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From F. E. Abbot   3 March 1874


Asks CD to read and comment, for publication, on his forthcoming essay in Index on the evolution of conscience and morals through action and reaction between man and the moral environment.

Author:  Francis Ellingwood Abbot
Addressee:  Charles Robert Darwin
Date:  3 Mar 1874
Classmark:  DAR 159: 5
Letter no:  DCP-LETT-9332

To F. E. Abbot   30 March 1874


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
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letter (2)