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Letter 7691

Morley, John to Darwin, C. R.

17 Apr 1871


Gratified that CD approves his analysis of CD’s views of moral sense. Does not think there is a fundamental difference between J. S. Mill (Utilitarianism [1863], p. 45) and CD.

His view of those who object to CD’s “new doctrine of the moral sense”.


Flexford House, | near Guildford.

April 17. 1871.

Dear Sir,

I am extremely gratified to find that my effort to presenta faithful analysis of your views on the Moral Sense has beensatisfactory to you.f1

I don’t think Mr. Mill’s expressions in pp. 45 and 46 pointto any fundamental difference between him and yourself. He admitsthat the moral faculty is capable of springing up “spontaneously”in “a certain small degree” (p. 45 of Utilitarianism), and thisis as much as you want, is it not?f2 Perhaps he wd. hold thatthe great force of Association over the principles of human naturecame into effective play, at a somewhat earlier stage than you wd.be inclined to allow.f3 But I see nothing in what you have written tomake me suppose that you wd. deny the preponderant power of Association inshaping the social instinct, granting that to be an ultimate andinsoluble fact in human nature.

I don’t know whether you are indignant or amused at writers who callyou reckless for broaching new doctrines as to the moral sense, at a time whenParis is aflame, and we have republican meetings in the Old Bailey.f4Burke was no doubt in the right when he said that the consequencesof assumed rights might justly be brought forward in discussingthe validity of such rights, but it is a little intolerable thatthe consequences, or in this case the fantastically imaginedconsequences, shd. be brought forward as tests of the truth of scientifichypotheses.f5

With many thanks for your courteous note. Believe me, my dear Sir, | Your’s very sincerely, | John Morley.

DAR 88: 71–2



Morley refers to CD’s letter to him of 14 April [1871].
Morley refers to John Stuart Mill and Mill 1864, pp. 45–6. See letter to John Morley, 14 April [1871] and n. 5.
Morley refers to the association between the happiness of the individualand the good of the whole (see Mill 1864, p. 25).
The Times review of Descent (8 April 1871, p. 5) accused CD’swork on the evolution of moral sense of being an example of a recklessstyle of philosophy that ultimately weakened moral principle,a weakening that was evident in recent events in France. There was conflict in Parisbetween the new provisional government of France and the centralcommittee created by the National Guard in Paris, who feared thegovernment’s monarchist tendencies; the fighting continued from 17 March to 28 May (Dittmar 2006, pp. 110, 117, and 142). There was ameeting of self-proclaimed republicans in St James’s Hall (not the OldBailey) on 4 April 1871 (The Times, 5 April 1871, p. 5).
In his ‘Appeal from the new to theold Whigs’, Edmund Burke states, ‘I have said, that in all politicalquestions the consequences of any assumed rights are of great momentin deciding upon their validity’ (Burke 1834, 1: 527).
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