Page images
PDF
EPUB

ages and countries, falsehood has been thought allowable in love, and laudable in war; while, at the present day, it is held to be venial by the majority of mankind, in trade, commerce, and speculation. A certain amount of untruthfulness is a necessary part of politeness in the east and west alike, while even severe moralists have held a lie justifiable, to elude an enemy or prevent a crime. Such being the difficulties with which this virtue has had to struggle, with so many exceptions to its practice, with so many instances in which it brought ruin or death to its too ardent devotee, how can we believe that considerations of utility could ever invest it with the mysterious sanctity of the highest virtue,-could ever induce men to value truth for its own sake, and practice it regardless of consequences ?

Yet, it is a fact, that such a mystical sense of wrong does attach to untruthfulness, not only among the higher classes of civilized people, but among whole tribes of utter savages. Sir Walter Elliott tells us (in his paper “ On the Characteristics of the Population of Central and Southern India,” published in the Journal of the Ethnological Society of London, vol. i., p. 107) that the Kurubars and Santals, barbarous hill-tribes of Central India, are noted for veracity. It is a common saying that “ a Kurubar always speaks the truth ;” and Major Jervis says, “ the Santals are the most truthful men I ever met with.” As a remarkable instance of this quality the following fact is given. A number of prisoners, taken during the Santal insurrection, were allowed to go free on parole, to work at a certain spot for wages. After some time cholera attacked them and they were obliged to leave, but every man of them returned and gave up his earnings to the guard. Two hundred savages with money in their girdles, walked thirty miles back to prison rather than break their word! My own experience among savages has furnished me with similar, although less severely tested, instances; and we cannot avoid asking, how is it, that in these few cases “ experiences of utility” have left such an overwhelming impression, while in so many others they have left none ? The experiences of savage men as regards the utility of truth, must, in the long run, be pretty nearly equal. How is it, then, that in some cases the result is a sanctity which overrides all considerations of personal advantage, while in others there is hardly a rudiment of such a feeling ?

The intuitional theory, which I am now advocating, explains this by the supposition, that there is a feelinga sense of right and wrong-in our nature, antecedent to and independent of experiences of utility. Where free play is allowed to the relations between man and man, this feeling attaches itself to those acts of universal utility or self-sacrifice, which are the products of our affections and sympathies, and which we term moral; while it may be, and often is, perverted, to give the same sanction to acts of narrow and conventional utility which are really immoral,—as when the Hindoo will tell a lie, but will sooner starve than

eat unclean food ; and looks upon the marriage of adult females as gross immorality.

The strength of the moral feeling will depend upon individual or racial constitution, and on education and habit;—the acts to which its sanctions are applied, will depend upon how far the simple feelings and affections of our nature, have been modified by custom, by law, or by religion.

It is difficult to conceive that such an intense and mystical feeling of right and wrong, (so intense as to overcome all ideas of personal advantage or utility), could have been developed out of accumulated ancestral experiences of utility; and still more difficult to understand, how feelings developed by one set of utilities, could be transferred to acts of which the utility was partial, imaginary, or altogether absent. But if a moral sense is an essential part of our nature, it is easy to see, that its sanction may often be given to acts which are useless or immoral; just as the natural appetite for drink, is perverted by the drunkard into the means of his destruction.

Summary of the Argument as to the Insufficiency of

Natural Selection to account for the Development of

Man. Briefly to resume my argument—I have shown that . the brain of the lowest savages, and, as far as we yet know, of the pre-historic races, is little inferior in size to that of the highest types of man, and immensely superior to that of the higher animals; while it is

universally admitted that quantity of brain is one of the most important, and probably the most essential, of the elements which determine mental power. Yet the mental requirements of savages, and the faculties actually exercised by them, are very little above those of animals. The higher feelings of pure morality and refined emotion, and the power of abstract reasoning and ideal conception, are useless to them, are rarely if ever manifested, and have no important relations to their habits, wants, desires, or well-being. They possess a mental organ beyond their needs. Natural Selection could only have endowed savage man with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one very little inferior to that of a philosopher.

The soft, naked, sensitive skin of man, entirely free from that hairy covering which is so universal among other mammalia, cannot be explained on the theory of

they feel the want of this covering, which is most completely absent in man exactly where it is thickest in other animals. We have no reason whatever to believe, that it could have been hurtful, or even useless to primitive man; and, under these circumstances, its complete abolition, shown by its never reverting in mixed breeds, is a demonstration of the agency of some other power than the law of the survival of the fittest, in the development of man from the lower animals.

Other characters show difficulties of a similar kind, though not perhaps in an equal degree. The structure

of the human foot and hand seem unnecessarily perfect for the needs of savage man, in whom they are as completely and as humanly developed as in the highest races. The structure of the human larynx, giving the power of speech and of producing musical sounds, and especially its extreme development in the female sex, are shown to be beyond the needs of savages, and from their known habits, impossible to have been acquired either by sexual selection, or by survival of the fittest.

The mind of man offers arguments in the same direction, hardly less strong than those derived from his bodily structure. A number of his mental faculties have no relation to his fellow men, or to his material progress. The power of conceiving eternity and infinity, and all those purely abstract notions of form, number, and harmony, which play so large a part in the life of civilised races, are entirely outside of the world of thought of the savage, and have no influence on his individual existence or on that of his tribe. They could not, therefore, have been developed by any preservation of useful forms of thought; yet we find occasional traces of them amidst a low civilization, and at a time when they could have had no practical effect on the success of the individual, the family, or the race; and the development of a moral sense or conscience by similar means is equally inconceivable.

But, on the other hand, we find that every one of these characteristics is necessary for the full development of human nature. The rapid progress of civilization under favourable conditions, would not be

« EelmineJätka »