His formula for justice is summed up in these words: “Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.” The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Should improved health be maintained, I hope that, before the close of next year, I may issue parts II and III, completing the first volume; and should I be able to continue, I shall then turn my attention to Part V, “The Ethics of Social Life: Negative Beneficence,” and Part VI, “The Ethics of Social Life: Positive Beneficence.” Between this Part IV of with the constructive portion of which it coincides in area, there are considerable differences.
One difference is that what there was in my first book of supernaturalistic interpretation has disappeared, and the interpretation has become exclusively naturalistic–that is, evolutionary.
Entrance on the first great division of public conduct–Justice–does, indeed, introduce us to conclusions which are in large degree definite.
Happily into this most important portion of ethics, treating of certain right relations between individuals, irrespective of their natures or circumstances, there enters the ruling conception of equity or equalness–there is introduced the idea of and the inferences reached acquire a certain quantitative character, which partially assimilates them to those of exact science.
And third, that the coherent body of doctrine which results, is made to include regulation of sundry kinds of conduct which are not taken cognizance of by ethics as ordinarily conceived.
published in June 1879, there occurred the sentence: “Hints, repeated of late years with increasing frequency and distinctness, have shown me that health may permanently fail, even if life does not end, before I reached the last part of the task I have marked out for myself.” There followed the statement that since “this last part of the task”–the affiliation of ethics on the doctrine of evolution–was that “to which I regard all the preceding parts as subsidiary,” I did not like to contemplate the probability of failure in executing it. Something like the catastrophe foreseen gradually came.
Those who have not read the first division of this work will be surprised by the above title.
But the chapters “Conduct in General” and “The Evolution of Conduct” will have made clear to those who have read them that something which may be regarded as animal ethics is implied.
Egoistic acts, as well as altruistic acts, in animals are classed as good or bad.
A squirrel which lays up a store of food for the winter is thought of as doing that which a squirrel ought to do; and, contrariwise, one which idly makes no provision and dies of starvation, is thought of as properly paying the penalty of improvidence.
It has in every case been shown that the corollaries from the first principle laid down, have severally been in course of verification during the progress of mankind.