The Data Of Ethics -- By: D. McGregor Means

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 037:147 (Jul 1880)
Article: The Data Of Ethics
Author: D. McGregor Means


The Data Of Ethics

D. McGregor Means

Those who have followed the course of Mr. Spencer’s work may have ventured, from time to time, to wonder at the vast labor expended upon merely subsidiary matters. They may even have dreaded, at moments when their faith was weak, the possible danger of a portico too magnificent for the building. The great number of Mr. Spencer’s works, and the long trains of elaborate argument that they contain, have aroused expectations in regard to the final outcome that it can be no easy task to satisfy. Some may have even apprehended that the fate, not unknown among German philosophers, of being overwhelmed with the mass of materials collected, might befall Mr. Spencer, and that, instead of the completed work of the master, the world would receive but the jarring opinions of his disciples.

If any such apprehension has been felt, the appearance of the Data of Ethics must have caused its immediate relief. “The vision of the world and all the wonder that would be” unfolded in this work is so imposing in scale that it would justify an even more labored preparation than it has received. The promise of the eventual existence of a world — not only the possible, but the probable existence — “where every citizen finds a place for all his energies and aptitudes, while he obtains the means of satisfying all his desires,” is a more alluring vision than ever Mohammed offered his followers, and may well require all the volumes that Mr. Spencer has written, in order to be announced to the human race with appropriate ceremony. Nor is this millennium to be a matter of mere faith. “The type of nature to which the highest social life affords a sphere such that every faculty has

its due amount, and no more than the due amount, of function and accompanying gratification, is the type of nature toward which progress cannot cease till it is reached.” Nor is a warning spared to those that stiffen their necks and harden their hearts: “Not he who believes that adaptation will increase is absurd; but he who doubts that it will increase is absurd. Lack of faith in such further evolution of humanity as shall harmonize its nature with its conditions adds but another to the countless illustrations of inadequate consciousness of causation.”

Nowadays, perhaps, to be posted as a living illustration of inadequate consciousness of causation in punishment for lack of faith, has more terrors than the ban of the church. But unequal as the contest may be between one that has an adequate consciousness of causation and one whose consciousness is inadequate, it cannot therefore be declined. Great principles may prevail over criticism and opposition; but opposition and criticis...

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