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the individual is perpetually controlled and limited by the community; and it is this feature of individual limitation which is the characteristic of a society, as distinguished from a mere agglomeration of units.
But closer investigation shows that this limiting power is itself limited. It is only exercised in cases which touch society as a whole; and as to many of these the judgment of society is at variance with itself, and its influence accordingly paralysed. Besides these, there are numerous actions which directly affect the individual alone. On these latter the influence of society is slight.* There is therefore a broad space in which individual idiosyncrasy has free play, and the result is a great variety of form or "character" among the members of a society. These forms may clearly change from generation to generation, and since the character of a society is dependent upon those of its members, if the members change the society will change too.
Borrowing an illustration from physiology, science describes the individual as a factor in an organism which controls the general direction of his activity, but within certain limits allows him a freedom of action which may be either beneficial or detrimental to the organism. Here the scientific investigation of the phenomena ends. Questions of the abstract rightness or wrongness of actions, or of the relation of actions to the future life, are unanswerable for want of data. Science beholds only the phenomena of existing society; and the individual as a factor of it. The duty of the individual is, therefore, scientifically, the preservation of the social organism. Actions assisting thereto must be preferred to all others. In fact, the keynote of scientific ethics is the subordination of the individual to the society in which he lives.
Quite opposite (and yet not opposed) is the current view. This, under the influence of religion, has long manifested a tendency to elevate the individual as the sole consideration of ethical science. For Christianity, being able to do what science cannot do:-viz., include the future life in its view of the kosmos, looks at the present life as a preparation, and, as it were, an antechamber to the life to come. But actions can then only be viewed from the standpoint of the individual. The existence in any future life, of a society as such, with its units unchanged, is almost inconceivable, because it takes no count of the influence of those actions which we classed above as strictly individual. The social organism, instead of being regarded as that to which the individual is subor
I mean the limiting power of society, as distinguished from what we call public opinion. "Sowing wild oats," for instance, being a particularly individual act, is judged very differently to theft or murder, which are particularly social acts.
dinate, is regarded, on the other hand, as assisting merely as a husk or mould, temporarily occupied by the individual during his period of probation. Now, although religion insists with due force upon the necessity of "doing one's duty" on earth, there is, nevertheless, a tendency to dissociate the individual's relation to the future life, from his relation to society. Tais tendency manifests itself in two ways. With those who are enthusiastically devoted to the preparation for the future, the claims of society seem only a clog and hindrance, from which they seek to escape altogether. Hence have arisen convents, retreats, and institutions of like monastic nature. With those, on the other hand, who seek to gratify their personal desires, society appears a sphere in which they may obtain all procurable indulgence, while neglecting their duty to it, and at the same time prepare sufficiently for the future, by the due observance of certain forms and ceremonies. This, by far the commoner excess, is known as "formalism." But in both cases the claims of society are wholly ignored.
To these defects, arising from a too great leaning to the individual view, it seems to us that scientific ethics, with its insistance on the opposite view, offers the needful corrective. To both enthusiast and formalist, science points out that the claims of society form that "duty which lies next us," for the neglect of which no efforts in other directions can ever atone,-a duty, too, quite independent of the view the individual may take of it. The social effect of an action is unaltered whatever the moral condition of the agent. By whatever cause produced the neglect of social duty is equally culpable.
Nevertheless, the evil which we noted in the individual view of ethics, lurks also in the society view. There will be many, doubtless, who will read the silence of science as a negative; and arguing that man's life is rounded by the grave, will say, "Why should we trouble about society? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Many of these ought not fairly to be charged to science. They consist of that crowd which, simply ignoring the voice of religion, shields itself readily under the veil of any doctrines that will plausibly give colour to its selfish courses. They represent in science the Antinomians of early Christianity, who said, "Let us sin that grace may abound." And they can only be subdued as the Apostle of the Gentiles subdued their predecessors; by placing the true doctrine alongside the false, that the first, by its very purity and splendour, might extinguish and destroy the latter.
The ideal of science is no less noble than that of religion; is, indeed, though differently expressel, identical with it. The "good" and the "useful," the "bad" and the "harmful," become convertible terms. Can we conceive of a "good" action
which should invariably be prejudicial to society; or of a "bad" action. the practice of which should invariably prove beneficial?
Ethical science looks over the course of human history, and sees the society of primeval times when men clung in manhood to the father who had guarded their infancy, or ranged themselves under some leader of greater sagacity or muscular power than themselves. She sees this primeval society developed into the society that now is; and developing in the far future into societies as unlike, perchance, to this, as this to those that have gone before, and declares that all are the continuous manifestation, the grandest manifestation upon this earth, of the Unseen Almighty Power. And the student of ethics knows that insignificant though he be, his every action-aye, and thought-shall not be in vain; but good or bad shall have their determinate influence in accelerating or retarding human progress.
Does this tend to make a man selfish? Is it so very different from "doing one's duty in that state of life into which it has pleased God to call one?" Surely some vision like this floated before the great Apostle's eye when he called us "workers together with God." And where shall we find a better standard of "right" than in so selecting our actions that they shall help to the utmost possible degree in that manifestation of which we are a part?
Here for the present, we cease. We have only spoken of the general influence of scientific conceptions of duty; just as we might speak of the influence of scientific ideas of astronomy. Of the benefit which science may render by assisting us to determine which actions are most beneficial, we do not speak. The Hedonistic Calculus is too considerable a matter to be dismissed summarily at the end of a paper. Nor have we spoken much of the mainspring of all action; we have rather assumed that it will alter little, if at all. At a future time, perhaps, we may touch on these matters.
THE LATEST FACTS ABOUT BACON.
WHILE Dr. Abbot and Mr. Spedding are reviving the old controversy about Bacon in the pages of the Contemporary Review, it is, perhaps, worth while to inquire if anything has been done towards the elucidation of the many points in dispute by the lately published reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. As might be expected, the domestic archives of the country are rich in material which could not possibly find a home elsewhere. Contemporary opinion and actions are illustrated as much by the magnificent correspondence of our ancestors, as they are now by the public press and the columns of literary gossip in some of our periodical journals. And, be it observed, the correspondence of the Elizabethan age, as well as being full of the news of the time, is rich in classical and literary allusions, and so can be favourably compared to modern letter-writing. Thus, these five reports on historical documents belonging to private collections, form splendid auxiliaries to the publications of the State Paper Office.
From the time that Dr. Rawley first assayed to tell us a little of the life of his beloved master, down to the splendid addition to Baconian bibliology to which Mr. Spedding has devoted his life, we have been hearing and rehearing the cause of "Bacon the philosopher and Bacon the Attorney-General, Bacon seeking for truth and Bacon seeking for the seals."* It is not for us now to enter into the question of the historical utility of this prying into the private life of a great man, when, whatever may be said to extenuate, nothing can ever be advanced to excuse or explain away, the gross falsehood of his whole political career. We must leave such an inquiry and its answer to the philosophy of history, which should determine how far personal biography may trespass on to the domain of history, and how far biography at all may be recognised as an item of pure historical life, except, indeed, so far as Bacon himself, in his De Argumentis, admits it, viz. that portion of the life which affects most the progress of its age. We have no reason to have any misgivings as to the position Bacon holds in the history of his country-nay, in the history of mankind -a word which he has helped modern language to form, while the splendid dialects of Greece could not furnish such an one to Plato and Aristotle. His position in British history sinks into insignifi.
* Macauley, "Essay on Bacon."
cance beside his position in universal history; and it is by this latter that he should be remembered by his own countrymen. Mr. Green, in his now famous "Short History of the English People," has truly conceived this idea; and, while reading his narrative, our surprise at passing through the splendid period of Elizabeth's reign without hearing hardly the mention of Bacon's name, is at once turned into gratitude when we perceive him ranked among the influences of a later age. Wherever the desire for knowledge has gained a footing in the heart of man, wherever science has been advanced among nations, there the name of Bacon stands forward as one of the greatest names of the civilised world. The whole European school has recognised his position among the great thinkers of the world; and it is only in England-the land of his birth, the homestead of his bright thoughts-that we still contend about his private character while professing to admire his allembracing mind. Dr. Abbott's view of his life is certainly in accordance with what science demands, and will, no doubt, lead to still further steps, just as his view is an advancement upon Lord Macaulay's. England, however, is yet wanting in the spirit which. dictates to continental people that Bacon should be judged as he asked to be judged "for my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign nations, and to the next age." She has not yet destroyed, by making inapplicable, the reproachful words of his chaplain and biographer, who laments that "his fame is greater and sounds louder in foreign parts abroad, than at home in his own nation" (Spedding's edition, vol. i. page 15).
"What belonged to his own time?" says Mr. Green (p. 591), "was the poorest and meanest part of him;" and this is what current literature is now discussing. Modern critical thought constantly takes us back to the fountain source for information; there can be no harm, therefore, in drawing attention at this juncture to whatever additional facts contemporary documents allow us to show. Indeed, it is to be hoped, that beneficial results may be obtained thereby; for no addition can be made to the controversy by the introduction of fresh light, and it may help to do away with the "latest theory" in favour of the latest facts."
It is not intended, however, to confine these articles to such actual new matter as may exist in the source from which which they are drawn. I wish to serve a double purpose. First, of course, to point out some additional matter for the work which Mr.
"If in our notice of the Elizabethian literature we omitted all mention of Lord Bacon, it is because the scientific influence of Bacon told, not in the age of Elizabeth, but in the age of the Restoration."-P. 591.