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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   [3–9 March 1871]1

p 2 Have you taken out the pointer dog becos I dont thk it is quite a good instance—2 the social instinct is always present, but a dog only wishes to point when his instinct is definitely called into action— I thk this can only be argued on its own merits   the analogy misleads— It seems to me our saying a pointer dog ought to point proves nothing— we merely mean that we expect & desire it to happen— Both pointing & chasing a hair do seem to me temporary instincts—only that one usually does conquer another   Of course you must not have a trained dog or else dog morality comes into play entirely apart from temporary or permanent instincts.

I don’t agree with yr P.S. As far as I can enter into the feelings of an untrained pointer when he reflected over his conduct I don’t see why he shd. feel shame— It is usually stronger instinct was conquered: that is all3

1st letter p 8 compare to 2nd. letter p 2   In the 1st letter Uncle H gives love of approbation as motive in the 2nd. letter by love4

1st letter p 10— Uncle Hensleigh supposes you to think that the difference is in recalling 2 kinds of past instincts whereas you mean the difference is between a past & present instinct—5

p 3 2nd. letter— I don’t see what this has to do with it— you never say that the moral feelings do arise out of a balance of gratifications & uneasinesses.6

p 4 2nd. letter— I don’t see that a moral God does arise out of yr. premises7

I cant see that love accts for social instinct unless you strain the word to a new meaning—for it is felt to people you do not love

The Question is does the disobeying an instinct in some particular instance give more pain if this instinct is always present than the disobeying another which is only exists when called into action on particular occasions— Does the continual existence make the memory of a past breach more painful


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [before 3 March 1871] and [3–9 March 1871], and the letters to Hensleigh Wedgwood, 3 March [1871] and 9 March 1871.
George refers to the letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [before 3 March 1871], section beginning, ‘A pointer dog if able to reflect on his past conduct’. The page numbers refer to those in the manuscript of the letter.
There is a draft of the postscript to the letter to Hensleigh Wedgwood, 3 March [1871]; the original has not been found.
George refers to the letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [before 3 March 1871], section beginning, ‘It is probable that animals even in the condition of monkeys would be affected by the approval or aversion of their fellows’, and the letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [3–9 March 1871], ‘the beginning of moral feeling is the love of our fellows’.
George refers to the section of the letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [before 3 March 1871], that begins, ‘You make the pricking of the conscience to arise in the first instance from the balance of dissatisfaction felt …’ The discussion refers to Descent 1: 72.
See letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [3–9 March 1871], section beginning, ‘Thus the moral feelings themselves do not spring out of any balance of gratification and uneasiness’.
See letter from Hensleigh Wedgwood, [3–9 March 1871], ‘Neither do I see how a moral God would arise out of your premises’.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Comments on points made in Hensleigh Wedgwood’s letter [7470] on moral sense in Descent.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 88: 37–40
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7561,” accessed on 17 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19