That the doctrines connected with the name of Darwin are altering our principles has become a sort of commonplace thing to say. And moral principles are said to share in this general transformation. Now, to pass by other subjects I do not see why Darwinism need change our ultimate moral ideas. It will not modify our conception of the end, either for the community or the individual, unless we have been holding views which long before Darwin were out of date. As to the principles of ethics I perceive, in short, no sign of revolution. Darwinism has indeed helped many to truer conception of the end, but I cannot admit that it has either originated or modified that conception.
And yet in ethics Darwinism after all many perhaps be revolutionary. It may lead not to another view about the end, but to a different way of regarding the relative importance of the means. For in the ordinary moral creed those means seem estimated on no rational principle. Our creed appears rather to be an irrational mixture of jarring elements. We have the moral code of Christianity, accepted in part; rejected practically by all save a few fanatics. But we do not realise who in its very principle the Christian ideals is false. And when we reject this code for another and in part a sounder morality, we are in the same condition of blindness and of practical confusion. It is here that Darwinism, with all the tendencies we may group under that name, seems destined to intervene, It will make itself felt, I believe, more and more effectual. It may force on us in some points a correction of our moral views, and a return to a non-Christian and perhaps a Hellenic ideal. I propose to illustrate here these general statements by some remarks on Punishment.
Darwinism, I have said, has not even modified our ideas of the Chief Good. We may take that as the welfare of the community realised in its members. There is, of course, a question as to the meaning to be given to welfare. We may identify that with mere pleasure, or may rather view both as inseparable aspects of perfection and individuality. And the extent and nature of the community would once more be a subject for some discussion. But we are forced to enter on these controversies here. We may leave welfare undefined, and for present purpose need not distinguish the community from the state. The welfare of this whole exists, of course, nowhere outside the individuals, and the individuals again have rights and duties only as members in the whole. This is the revived Hellenism — or we may call it the organic view of thing — urged by German idealism early in the present century.
It is implied in the passage that:
- a Hellenic ideal is not a proper substitute of the Christian ideal.
- what mankind needs is a Hellenic ideal rather than a Christian one.
- Darwinism is more Christian than Hellenic.
- fanatics do not understand what Darwinism really is