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ART. II.—THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF
THE MORAL IDEAS.
The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas. By
E. WESTERMARCK, Ph.D. In two volumes. Vol. II.
(London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd. 1908.) In a review of the first volume of the work before us attention was called to what then appeared-and, after a perusal of the second volume, still appears to us—to be a fundamental inconsistency in the treatment of moral ideas. On the one hand, Dr. Westermarck said ? : 'Moral emotions are of two kinds : disapproval and approval,' on which it may be remarked that approval implies a judgement, and a judgement is a proposition ; and a proposition must either be or not be true. On the other hand, Dr. Westermarck also maintained that moral emotions cannot be said in any intelligible sense to be either true or untrue : 'the contents of an emotion fall entirely outside the category of truth.' 3 To this point, however, we shall return hereafter. Now that Dr. Westermarck's work is completed, our first words ought to express the impression left upon the mind by the book as a whole.
In 'The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas' Dr. Westermarck has written, perhaps, a great work, at any rate a big book. The more one thinks over it the greater grows one's respect for its author's industry. The labour that has gone to amass the vast collection of facts contained in the book will be patent to every reader, even though it most impresses those who have themselves laboured to collect facts. The honesty and impartiality with which the facts-and all the facts—are stated, whether they point, apparently, in favour of the conclusions which Dr. Westermarck wishes to draw, or against them, win one's trust and confidence so thoroughly and deservedly that one is tempted-until one reflects—to accept his conclusions because he draws them. His self-respect is shewn in the 'C.Q.R. July 1907, 'Evolution and Morality.'
Vol. i. p. 21.
s Ibid. p. 17
courtesy which he displays to those who differ from him. His dignity is austere, with an austerity verging at times on the inhuman.
Let so much be said, as in barest justice it should be said by anyone who, differing from Dr. Westermarck's conclusions, undertakes a criticism of the arguments which are, so far as logic is concerned, their basis. As the work culminates, and evidently was designed to culminate, in half a dozen chapters which deal with 'the belief in supernatural beings,' ‘duties to gods,' and 'gods as guardians of morality,' we are brought by the Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas' to ask ourselves what is the relation of religion to morality. From the point of view of some religions at least, as Dr. Westermarck himself would probably admit, the gods are supposed to ordain and maintain the moral law : 'the sacred law of Zoroastrianism' enjoins various virtues and condemns various vices; 'we also find a great variety of social duties inculcated in the sacred books of India'; in the national religion of China the heaven-god 'is the author and upholder of the moral order of the world, watching over the conduct of men, rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked'; the gods of ancient Greece 'acted as administrators of justice'; to the Prophets of Israel ' righteousness was the fundamental virtue of Yahveh.' From the point of view of philosophy, the relation between religion and morality may be felt to be so intimate that it leads to the belief in a deity when no other proof of his existence is found convincing,' and a future life is then postulated to redress the balance and repair the evils and injustice of the present world. As Dr. Westermarck says, 'not even Voltaire could rid himself of the notion of a rewarding and avenging deity, whom, if he did not exist, “it would be necessary to invent. From the point of view of Humanitarianism, however necessary the invention or belief may have been in the past to protect the growth of morality and to foster the development of man's sense of duty to his fellow-man, we have now reached, or are now reaching, in the course of evolution, the stage in which our duty to our neighbour is strong enough to stand by itself, and the crutch which once supported it must be cast aside, as being now an impediment to further growth. From the Humanitarian point of view Dr. Westermarck, we apprehend, must differ, even if he differs only for the sake of reaching ultimately a more profound agreement. If morality can stand now and henceforward independently of religion, it must always have stood upon an independent basis; so far as religion is now a clog upon morality, and an impediment to its development, so far it must, from the beginning and always, have impeded and retarded it. To prove that, we take it,
, is the purpose and object of 'The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas': religion and morality have different origins; and their development must also have been different, for religion is waning away whilst morality is, or has been, waxing more and more : 'religious influence has reached its greatest extension at certain stages of culture which, though comparatively advanced, do not include the highest stage.'
What, then, are these different origins ? The moral ideas clearly originate, in Dr. Westermarck's view, in the mind of man; the moral emotions on which they are based exist in the heart of man; morality has been created by man. But man also, Dr. Westermarck tells us more than once, 'created his gods in his own image and likeness': for the strange and startling events which befel him he required an explanation, and he found it in the assumption that they were due to the will of a supernatural being, that is to say, an ' unfamiliar, mysterious' being. The origin of the religious idea, then, is in the mind, and the emotion on which it is based is that which goes with the mysterious ; for ' religion is in its essence mystery. After all, then, it would seem that morality and religion have a common origin, in so far as they both have their origin in the heart and mind of man, and stand upon that common basis.
Again, if man created his gods in his own likeness, the only morality with which he could endow them was such morality as he had himself. But Dr. Westermarck seems to think that in the beginning, and for some time afterwards,
man did not even do that. To approve of virtue or to punish the wicked 'is by no means a universal characteristic of gods : it is a quality, as it seems, in most instances slowly acquired. If it is a quality slowly acquired by the gods, the reason, we would remark, may be that it is a quality slowly acquired by man : of the people of Aneiteum, in the New Hebrides, we are told by Messrs Calvert and Williams that their deities, like themselves, were all selfish and malignant; they breathed no spirit of benevolence.' They imputed no altruism to their deities, because they possessed none, themselves, to impute. Again, the extent of the interest which a supernatural being is supposed to take in the proceedings of a group of savages is necessarily determined by the sort of relation in which they suppose him to stand to themselves : if the relation is casual, the spirit is supposed to take only a casual interest in their proceedings, and only so far as those proceedings affect him-if they had left him alone he would have left them alone. He is an unattached spirit, so to speak. If, on the other hand, the relations between the human community and the spirit become permanent, then the spirit is on the way to becoming a god : he takes a permanent interest in the community's proceedings. Being created in the image of man, he can only take the same sort of interest in man's proceedings as man himself takes : if he is not supposed to do much in the way of pronouncing moral judgements, it is because at that time man himself obeyed the tribal custom, and was not yet conscious that the tribal custom contained within it what was hereafter to be called morality.
A god, Dr. Westermarck tells us, is a supernatural being with whom man has relations of a more or less permanent character. From this it follows, though Dr. Westermarck does not call attention to the fact, that it is between the community and the supernatural being that relations, when they are permanent, must exist. In other words, it is only by becoming the god of a community that a supernatural being can become a god at all. The consequence of this is of some importance when we are considering the relation of religion to morality. This or that man is born VOL. LXVIII.-NO. CXXXV.
into a community, and sooner or later goes thence and is no
He finds, when he comes into the community, certain customs; and those customs continue to exist after he has departed. They are not made by him : they were before his time, and they will be after he has gone. He is transient, they are permanent; and the reason of their permanence is the fact that the community which practises the customs and holds the beliefs is more or less permanent. It is in the shape of customs of the community that the tribal morality manifests itself. And it is also as customs of the community that the religious practices of the tribe exhibit themselves : if they were not part of the tribal custom they could not have the more or less of permanence which Dr. Westermarck assigns to them. Further, the customary morality of the tribe is made, not by any individual but by the tribe. And, in the same way, on Dr. Westermarck's principle that man makes gods in his own image, we must hold that it is by the community that they are made, and that they are made in accordance with the beliefs of the community. If man, or rather, the community, endows them with morality, it is with the morality prescribed or contained in the tribal custom that he will invest them : the god will view things as the community views them, i.e. will visit with disapproval departures from tribal morality or the custom of the community; and, if Dr. Westermarck be right in defining religion 'as a belief in and a regardful attitude towards a supernatural being on whom man feels himself dependent,' then the community will feel itself dependent on the tribal god who disapproves of departures from the tribal morality, or the custom of the community. From this point of view we can understand Dr. Westermarck when he says that ' religious ideas have no doubt already at the savage stage begun to influence the moral consciousness,' or that the gods of uncivilized races 'may be guardians either of tribal customs in general or only of some special branch of morality.' What is difficult to understand is how, even if we admit that the influence of religious ideas upon the moral consciousness of uncivilized races is not known to have been so great as