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To F. E. Abbot   30 March 1874

Summary

FEA has expressed CD’s views on the moral sense with remarkable clearness and correctness; his eulogy is magnificent ["Darwin’s theory of conscience and its relation to scientific ethics", Index 12 Mar 1874]. Cannot give a judgment on the essay because he has had "no practice in following abstract and abstruse reasoning".

CD does not see how morality can be "objective and universal". No one would call the maternal bond in lower animals a "moral obligation". When a social animal "becomes in some slight incipient degree" a moral creature "capable of approving or disapproving of its own conduct" do not such obligations remain of a so-called instinctive nature rather than becoming at once moral obligations?

Author:  Charles Robert Darwin
Addressee:  Francis Ellingwood Abbot
Date:  30 Mar 1874
Classmark:  Harvard University Archives (Papers of F. E. Abbot, 1841–1904. Named Correspondence, 1857–1903. Folder: Darwin, Charles and W. E. Darwin (son), 1871–1883, box 44. HUG 1101)
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-9377