To John Morley 14 April 1
As this note requires no answer I do not scruple to write a few lines to say how faithful and full a resumé you have given of my notions on the Moral Sense in the Pall Mall, and to make a few extenuating or explanatory remarks.2 How the mistake which I have made in speaking of greatest happiness as the foundation of morals arose, is utterly unintelligible to me: Any time during the last several years I should have laughed such an idea to scorn.3 Mr. Lecky never made a greater blunder, and your kindness has made you let me off too easily.4 With respect to Mr. Mill, nothing would have pleased me more than to have relied on his great authority with respect to the social instincts, but the sentence which I quote at p. 71 (“if, as is my own belief, the moral feelings are not innate, but acquired, they are not for that reason less natural”.) seem to me somewhat contradictory with the other words which I quote, so that I did not know what to think; more especially as he says so very little about the social instincts.5 When I speak of intellectual activity as the secondary basis of conscience, I meant in my own mind secondary in period of development; but no one could be expected to understand so great an ellipse.6 With reference to your last sentence, do you not think that man might have retrograded in his parental, marriage, and other instincts, without having retrograded in his social instincts; and I do not think that there is any evidence that man ever existed as a non-social animal.7 I must add that I have been very glad to read your remarks on the supposed case of the hive bee: it affords an amusing contrast with what Miss Cobbe has written in the Theolog. Rev. Undoubtedly the great principle of acting for the good of all the members of the same community, and therefore for the good of the species, would still have held sovereign sway.8
With my best thanks, believe me, My dear Sir, yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin.
Comments on JM’s review of Descent, vol. 2 [Pall Mall Gaz. 13 (1871): 1358–9].
Mistake CD made "in speaking of greatest happiness as the foundation of morals" is unintelligible to CD. Discusses J. S. Mill’s view of moral feelings as natural. Discusses basis of conscience.
Glad to read remarks on hive-bees.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7685,” accessed on 16 January 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7685