chap. XXII, second half. A. Sutherland, Origin and Growth of the Moral Instinct, vol. I. C. S. Wake, Evolution of Morality, vol. I, chaps. V, VI, VII. P. V. N. Myers, History as Past Ethics, chap. I. P. Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, chaps. I-IV. L. T. Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, part I, chaps. I-III. Westermarck, op. cit, chap. XXXIV. J. Fiske, Through Nature to God, part II, "The Cosmic Roots of Love and Self-Sacrifice." C. Read, Natural and Social Morals, chap. III.

Problems of Conduct - 5/68

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10   20   30   40   50   60   68 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything