ক্রোড়পত্র—গ

(অষ্টম অধ্যায় দেখ)
It, as the sequence of a malady contracted in pursuit of illegitimate gratification, an attack of iritis injuries vision, the mischief is to be counted among those entailed by immoral conduct; but if, regardless of protesting sensations, the eyes are used in study too soon after opthalmia, and there follows blindness for years or for life, entailing not only personal unhappiness but a burden on others, moralists are silent. The broken leg which a drunkard’s accident causes, counts among those miseries brought on self and family by intemperance, which from the ground for reprohating it; but if-anxiety to fulfil duties prompts the continued use of a sprained knee in spite of the pain, and brings on a chronic lameness involving lack of exercise, consequent ill health, inefficiency, anxiety, and unhappiness, it is supposed that ethics has no verdict to give in the matter. A student who is plucked because he has spent in amusement the time and money that should have gone in study, is blamed for thus making parents unhappy and preparing for himself a miserable future; but another who, thinking exclusively of claims on him, reads night after night with hot or aching head, and, breaking down, cannot take his degree, but returns home shattered in health and unable to support himself, is named with pity only, as not subject to any moral judgement; or rather, the moral judgement passed is wholly favourable.

Thus recognizing the evils caused by some kinds of conduct only, men at large, and moralists as exponents of their beliefs, ignore the suffering and death daily caused around them by disregard of that guidance which has established itself in the course of evolution. Led by the tacit assumption, common to Pagan stoics and Christian ascetics, that we are so diabolically organized that pleasures are injurious and pains beneficial, people on all sides yield examples of lives blasted by persisting in actions against which their sensations rebel. Here is one who, drenched to the skin and sitting in a cold wind pooh-poohs his shiverings and gets rheumatic fever with subsequent heart-disease, which makes worthless the short life remaining to him.Here is another who, disregarding painful feelings, works too soon after a debilitating illness, and establishes disordered health that lasts for the rest of his days, and makes him useless to himself and others.

Now the account is of the youth who, persisting in gymnastic feats spite of scarcely bearable straining, bursts a blood-vessel, and, long laid on the shelf, is permanently damaged; while now it is of a man in middle life who, pushing muscular effort to painful excess suddenly brings to hernia. In this family is Sa case of aphasia, spreading paralysis, and death, caused by eating too little and doing too much; in that, softening of the brain has been brought on by ceaseless mental efforts against which the feelings hourly protested; and in others, less serious brain-affections have been contracted by overstudy continued regardless of discomfort and the craving for fresh air and exercise.* Even without accumulating special examples, the truth is forced on us by the visible traits of classes. The careworn man of business too long at his office, the cadaverous barrister pouring half the night over the briefs, the feeble factory hands and unhealthy seamstresses passing long hours in bad air, the anæmic, flat-chested school girls, bending over many lessons and forbidden boisterous play, no less than Sheffield grinders who die of suffocating dust, and peasants crippled with rheumatism due to exposure, show us the widespread miseries caused by persevering in action repugnant to the sensations and neglecting actions which the sensations prompt. Nay the evidence is still more extensive and conspicuous. What are the puny malformed children, seen in poverty-stricken districts, but children whose appetites for food and desires for warmth have not been adequately satisfied? What are populations stunted in growth and prematurely aged, such as parts of France show us, populations injured by work in excess and food in defectঃ the one implying positive pain, the other negative pain? What is the implication of that greater mortality which occurs among people who are weakened by privations, unless it is that bodily miseries conduce to fatal illness? Or once more, what must we infer from the frightful amount of disease and death suffered by armies in the field, fed on scanty and bad provisions, lying on damp ground, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, inadequately sheltered from rain, and subject to exhausting efforts; unless it to be the terrible mischiefs caused by continuously subjecting the body to treatment which the feelings protest against?
It matters not to the argument whether the actions entailing such effects are voluntary or involuntary. It matters not from the biological point of view, whether the motives prompting them are high or low. The vital functions accept the apologies on the ground that neglect of them was unavoidable, or that the reason for neglect was noble. The direct and indirect sufferings caused by non-conformity to the laws of life, are the same whatever induces the nonconformity; and cannot be omitted in any rational estimate of conduct. If the purpose of ethical inquiry is to establish rules of right living; and if the rules of right living are those of which the total results, individual and general, direct and indirect, are most conductive to human happiness; then it is absurd to ignore the immediate results and recognize only the remote results.-Herbert Spencer: Data of Ethics, pp. 93-95.

* I can count up more than a dozen such cases among those personally well known to me.