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Social Rights And Duties Addresses to Ethical Societies Vol II   By: (1832-1904)

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SOCIAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES

The Volumes of the Series already Published are :

Civilisation of Christendom, and other Studies. By BERNARD BOSANQUET, M.A. (Oxon.), Hon. LL.D. (Glasgow). 4s. 6d.

Short Studies in Character. By SOPHIE BRYANT, D.Sc. (Lond.). 4s. 6d.

Social Rights and Duties. By LESLIE STEPHEN. 2 vols., 9s.

Other Volumes to follow by

Professor A. SIDGWICK, Professor D. G. RITCHIE, and J. H. MUIRHEAD, Esq. (the Editor).

The Ethical Library

SOCIAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES

ADDRESSES TO ETHICAL SOCIETIES

LESLIE STEPHEN

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. II.

[Illustration: Logo]

LONDON SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., LIMITED NEW YORK: MACMILLAN & CO. 1896

ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS.

NOTE.

The following chapters are chiefly a republication of addresses delivered to the Ethical Societies of London. Some have previously appeared in the International Journal of Ethics , the National Review , and the Contemporary Review . The author has to thank the proprietors of these periodicals for their consent to the republication.

L. S.

CONTENTS.

PAGE HEREDITY, 1

PUNISHMENT, 55

LUXURY, 95

THE DUTIES OF AUTHORS, 137

THE VANITY OF PHILOSOPHISING, 183

FORGOTTEN BENEFACTORS, 225

HEREDITY.

I found, the other day, that an address upon Heredity had been announced, of which I was to be the deliverer. I admit that I was fully responsible for the statement, although, for reasons with which I need not trouble you, I was not quite prepared for it in this form. I mention this fact in order simply to say that the title may possibly give rise to false expectations. I am quite incompetent to express any opinion of the slightest scientific value upon certain problems suggested by that rather ugly word "heredity". The question as to the precise relationship between any organism and its parents or remoter ancestors, is one of the highest interest. The solution, for example, of the problem, whether is it possible for a living being to transmit to its descendants qualities which have only been acquired during its own lifetime, has an important bearing upon the general theory of evolution. But I have nothing whatever to suggest in regard to that problem. I simply take it for granted that there is some relation between parents and children: and a relation, speaking in the most general way, such that the qualities with which we start in life, resemble more or less closely those of our ancestors. I may also assume that, in some form or other, the doctrine of evolution must be accepted: and that all living things now in the world are the descendants, more or less modified, of the population which preceded them. I proceed to ask whether, as some people appear to believe, the acceptance of this doctrine in the most unqualified form, would introduce any difficulty into our primary ethical conceptions. I will also at once give my answer. I do not believe that it introduces any difficulty whatever. I do believe that the general theory of evolution tends in very important ways to give additional distinctness to certain ethical doctrines; although, to go at all fully into the how and the why would take me beyond my present purpose. All that I have to argue to day is, that a belief in "heredity" need not be a stumbling block to any reasonable person.

I cannot doubt that the popular mind is vaguely alarmed by the doctrine. I read, the other day, a novel by a well known author, of which, so far as I can remember, the main substance was as follows: A virtuous doctor (his virtue had some limitations) studied the problem of heredity, and had read Darwin, and Herbert Spencer, and Weissmann, and all the proper authorities. His own researches are carefully described, with the apparent assumption that they were both profound and of tremendous significance... Continue reading book >>




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