Page images

50053 Authorized Edition.


In the Preface to The Data of Ethics, published in June, 1879, there occurred the sentence :-“Hints, repeated of late years with increasing frequency and distinctness, have shown me that health may permanently fail, even if life does not end, before I reach the last part of the task I have marked out for myself.” There followed the statement that since “ this last part of the task”—the affiliation of Ethics on the doctrine of Evolution was that “to which I regard all the preceding parts as subsidiary,” I did not like to contemplate the probability of failure in executing it. Hence the decision to write The Data of Ethics in advance.

Something like the catastrophe foreseen gradually came. Years of declining health and decreasing power of work, brought, in 1886, a complete collapse; and further elaboration of The Synthetic Philosophy was suspended until the beginning of 1890, when it became again possible to get through a small amount of serious work daily. Of course there arose the question-What work to undertake first ? Completion of The Principles of Ethics was, without hesitation, decided upon : the leading divisions of The Principles of Sociology having been executed. A further question presented itself—What part of The Principles of Ethics should have precedence ? Led by the belief that my remaining energies would probably not carry me through the whole, I concluded that it would be best to begin with

the part of most importance. Hence, passing over Part II,
-"The Inductions of Ethics," and Part III,—“The Ethics
of Individual Life," I devoted myself to Part IV,-" The
Ethics of Social Life: Justice," and have now, to my great
satisfaction, succeeded in finishing it.

Should improved health be maintained, I hope that,
before the close of next year, I may issue Parts II and III,
completing the first volume; and should I be able to con-
tinue, I shall then turn my attention to Part V, -"The
Ethics of Social Life: Negative Beneficence," and Part VI,

“ The Ethics of Social Life: Positive Beneficence."

This work covers a field which, to a considerable extent,
coincides with that covered by Social Statics, published in
1850; though the two differ, alike in extent, in form, and
partially in their ideas. One difference is that what there
was in my first book of supernaturalistic interpretation has
disappeared, and the interpretation has become exclusively
naturalistic—that is, evolutionary. With this difference
may be joined the concomitant difference, that whereas a
biological origin for ethics was, in Social Statics, only
indicated, such origin has now been definitely set forth;
and the elaboration of its consequences has become the
cardinal trait. And a further distinction is that induction
has been more habitually brought in support of deduction.
It has in every case been shown that the corollaries from
the first principle laid down, have severally been in course
of verification during the progress of mankind.

It seems proper to add that the first five chapters have
already been published in The Nineteenth Century for
March and April, 1890.

LONDON, June, 1891.

II. S.

« PreviousContinue »