As this note requires no answer, I do not scruple to write a few lines to say how faithful and full a resume you have given of my notions on the moral sense in the "Pall Mall," and to make a few extenuating or explanatory remarks. (242/1. "What is called the question of the moral sense is really two: how the moral faculty is acquired, and how it is regulated. Why do we obey conscience or feel pain in disobeying it? And why does conscience prescribe one kind of action and condemn another kind? To put it more technically, there is the question of the subjective existence of conscience, and there is the question of its objective prescriptions. First, why do I think it obligatory to do my duty? Second, why do I think it my duty to do this and not do that? Although, however, the second question ought to be treated independently, for reasons which we shall presently suggest, the historical answer to it, or the various grounds on which men have identified certain sorts of conduct with duty, rather than conduct of the opposite sorts, throws light on the other question of the conditions of growth of the idea of duty as a sovereign and imperial director. Mr. Darwin seems to us not to have perfectly recognised the logical separation between the two sides of the moral sense question. For example, he says (i. 97) that 'philosophers of the derivative school of morals formerly assumed that the foundation of morality lay in a form of Selfishness; but more recently in the Greatest Happiness principle.' But Mr. Mill, to whom Mr. Darwin refers, has expressly shown that the Greatest Happiness principle is a STANDARD, and not a FOUNDATION, and that its validity as a standard of right and wrong action is just as tenable by one who believes the moral sense to be innate, as by one who holds that it is acquired. He says distinctly that the social feelings of mankind form 'the natural basis of sentiment for utilitarian morality.' So far from holding the Greatest Happiness principle to be the foundation of morality, he would describe it as the forming principle of the superstructure of which the social feelings of mankind are the foundation. Between Mr. Darwin and utilitarians, as utilitarians, there is no such quarrel as he would appear to suppose. The narrowest utilitarian could say little more than Mr. Darwin says (ii. 393): 'As all men desire their own happiness, praise or blame is bestowed on actions and motives according as they tend to this end; and, as happiness is an essential part of the general good, the Greatest Happiness principle INDIRECTLY serves as a NEARLY safe standard of right and wrong.' It is perhaps not impertinent to suspect that the faltering adverbs which we have printed in italics indicate no more than the reluctance of a half-conscious convert to pure utilitarianism. In another place (i. 98) he admits that 'as all wish for happiness, the Greatest Happiness principle will have become a most important secondary guide and object, the social instincts, including sympathy, always serving as the primary impulse and guide.' This is just what Mr. Mill says, only instead of calling the principle a secondary guide, he would call it a standard, to distinguish it from the social impulse, in which, as much as Mr. Darwin, he recognises the base and foundation."--"Pall Mall Gazette," April 12th, 1871.) How the mistake which I have made in speaking of greatest happiness as the foundation of morals arose, is utterly unintelligible to me: any time during the last several years I should have laughed such an idea to scorn. Mr. Lecky never made a greater blunder, and your kindness has made you let me off too easily. (242/2. In the first edition of the "Descent of Man," I., page 97, Mr. Lecky is quoted as one of those who assumed that the "foundation of morality lay in a form of selfishness; but more recently in the 'greatest happiness' principle." Mr. Lecky's name is omitted in this connection in the second edition, page 120. In this edition Mr. Darwin makes it clearer that he attaches most importance to the social instinct as the "primary impulse and guide.") With respect to Mr. Mill, nothing would have pleased me more than to have relied on his great authority with respect to the social instincts, but the sentence which I quote at [Volume I.] page 71 ("if, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason less natural") seems to me somewhat contradictory with the other words which I quote, so that I did not know what to think; more especially as he says so very little about the social instincts. When I speak of intellectual activity as the secondary basis of conscience, I meant in my own mind secondary in period of development; but no one could be expected to understand so great an ellipse. With reference to your last sentence, do you not think that man might have retrograded in his parental, marriage, and other instincts without having retrograded in his social instincts? and I do not think that there is any evidence that man ever existed as a non- social animal. I must add that I have been very glad to read your remarks on the supposed case of the hive-bee: it affords an amusing contrast with what Miss Cobbe has written in the "Theological Review." (242/3. Mr. Darwin says ("Descent of Man" Edition I., Volume I., page 73; Edition II., page 99), "that if men lived like bees our unmarried females would think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers." Miss Cobbe remarks on this "that the principles of social duty would be reversed" ("Theological Review," April 1872). Mr. Morley, on the other hand, says of Darwin's assertion, that it is "as reassuring as the most absolute of moralists could desire. For it is tantamount to saying that the foundations of morality, the distinctions of right and wrong, are deeply laid in the very conditions of social existence; that there is in face of these conditions a positive and definite difference between the moral and the immoral, the virtuous and the vicious, the right and the wrong, in the actions of individuals partaking of that social existence.") Undoubtedly the great principle of acting for the good of all the members of the same community, and therefore the good of the species, would still have held sovereign sway.
(243/1. Sir Joseph Hooker wrote (August 5th, 1871) to Darwin about Lord Kelvin's Presidential Address at the Edinburgh meeting of the British Association: "It seems to me to be very able indeed; and what a good notion it gives of the gigantic achievement of mathematicians and physicists!--it really made one giddy to read of them. I do not think Huxley will thank him for his reference to him as a positive unbeliever in spontaneous generation--these mathematicians do not seem to me to distinguish between un-belief and a-belief. I know no other name for the state of mind that is produced under the term scepticism. I had no idea before that pure Mathematics had achieved such wonders in practical science. The total absence of any allusion to Tyndall's labours, even when comets are his theme, seems strange to me.")
Haredene, Albury, Guildford, August 6th .
I have read with greatest interest Thomson's address; but you say so EXACTLY AND FULLY all that I think, that you have taken all the words from my mouth; even about Tyndall. It is a gain that so wonderful a man, though no naturalist, should become a convert to evolution; Huxley, it seems, remarked in his speech to this effect. I should like to know what he means about design,--I cannot in the least understand, for I presume he does not believe in special interpositions. (243/2. See "British Association Report," page cv. Lord Kelvin speaks very doubtfully of evolution. After quoting the concluding passage of the "Origin," he goes on, "I have omitted two sentences...describing briefly the hypothesis of 'the origin of species by Natural Selection,' because I have always felt that this hypothesis does not contain the true theory of evolution, IF EVOLUTION THERE HAS BEEN in biology" (the italics are not in the original). Lord Kelvin then describes as a "most valuable and instructive criticism," Sir John Herschel's remark that the doctrine of Natural Selection is "too like the Laputan method of making books, and that it did not sufficiently take into account a continually guiding and controlling intelligence." But it should be remembered that it was in this address of Lord Kelvin's that he suggested the possibility of "seed-bearing meteoric stones moving about through space" inoculating the earth with living organisms; and if he assumes that the whole population of the globe is to be traced back to these "moss-grown fragments from the ruins of another world," it is obvious that he believes in a form of evolution, and one in which a controlling intelligence is not very obvious, at all events not in the initial and all-important stage.) Herschel's was a good sneer. It made me put in the simile about Raphael's Madonna, when describing in the "Descent of Man" the manner of formation of the wondrous ball-and-socket ornaments, and I will swear to the truth of this case. (243/3. See "Descent of Man," II., page 141. Darwin says that no one will attribute the shading of the "eyes" on the wings of the Argus pheasant to the "fortuitous concourse of atoms of colouring-matter." He goes on to say that the development of the ball-and-socket effect by means of Natural Selection seems at first as incredible as that "one of Raphael's Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint." The remark of Herschel's, quoted in "Life and Letters," II., page 241, that the "Origin" illustrates the "law of higgledy-piggledy," is probably a conversational variant of the Laputan comparison which gave rise to the passage in the "Descent of Man" (see Letter 130).)
You know the oak-leaved variety of the common honeysuckle; I could not persuade a lady that this was not the result of the honeysuckle climbing up a young oak tree! Is this not like the Viola case?
LETTER 244. TO JOHN LUBBOCK (LORD AVEBURY). Haredene, Albury, Guildford, August 12th .
I hope the proof-sheets having been sent here will not inconvenience you. I have read them with infinite satisfaction, and the whole discussion strikes me as admirable. I have no books here, and wish much I could see a plate of Campodea. (244/1. "On the Origin of Insects." By Sir John Lubbock, Bart. "Journ. Linn. Soc. (Zoology)," Volume XI., 1873, pages 422- 6. (Read November 2nd, 1871.) In the concluding paragraph the author writes, "If these views are correct the genus Campodea [a beetle] must be regarded as a form of remarkable interest, since it is the living representative of a primaeval type from which not only the Collembola and Thysanura, but the other great orders of insects, have all derived their origin." (See also "Brit. Assoc. Report," 1872, page 125--Address by Sir John Lubbock; and for a figure of Campodea see "Nature," Volume VII., 1873, page 447.) I never reflected much on the difficulty which you indicate, and on which you throw so much light. (244/2. The difficulty alluded to is explained by the first sentence of Lord Avebury's paper. "The Metamorphoses of this group (Insects) have always seemed to me one of the greatest difficulties of the Darwinian theory...I feel great difficulty in conceiving by what natural process an insect with a suctorial mouth, like that of a gnat or butterfly, could be developed from a powerfully mandibulate type like the orthoptera, or even from the neuroptera...A clue to the difficulty may, I think, be found in the distinction between the developmental and adaptive changes to which I called the attention of the Society in a previous memoir."
The distinction between developmental and adaptive changes is mentioned, but not discussed, in the paper "On the Origin of Insects" (loc. cit., page 422); in a former paper, "On the Development of Chloeon (Ephemera) dimidiatum ("Trans. Linn. Soc." XXV. page 477, 1866), this question is dealt with at length.) I have only a few trifling remarks to make. At page 44 I wish you had enlarged a little on what you have said of the distinction between developmental and adaptive changes; for I cannot quite remember the point, and others will perhaps be in the same predicament. I think I always saw that the larva and the adult might be separately modified to any extent. Bearing in mind what strange changes of function parts undergo, with the intermediate state of use (244/3. This slightly obscure phrase may be paraphrased, "the gradational stages being of service to the organism."), it seems to me that you speak rather too boldly on the impossibility of a mandibulate insect being converted into a sucking insect (244/4. "There are, however, peculiar difficulties in those cases in which, as among the lepidoptera, the same species is mandibulate as a larva and suctorial as an embryo" (Lubbock, "Origin of Insects," page 423).); not that I in the least doubt the value of your explanation.