The Evolutionary Method As Applied To Morality:
I. Its Scientific Necessity
I PROPOSE in the following papers to deal with the problem of the application of historical method, the group of ideas centering in the term Evolution, to the problem of Morality. A direct study of the development of moral customs or moral theories is not intended. There are questions of method which (in the present. state of discussion) seem to be inevitable antecedents to the ultimately more interesting and more important treatment of the actual and concrete moral facts. Difficult as it is to draw any line in the discussion of such a comprehensive matter as evolution, I shall endeavor to steer clear of purely metaphysical problems, however significant they may be in themselves, and confine myself to those aspects of evolutionary theory which have a direct bearing upon the problem of method.
While I shall be compelled to begin with certain very general features of the idea of evolution, I shall attempt to observe the limit just laid down: not carrying the analysis any further than is needful to get surety and clearness in dealing with the method' of interpreting morality. The more general discussion is rendered indispensable because -we are met at the outset with a caveat We are warned off before we begin. We are told that the nature of moral facts and of evolution is such as to make it impossible to get help from this source
The argument runs as follows: Facts of morality are of a spiritual nature. The phenomena of conscience are data of
(108) value, not of history. To them applies the distinction of degree, higher and lower, not of time, earlier and later. What they are and mean in themselves, not their temporal setting, is the problem. To confound such distinctions is not only to get no help in understanding morality, but to go positively astray ; it is to obscure that difference of value which is the unique factor in the case ; and to explain away, not to explain, the essential reality. That an historical statement of any spiritual, value is a hysteron proteron; that analysis of quality or intrinsic character, and tracing of genesis are distinct processes, have become fixed articles in the creed of the contemporary idealist. And no opportunity is lost to rehearse the creed. Many writers would have it that to discuss mind or morality in terms of the historical series, is to evidence such ignorance of rudimentary philosophical distinctions as to argue total unfitness for the task undertaken.
It is this wholesale denial of the possibility of using a given method with any fruitful and positive result, that makes it necessary to ask: What do we intend in science by inquiry into origins ? and what do we secure for science by stating any matter in genetic terms ? Is any purpose fulfilled by this mode of attack which is not within the competent jurisdiction of other methods? Possibly the method is abused in practice by its opponents because it is abused in theory by its upholders. The latter may, think that through the use of the evolutionary method something is done which is not done, and which cannot be done; and fail to bring out the deep and large service that as matter of fact is rendered. Anyway, before we either abuse or recommend genetic method we ought to have some answers to these questions : Just what is it ? Just what is to come of it and how ?
An apparently circuitous mode of approach to these questions may be found most direct in the end. I see no way to get an adequate answer without taking up the nature of experimental method in science, and pointing out in what sense also is a genetic method.
The essence of the experimental method I take to control of the analysis or interpretation of any phenomenon by bringing to light the exact conditions, and the only conditions, which are
(109) involved in its coming into being. Suppose the problem to be the nature of water. By 'nature' we mean no inner metaphysical essence; its 'nature' is found only by experiencing it. By nature, in science, we mean a knowledge for purposes of intellectual and practical control. Now, -water simply as a given fact resists indefinitely and obstinately any direct mode of approach. No amount of scrutiny, no amount of observation of it as given, yields analytic comprehension. Observation but complicates the problem by revealing unsuspected qualities that require additional explanation.
What experimentation does is to let us see into water in the process of making. Through generating water we single out the precise and sole conditions which have to be fulfilled that water may present itself as an experienced fact. If this case be typical, then the experimental method is entitled to rank as genetic method; it is concerned with the manner or process by which anything comes into experienced existence.
Even those willing to admit this, would probably refuse to go further, and hold that the experimental method is in a true sense an historical or evolutionary method. A consideration of the reasons for refusing to take this step will throw light upon the problem. A strictly historical series is unique, not only in any one of its constituent members, but in the particular place it occupies in the series. Its own context is indispensable to its historic character. Now, in the physical world, with which the experimental sciences deal, sets or pairs of terms are not thus limited to any particular temporal part of the series. They occur and recur; and suffer no change of quality by reason of dislocation from a given context. Water is made over and over again, and, so to speak, at any date in the cosmic series. This deprives any account of it of genuinely historic quality.
Another consideration which gives us pause is that the main interest in physical science does not concern the individual case, but certain further and more general results which at once emerge and absorb attention. We have the common saying that the physical sciences are not interested in individual cases as such, but only in general laws. The particular case is taken simply as
(110) a sample, or specimen or instance. It has no worth in itself, but only as a sample. It is only, a more or less imperfect illustration of the general relation which is the true object of regard.
An examination of these reasons will, however, lead us to the conclusion that while in the end we shall still have ground to consider the value of experiment as applied to the physical world to be genetic rather than strictly historical, yet this is due to an abstraction which we have introduced for our own purpose -- that of more adequate control. The serial order, taken in itself or as reality, is strictly historical, and it is only by an intellectual abstraction (justified from the end it subserves), that we get pairs of facts which may show up at any point in the series ; and thus get ground for attributing to them generalized or non-historic meaning. Their existence, though not their working value, remains historic.
The problem of origins is, even in the case of the physical world, a strictly specific or individualized matter. We have no way of getting at the origin of water in general. Experiment has to do with the conditions of production of a specific amount of water, at a specific time and place, under specific circumstances : in a word, it must deal with just this water. The conditions which define its origin must be stated with equal definiteness and circumstantiality. We have a specific situation in which at a given point in time a particular fact does not present itself, and then another point at which it is found. The problem is just the discovery of the individual conditions which have made the difference at the two historical periods. It is these conditions which define to us the emerging or manifestation of the new fact, and which constitute its ' origin.' The question is a perfectly determinate, that is, individualized, one. What facts must be present in order that another fact may show itself? Any scientist can easily say to-day that by causation he means simply a relation of definite antecedence and consequence. Not every scientist, however, seems to have learned the full meaning of the proposition; viz., that the value of the conception is historical, a question of defining the conditions under which a given phenomenon develops.
Moreover, the particular water with which the experimenter actually deals never, as matter of fact, shows itself twice ; it never recurs. It has just as much exclusive uniqueness as is possessed by the career of Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln. That particular portion of water could never have presented itself at any other portion of the world's history, any more than the life of one of the individuals named could have been lived in exactly the same way at any other epoch. To deny this is simply to fall into the error of the mediaeval realist whom the average scientist is so fond of ridiculing. It is to admit the existence of some generic water which is no water in particular, and yet all waters in general.
Yet, you say, there is a difference. Certainly ; but it is a difference of interest, or purpose, not of existence, physical or metaphysical. Julius Caesar served a purpose which no other individual, at any other time, could have served. There is a peculiar flavor of human meaning and accomplishment about him which has no substitute or equivalent. Not so with water. While each portion is absolutely unique in its occurrence, yet one lot will serve our intellectual or practical needs just as well as any other. We can have substitution without loss. Water from the nearest faucet may slake thirst as well as that from the Pierian spring. And what is of more importance to our immediate problem, any one case serves just as well as any other to demonstrate that which is of scientific interest: the process by which water is made, and by which a great body of other and quite dissimilar substances are called into being.. We do not care scientifically for the historical genesis of this portion of water : while we care greatly for the insight secured through the particular case into the process of making any and every portion of water. It is this knowledge of process of generation that constitutes the controlled interpretation which is the aim of science.
Hence our final scientific statement assumes the generalized form we are familiar with in physical science, instead of the individualized form we demand of historical science. Hence also the apparent disruption and dislocation from context in the stream of serial reality. The modern logician has correctly apprehended
(112) the abstract character of this disjointed result when he says that all universal statements are hypothetical : announcing that when or if certain conditions are given, then certain consequences result, but not categorically asserting the actual existence of the fact as to either antecedent or consequent. When the logician recognizes the full significance of this statement, and of its counterpart that every categorical proposition is enunciated of an individual, he will be ready to admit that statements arrived at by experimental science are of an historical order. They take their rise in, and they find their application to, a world of unique and changing things : an evolutionary universe.
This abstract or hypothetical character should not disguise from us, however, the supreme value of the genetic statement arrived at by experimental science. It reveals to us a process which is operating continuously. Through knowledge of this process, we are enabled to get both intellectual and practical, control of great bodies of fact which otherwise would be opaque and recalcitrant. Knowing the process, we can analyze, we can understand, the phenomena of water whenever and however they present themselves. The control, moreover, extends beyond just the water itself. Knowledge of process of genesis becomes an instrument of investigation into, and control over, impure waters so that we can measure the amount and nature of deviation from the standard. It becomes an active factor, a useful tool in investigating fluids which are not water, and chemical compounds which are not even fluid. There is no putting a limit to the ramifications and applications of the theoretical and technological control afforded us by laying hold of an operative process. It applies not only to what the empirical logician is fond of calling 'common' elements and 'resembling' cases; but aids us equally in dealing with apparent divergences and discrepancies. Holding the process in its more generic features, we can follow it 'into its refinements and modifications. By the cumulative method, by bringing together our knowledge of varying processes, and of the particular sequence or course of events in each, entire regions otherwise utterly unexplorable are interpreted, and made amenable.
Lest the reader begin to suspect that we have left the matter of the value of evolutionary ideas comprehending morality, let us turn abruptly to that field. I shall endeavor to point out that there is more than analogy, there is an exact identity, between what the experimental method does for our physical knowledge, and what the historical method in a narrower sense may do for the spiritual region : the region of conscious values. My aim is to show that the historical method reveals to us a process of becoming, and thereby brings under intellectual and practical control facts which utterly resist general speculation or mere introspective observation.
History, as viewed from the evolutionary standpoint, is not a mere collection of incidents or external changes, which something fixed (whether spiritual or physical) has passed through, but is a process that reveals to us the conditions under which moral practices and ideas have originated. This enables us to place, to relate them. In seeing where they came from, in what situations they arose, we see their significance. Moreover, by tracing the historical sequence we are enabled to substitute a view of the whole in its concrete reality for a sketchy view of isolated fragments. History is for the individual and for the unending procession of the universe, what experiment is to the detached field of physics. We cannot apply artificial isolation and artificial recombination to those facts with which ethical science is concerned. We cannot take a present case of parental care, or of a child's untruthfulness, and cut it into sections, or tear it into physical pieces, or subject it to chemical analysis. Only through history, through a consideration of how it came to be what it is, can we unravel it and trace the interweaving of its constituent parts. History offers to us the only available substitute for the isolation and for the cumulative recombination of experiment. The early periods present us in their relative crudeness and simplicity with a substitute for the artificial operation of an experiment: following the phenomenon into the more complicated and refined form which it assumes later, is a substitute for the synthesis of the experiment.
The value of the earlier stages of any historic evolution is,
(114) I repeat, like that of the artificial isolation of a physical fact from its usual context. The transformation of this logical advantage into a matter of superior excellence in the order of existence, is the root of the materialistic fallacy. It is this unjustifiable transference which calls out those protests referred to early in this paper; which have led the idealists to protest against the industry of explaining conscious facts in evolutionary terms. It is assumed that the earlier fact somehow sets the standard of reality and of worth for the entire series. In practice, though not in express formulation, it is assumed that the earlier stages, being 'causal,' somehow are an exhaustive and adequate index of reality, and that consequently all later terms can be understood only when reduced to equivalent terms. It is this supposed reduction of the later into the earlier, that the idealist rightly holds is not to explain but to explain away; not to analyze but to ignore and deny.
The procedure is the counterpart of the Greek and mediaeval theories of the universe, in assigning differences of value to different parts of space. We have ceased regarding the celestial universe as of higher rank in the hierarchy of being than the terrestrial. Homogeneity of existence in space has become such an integral part of the working apparatus of the modern scientist that he can hardly put himself into the older attitude. Nevertheless, lie is quite likely to fall into exactly the same sort of fallacy, when it comes to time instead of space. The earlier is regarded as somehow more 'real' than the later, or as furnishing the quality in terms of which the reality of all the later must be stated.
There is, indeed, a point of view from which the earlier in time is of greater value ; but it is that of method, not of existence. That which is presented to us in the later terms of the series in too complicated and confused a form to be unravelled, shows itself in a relatively simple and transparent mode in the earlier members. Their relative fewness and superficiality makes it much easier to secure the mental isolation needful.
The fallacy of the standard character of the earlier is so intrenched and widespread that it can hardly be dismissed with
(115) brief mention. The simple fact of the case is that the genetic method, whether used in experimental or historical science, does not 'derive ' or 'deduce ' a consequent from an antecedent, in the sense of resolving it or dissolving it, into what has gone before. The later fact in its experienced quality is unique, irresolvable, and underived. Water is water with all its peculiar characteristics, after the presence of oxygen and hydrogen gas has been shown to be a necessary condition of its generation as much as before. A statement of the conditions under which a given thing shows itself in existence, does not detract one iota from the individual properties of that thing ; it does not alter them. This is as true of water or any physical product as it is of the sense of obligation or of any spiritual product. It is not the quality, but the coming into existence with which science deals directly. What is derived' is just the appearance of the quality, its emerging into experience. The value of apprehending it in terms of its antecedent conditions is, as repeatedly stated, that of control : intellectual control-the ability to interpret both obviously allied facts and divergent facts, showing the same modus operating under different conditions ; and practical control, ability to get or to avoid an experience of a given sort when we desire.
The fallacy assumes that the earlier datum has some sort of fixity and finality of its own. Even those who assert most positively that causation is a simple matter of antecedent and consequent, are still given to speaking -as if the antecedent supplied the sole stamp of meaning and reality to the consequent. If, for example, the earlier stage shows only social instincts on the part of the animal, then, somehow or other, the later manifestations of human conscience are only animal instincts disguised and overlaid. To attribute any additional meaning to them, is an illusion to be banished by a proper scientific view. Now, the earlier fact is no more a finished thing, or completely given reality, than is the later. Indeed, the entire significance of the experimental method is that attention centers upon either antecedent or consequent simply because of interest in a process. The antecedent is of worth because it defines one term of the process of becoming; the consequent because it defines the other term. Both are
(116) strictly subordinated to the process to which they gave terms, limits.
The analogy with the terms of an algebraic series is more than a metaphor. The earlier terms do not develop the later ones. The earlier term is just as incomprehensible in itself as is the later one. Taken together, they constitute elements in problem which is solved by discovering a continuous process or course which, individualized by the limiting terms, shows itself first in one form and then in the other. The interest in the generation of water does not terminate with the discovery of H 2 and O. We have also gained significant facts with reference to the H and the O in knowing that when they come together they give water. To know that about them is to know them through and in a process, exactly as analyzing water into them explains water in genetic terms. Excepting as H and O are known in this 'effect' (and, of course, in other similar ones), they are absolutely unknown, -- they are an algebraic X and Y.
The reason this matter is not clear to the popular consciousness, as well as to the expert writer, is because an older, purely metaphysical conception of causation survives, according to which the cause is somehow superior in rank and excellence to the effect. The effects are regarded as somehow all inside the womb of cause, only awaiting their proper time to be delivered. They are considered as derived and secondary, not simply in the order of time, but in the order of existence. Materialism arises just out of this fetichlike worship of the antecedent. Writers who ought to know better tell us that if we only had an adequate knowledge of the 'primitive' time of the world, if we only had some general formula by which to circumscribe it, we could deduce down to its last detail the entire existing constitution of the world, life, and society. It is pretty clear, however, that in order to have this adequate knowledge of primitive phenomena as 'cause,' we should have to know everything that has come after as , 'effect.' We do not know what it is as 'cause' (that is we do not know it at all), excepting as we know it through its 'effects. The entire novel of a penny-a-liner may possibly be deduced from its first chapter,
(117) but hardly that of an artist. Our adequate knowledge of the earlier constitution of the stellar universe depends upon the degree in which we are familiar with what as a matter of fact has come since. So the comprehensive world-formula about the operation of certain forces depends absolutely upon the empirical knowledge that as matter of fact certain results take place when certain conditions are present. The formula is a mere summary or shorthand record of the entire historical series-so much for its magic power in deduction and derivation. The mode of reasoning is tautological. Since we know the nature of the antecedent only through the specific consequence, adequate knowledge of primitive conditions can mean nothing else but a complete knowledge of the whole thing from beginning to end. It is surprising how a priori the average empiricist becomes the moment he takes himself to the adoration of causes. He surrenders his belief in a reality apprehended through, experience, in behalf of a notion of the superior metaphysical excellence of what he mentally constructs as a bygone existence'. He regards the later terms of experience not as real in their experienced character, but as something to be deduced or derived from a reality adequately given in what he is pleased to denominate cause.
So much time has been spent upon the fallacy involved in supposing that the early forms of an historical series are superior to the later, that before passing on I must recur, to the proposition on its positive side. It still remains true that the statement of any event or historical series, in terms of its earlier members, has an advantage for science : its logical superiority consists in presenting the matter in so simplified a form that we can detach and grasp separately elements which are wholly lost in the confused complexity of the mature phases. We can single out a particular fact from its company of associates, and give it more exact and more exclusive attention. This is what is meant by saying that history does for moral matters, for matters of conscious value, what experimentation does for physical things: it gives control by furnishing relative isolation.
This also establishes the significance of the later members of the series. Starting with the earlier ones as our clue, we can
(118) trace each successive degree of complication as it introduces itself. Having found conditions operating, historically by themselves, we can see what happens when these conditions come together. We can refer the more complicated fact to the combination. of conditions. Here we have the counterpart of the synthetic recombination, or cumulative method of experiment. We put together the separate threads coming from different sources, and see how they are woven into a pattern so extensive and minute as to defy the analysis of direct inspection.
We should be prepared, from our foregoing discussion to see how this superiority and logical value is also given ontological significance just as the materialist isolates and deifies, the earlier term as an exponent of reality, so the idealist deals with the later term. To him it is the reality of which the first form is simply the appearance. He contrasts the various members of the series as possessing different degrees of reality, the more primitive being nearest zero. To him the reality is somehow 'latent' or 'potential ' in the earlier forms, and, gradually working from within, transforms them until it finds for itself a fairly adequate expression. It is an axiom with him that what is evolved in the latest form is involved in the earliest. The later reality is, therefore, to him the persistent reality in contrast with which the first forms are, if not illusions, at least poor excuses for being. We are all familiar with these applications of the Aristotelian metaphysics to the evolutionary process. We are not concerned here with the metaphysical problems involved, though they are serious enough : as the notion that the real somehow chooses an imperfect mode or vehicle of expression for itself, and only after a long series of more or less abortive attempts succeeds in showing itself as the reality. It is enough for present purposes to note that we have here simply a particular case of the general fallacy just discussed-the emphasis of a particular term of the series at the expense of the process operative in reference to all terms.
Both the earlier and the later are simply limits which define the process in question. They are the framework which gives it outline ; they are the terms which characterize the problem to be
(119) attacked. The introduction of more detailed intermediate terms, together with a statement of their exact temporal and quantitative relations to each other, fill out the outline. They give us finally a complete whole, constituted by members standing in orderly and consecutive relations to each other.
Just as experiment transforms a brute physical fact into a relatively luminous series of changes, so evolutionary method applied to a moral fact does not leave us either with a mere animal instinct on one side, or with the spiritual categoric imperative on the other. It reveals to us a single continuing process in which both animal instinct and the sense of duty have their place. It puts us in possession of a concrete whole.
The analogy with modern biological interests is significant. There was a time when units of fixed structure seemed alone to have importance. They, by simple physical juxtaposition and combination, were supposed to account for all more complex forms and functions. For logical purposes it makes no difference whether these units are ' cells ' with relation to the organism as a whole, or brain 'centers ' with reference to certain neural functions. Some peculiar property was supposed to be resident in these units, which somehow controlled or explained other activities and structures. Now, morphology is ceasing, to lord it over physiology ; and physiology is ceasing to be a mere matter of certain functions. It is a chemico-physical process operating wherever we have organized structure and the performance of function that is the subject of scientific attention. The problem is to discover and analyze this process, and then trace its different modes of operation as it presents itself under a variety of conditions ; these conditions being stated definitely through experimental control. just as the biologist is surrendering the attempt to locate his reality in one spot rather than another, in the cell as such, or the brain center as such, so the moralist must cease trying to find the key to his problem in the animal instinct as such ; and as the biologist has ceased taking a function as ultimate and self-explanatory, so the moralist must cease discussing the refined moral consciousness of civilization as final. He must turn to the moralizing process which operates con-
(120)-tinuously, and endeavor to account for its different manifestations under differentials of condition historically presented.
This whole matter may indeed be summed up in terms of the conception of causation. If we assume the meaning of his notion to be a relation of antecedent and consequent, we cannot play fast and loose with it. The cause is not merely antecedent ; it is what it is as antecedent, and cannot be regarded as real when severed from that which succeeds it. The same holds of the consequent --it is what it is only as a term in the series. But we do more than place the antecedent and consequent. We get the continuous reality. And then the entire series, the defined and historic event, is itself employed to interpret and construct a larger realm of experience. Through the series we better apprehend the universe. It is that which is characterized by and through such a history. The historic consequence is a predicate of a new subject.
We get a more thorough and adequate experience the antecedents, H and O, and of the consequent, water, in finding out how water is generated. But we do not stop at this point. The entire sequence to which both antecedence and consequence belong, becomes an important factor in realizing the nature of the world in which such an event takes place. Our drama becomes in turn a significant episode in a larger drama. So in moral matters we comprehend both the animal instinct and the human categorical imperative when we place them as limiting terms of a single continuous history. But over and above this, we understand better the universe, knowing that it is of a kind to be marked by such a history. It is in the light of such a more ultimate judgment, made possible by the evolutionary method, that we see how limited is the view that tells us that history can only speak of certain external things that have happened to morality; can trace its outward fortunes, but reveal nothing of its nature. It shows us morality in the position which it occupies in the universe ; in the situations that demand it.
Having found in the apprehension of process, the reality which eludes us when we look for it either in earlier or later terms we have to be careful to avoid a further error, viz : the confusion of
(121) continuity of process with identity of content. The following quotation illustrates the error to which I refer: " We may raise the single inductive inquiry, What acts have men everywhere and at all times considered right or wrong respectively, and what acts have some considered right or indifferent and others wrong ? Tables of agreement and difference can be drawn up to show what mankind at least has regarded as the essential content of the moral law. . . . For the rich harvest which this treatment of the moral field is sure to yield, we shall have to wait until the spirit of science has exorcised the spirit of speculation from our contending schools of ethics (Schurman, The Ethical Import of Darwinism, pp. 205, 206). "The science of historical ethics is still too young to have established what moral principles are ultimate and fundamental -- that is, what principles man everywhere and at all times has considered binding" (Ibid., P. 255).
The implication of the quotations is that the scientific method is concerned with the abstraction of a certain common and unchanging content-that it is on the lookout for some duty or duties that have been regarded at all times and in all places as equally binding. I seize upon this conception because it is sufficiently near the proposition just presented to make it worth while to indicate the difference between them. I have insisted that the scientific method is concerned with the discovery of a common and continuous process, and that this can be determined only historically. The notion now propounded is that science is concerned with a common content or structure of beliefs, and this can be apprehended historically. I do not find, however, that it is identity of content which is important, either theoretically or practically. On the contrary, the method of comparison and abstraction which leaves us with simply a fixed common element apart from all diversity and variety, gives a mere caput mortuum rigidly static, arbitrary, a residuum without explanation. Practically, it gives us no leverage for what is the most important thing --- control.
Doubtless it is true that other historical sciences have passed through a " comparative' period in which the discovery of a common element of structure was taken to be the object of search;
(122) but the other sciences have left that point of view far behind. The comparative anatomist knows very well that external similarity is no guarantee of identity of function, or of homologous organs ; and that like functions may be exercised through modes of structure which externally are characterized by the most profound and extensive differences. The same is true of the comparative philologist. It is only in the region of consciousness, in discussing myths, rites, institutions, and moral practices, that the idea persists that the important thing is to hit upon some structure which is everywhere alike. The advance, which has taken place in the biological and quasi -biological sciences is sure to take place in the social sciences as well. What the biologist instinctively searches for (given as data a variety of different forms or species, with the problem of tracing their relationship) is first a common ancestor. This furnishes a point of departure and supplies one limiting term of the series under consideration. The present differentiated forms furnish the other limiting term. The problem is to discover the single process which, operating under definitely different conditions, has manifested itself in these specifically different outward forms. Knowledge of differences is just as important as that of the generic identity of the process. The function of locomotion is a mere abstraction, excepting, as we can trace and define its performance through environmental conditions that give rise equally to the legless snake, the fins of the fish, the wings of the bird, and the legs of the quadruped. It is only through insight into diversification that the hold upon the process becomes vital. and concrete. Similarly in morals. Supposing (which does not seem to be the case) that an identical belief regarding the duty of parental care, or of conjugal fidelity, could be discover in human societies at all times and places. This would throw no light whatsoever upon the scientific significance of that phenomenon. On the other hand, an adequate knowledge of historical facts might throw great light upon the ethics of family relations, exhibited in complete neglect of children as well as in self-sacrificing devotion to their welfare, and in all stages of regard and disregard of personal faithfulness as between husband and wife.
(123) The very differences of belief become significant when they can be referred to varying conditions which have brought them about.
Just one word on the practical side. The common and rigidly fixed content gives no help regarding the future. It gives no indication of the method of progress in any desired direction. There is no way of turning it over into a mode of control of future experience, either in corporate action or individual education. It is just a bare isolated final fact. If any use at all could be made of it, the tendency would be to lower the working standard of moral action in all more advanced societies. By hypothesis, it furnishes only the duty which is common to the lowest with the highest. The essence of moral struggle and of moral progress lies, however, precisely in that region where sections of society, or groups of individuals, are becoming conscious of the necessity of ideals of a higher and more generalized order than those recognized in the past. To fix upon that which has been believed everywhere, and at all times " as the essential content of the moral law," would give practical morality a tremendous set-back.
The previous discussion may be summarized as follows : The object of science is primarily to give intellectual control -- that is, ability to interpret phenomena-- and secondarily, practical control -- that is, ability to secure desirable and avoid undesirable future experiences. Second, experiment accomplishes this in physical sciences. It takes an unanalyzed total fact which in its totality must simply be accepted at its face value, and shows the exact and exclusive conditions of its origin. By this means it takes it out of its opaque isolation and gives it meaning by presenting it as a distinct and yet related part of a larger historic continuum. Third, the discovery of the process becomes at once an instrument for the interpretation of other facts which are explainable by reference to the process operating under somewhat different conditions. Fourth, the significance of conscious or spiritual values cannot be made out by direct inspection, nor yet by direct physical dissection and recomposition. They are, therefore, outside the scope of science except so far as amenable to historic method. Fifth, history gives us these facts in process of becoming or
(124) generation ; the earlier terms of the series provide us with a simplification which is the counterpart of isolation in physical experiment; each successive later term answers the purpose of
synthetic recombination under increasingly complex conditions. Sixth, a complete historical account of the development of any ethical idea or practice would not only enable us to interpret both its cruder and more mature forms, but --what is even more important-- would give us insight into the operation and conditions which make for morality, and thus afford us intellectual tools for attacking other moral facts. Seventh, in analogy- with the results flowing in physical sciences from intellectual control, we have every reason to suppose that the successful execution of this mode of approach would yield also fruit in practical control that is, knowledge of means by which individual , and corporate conduct might be modified in desirable directions. If we get knowledge of a process of generation, we get knowledge of how to proceed in getting a desired result.
I have endeavored in this paper simply to show that either morality must remain outside the sphere of science, or be approached and attacked by the historical method. This is what I mean by the 'necessity' of this method. It till remains open to an objector to take the first of the alternatives, and hold that morality is not open to any sort of scientific treatment, and that it is essential to its existence as morality that it should not be so treated. In other words, I have not as yet discussed directly the question of what the bearing of the application of the historical method, as scientific mode of approach, is upon the value or validity of distinctively moral phenomenon. To that problem, accordingly, my next article will be devoted. What does this method do for morality as morality, and how? I shall endeavor to show that the method not only does not destroy distinctively ethical values, but that it supplies them , with an added sanction.
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO