« AnteriorContinuar »
with advancing organization, superiority has been perpetually fostered, and further advances caused.
On the other hand, it is true that to this self-sacrificing care for the young and this struggle for existence among adults, has been due the carnage and the death by starvation which have characterized the evolution of life from the beginning. It is also true that the processes consequent on conformity to these principles are responsible for the production of torturing parasites, which outnumber in their kinds all other creatures.
To those who take a pessimist view of animal-life in general, contemplation of these principles can of course yield only dissatisfaction. But to those who take an optimist view, or a meliorist view, of life in general, and who accept the postulate of hedonism, contemplation of these principles must yield greater or less satisfaction, and fulfillment of them must be ethically approved.
Otherwise considered, these principles are either, according to the current belief, expressions of the Divine will, or, according to the agnostic belief, indicate the mode in which works the Unknowable Power throughout the Universe; and in either case they have the warrant hence derived.
But here, leaving aside the ultimate controversy of pessimism versus optimism, it will suffice for present purposes to set out with a hypothetical postulate, and to limit it to a single species. If the preservation and prosperity of such species are to be desired, there inevitably emerge one most general conclusion and from it three less general conclusions.
The most general conclusion is that, in order of obligation, the preservation of the species takes precedence of the preservation of the individual. It is true that the species has no existence save as an aggregate of individuals; and it is true that, therefore, the wel. fare of the species is an end to be subserved only as subserving the welfares of individuals. But since disappearance of the species, implying disappearance of all individuals, involves absolute failure in achieving the end, whereas disappearance of individuals, though carried to a great extent, may leave outstanding such number as can, by continuance of the species, make subsequent fulfillment of the end possible; the preservation of the individual must, in a variable degree according to circumstances, be subordinated to the preservation of the species, where the two conflict. The resulting corollaries are these :
First, that among adults there must be conformity to the law that benefits received shall be directly proportionate to merits possessed : merits being measured by power of self-sustentation. For, otherwise, the species must suffer in two ways. It must suffer immediately by sacrifice of superior to inferior, which entails a
general diminution of welfare; and it must suffer remotely by furthering increase of the inferior and, by implication, hindering increase of the superior, and by a consequent general deterioration which, if continued, must end in extinction.
Second, that during early life, before self-sustentation has become possible, and also while it can be but partial, the aid given must be the greatest where the worth shown is the smallest, benefits received must be inversely proportionate to merits possessed : merits being measured by power of self-sustentation. Unless there are gratis benefits to offspring, unqualified at first and afterward qualified by decrease as maturity is approached, the species must disappear by extinction of its young. There is, of course, necessitated a proportionate self-subordination of adults.
Third, to this self-subordination entailed by parenthood has, in certain cases, to be added a further self-subordination. If the constitution of the species and its conditions of existence are such that sacrifices, partial or complete, of some of its individuals, so subserve the welfare of the species that its numbers are better maintained than they would otherwise be, then there results a justification for such sacrifices.
Such are the laws by conformity to which a species is maintained; and if we assume that the preservation of a particular species is a desideratum, there arises in it an obligation to conform to these laws, which we may call, according to the case in question, quasi-ethical or ethical.
II. SUB-HUMAN JUSTICE.Of the two essential but opposed principles of action by pursuance of which each species is preserved, we are here concerned only with the second. Passing over the law of the family as composed of adults and young, we have now to consider exclusively the law of the species as composed of adults only.
This law we have seen to be that individuals of most worth, as measured by their fitness to the conditions of existence, shall have the greatest benefits, and that inferior individuals shall receive smaller benefits, or suffer greater evils, or both results—a law which, under its biological aspect, has for its implication the survival of the fittest. Interpreted in ethical terms it is that each individual ought to be subject to the effects of its own nature and resulting conduct. Throughout sub-human life this law holds without qualification; for there exists no agency by which, among adults, the relations between conduct and consequence can be interfered with.
Fully to appreciate the import of this law we may with advantage pause a moment to contemplate an analogous law; or, rather, the same law as exhibited in another sphere. Besides being displayed in the relations among members of the species, as respect
ively well or ill sustained according to their well-adapted activities or ill-adapted activities, it is displayed in the relations of parts of each organism to one another.
Every muscle, every viscus, every gland, receives blood in proportion to function. If it does little it is ill-fed and dwindles ; if it does much it is well-fed and grows. By this balancing of expenditure in action and payment in nutriment, there is, at the same time, a balancing of the relative powers of the parts of the organism; so that the organism as a whole is fitted to its existence by having the proportions of its parts continuously adjusted to the requirements. And clearly this principle of self-adjustment within each individual is parallel to that principle of self-adjustment by which the species as a whole keeps itself fitted to its environment. For by the better nutrition and greater power of propagation which come to members of the species that have faculties and consequent activities best adapted to the needs, joined with the lower sustentation of self and offspring which accompany less adapted faculties and activities, there is caused such special growth of the species as most conduces to its survival in face of surrounding conditions.
This, then, is the law of sub-human justice, that each individual shall receive the benefits and the evils of its own nature and its consequent conduct.
But sub-human justice is extremely imperfect, alike in general and in detail.
In general, it is imperfect in the sense that there exist multitudinous species the sustentation of which depends on the wholesale destruction of other species; and this wholesale destruction implies that the species serving as prey have the relations between conduct and consequence so habitually broken that in but very few individuals are they long maintained. It is true that in such cases the premature loss of life suffered from enemies by nearly all members of the species, must be considered as resulting from their natures—their inability to contend with the destructive agencies they are exposed to. But we may fitly recognize the truth that this violent ending of the immense majority of its lives, implies that the species is one in which justice, as above conceived, is displayed in but small measure.
Sub-human justice is extremely imperfect in detail, in the sense that the relation between conduct and consequence is in such an immense proportion of cases broken by accidents-accidents of kinds which fall indiscriminately upon inferior and superior individuals. There are the multitudinous deaths caused by inclemencies of weather, which, in the great majority of cases, the best members of the species are liable to like the worst. There are other multitudinous deaths caused by scarcity of food, which, if not wholly, still in large measure, carries off good and bad alike. Among low types, too, enemies are causes of death which so operate that superior as well as inferior are sacrificed. And the like holds with invasions by parasites, often widely fatal. These attack, and frequently destroy, the most perfect individuals as readily as the least perfect.
The high rate of multiplication required to balance the immense mortality among low animals, at once shows us that among them long survival is not insured by superiority; and that thus the subhuman justice, which consists in continued receipt of the results of conduct, holds individually in but few cases.
And here we come upon a truth of great significance—the truth that sub-human justice becomes more decided as organization becomes higher.
Whether this or that fly is taken by a swallow, whether among a brood of caterpillars an ichneumon settles on this or that, whether out of a shoal of herrings this or that is swallowed by a cetacean, is an event quite independent of individual peculiarity: good and bad samples fare alike. With high types of creatures it is otherwise. Keen senses, sagacity, agility, give a particular carnivore special power to secure prey. In a herd of herbivorous creatures, the one with quickest hearing, clearest vision, most sensitive nostril, or greatest speed, is the one most likely to save itself.
Evidently, in proportion as the endowments, mental and bodily, of a species are high, and as, consequently, its ability to deal with the incidents of the environment is great, the continued life of each individual is less dependent on accidents against which it can not guard. And, evidently, in proportion as this result of general superiority becomes marked, the results of special superiorities are felt. Individual differences of faculty play larger parts in determining individual fates. Now deficiency of a power shortens life, and now a large endowment prolongs it. That is to say, individuals experience more fully the results of their own natures --the justice is more decided.
With creatures which lead solitary lives, the nature of subhuman justice is thus sufficiently expressed; but on passing to gregarious creatures, there enters into it a new element.
Simple association, as of sheep or deer, profits the individual and the species only by that more efficient safeguarding which results from the superiority of a multitude of eyes, ears, and noses over the eyes, ears, and nose of a single individual. Through the alarms more quickly given, all benefit by the senses of the most acute. Where this, which we may call passive co-operation, rises into active co-operation, as among rooks where one of the flock keeps watch while the rest feed, or as among beavers where a number work together in making dams, or as among wolves where, by a plan of attack in which the individuals play different parts, prey is caught which would otherwise not be caught; there is still greater advantage to the individuals and to the species. And, speaking generally, we may say that gregariousness, and cooperation more or less active establish themselves in a species only because they are profitable to it; since, otherwise, survival of the fittest must prevent establishment of them..
But now mark that this profitable association is made possible only by observance of certain conditions. The acts directed to self-sustentation which each performs, are performed more or less in presence of others performing like acts; and there tends to result more or less interference. If the interference is great, it may render the association unprofitable. For the association to be profitable the acts must be restrained to such an extent as to leave a balance of advantage. Survival of the fittest will else exterminate that variety of the species in which association begins.
Here, then, we find a further factor in sub-human justice. Each individual, receiving the benefits and the injuries due to its own nature and consequent conduct, has to carry on that conduct subject to the restriction that it shall not in any large measure impede the conduct by which each other individual achieves benefits or brings on itself injúries. The average conduct must not involve aggressions of such amounts as to cause evils which outbalance the good obtained by co-operation. Thus, to the positive element in sub-human justice has to be added, among gregarious creatures, a negative element.
The necessity for observance of the condition that each member of the group while carrying on the pursuit of self-sustentation and sustentation of offspring, shall not seriously impede the like pursuits of others, makes itself so felt, where association is established, as to mold the species to it. The mischiefs from time to time experienced when the limits are transgressed, continually discipline all in such ways as to produce regard for the limits; so that such regard becomes, in course of time, a natural trait of the species. For, manifestly, regardlessness of the limits, if great and general, causes dissolution of the group. Those varieties only can survive as gregarious varieties in which there is an inherited tendency to maintain the limits.
Yet, further, there arises such general consciousness of the need for maintaining the limits, that punishments are inflicted on transgressors—not only by aggrieved members of the group, but by the group as a whole. A “rogue” elephant (always distin