N. G. Chernyshevsky
Original publication: archive.org

The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy (1850)

That part of philosophy which deals with questions of man, just like the other part which deals with questions of external nature, is based on the natural sciences. The principle underlying the philosophical view of human life and all its phenomena is the idea, worked out by the natural sciences, of the unity of the human organism; the observations of physiologists, zoologists, and medical men have driven away all thought of dualism in man. Philosophy sees in him what medicine, physiology, and chemistry see. These sciences prove that no dualism is evident in man, and philosophy adds that if man possessed another nature, in addition to his real nature, this other nature would surely reveal itself in some way; but since it does not, since everything that takes place and manifests itself in man originates solely from his real nature, he cannot have another nature.

This proof is completely beyond doubt. It is as convincing as the grounds on which you, dear reader, are convinced, for example, that at the moment you are reading this book there is no lion in the room in which you are sitting. You think that this is so because you do not see a lion or hear one growl. But is this alone a sufficient guarantee that there is no lion in your room? No, you have a second guarantee — the fact that you are alive. Were there a lion in your room it would have sprung upon you and torn you to bits. The inevitable consequences of the presence of a lion are absent, and therefore you know that there is no lion. […]

But while there is unity in man’s nature, we see in him two different orders of phenomena: phenomena of what is called a material order (a man eats, walks), and phenomena of what is called a moral order (a man thinks, feels, desires). In what relation do these two orders of phenomena stand to one another? Does not the difference between them contradict the unity of man’s nature that is demonstrated by the natural sciences? The natural sciences answer that there are no grounds for such a hypothesis, for there is no object that possesses only one quality. On the contrary, every object displays an incalculable number of different phenomena which, for convenience, we place in different categories, calling each category quality, so that every object has numerous qualities of different kinds. For example, wood grows and it burns; we say that it possesses two qualities: vegetative power and combustibility. Is there any resemblance between these two qualities? They are entirely different; there is no concept that can cover both these qualities except the general concept of quality. There is no concept to cover both categories of phenomena corresponding to these qualities except the concept of phenomenon. Or, for example, ice is hard and shiny. What is there in common between hardness and shininess? The logical distance between these two qualities is immeasurable, or it would be more correct to say that there is no logical distance between them, great or small, because there is no logical relation between them. This shows that the combination of completely heterogeneous properties in one object is the general law of things.

But in this diversity the natural sciences also discover connection — not in the forms of manifestation, not in the phenomena, which are totally unlike each other, but in the way the diverse phenomena originate from the same element when the energy with which it acts is increased or diminished. For example, water has the property of having temperature — a property common to all bodies. No matter what the property we call heat may consist in, under different circumstances it reveals itself in extremely diverse degrees. Sometimes a given object is cold — that is to say, it displays very little heat. Sometimes it is very hot — that is to say, it displays a great deal of heat. When water, no matter under what circumstances, displays very little heat, it is a solid-ice. When it displays somewhat more heat, it is a liquid. And when there is great deal of heat in it, it becomes steam. In these three states, the same quality reveals itself in three orders of totally different phenomena, so that one quality assumes the forms of three different qualities, branches out into three qualities simply according to the different quantities in which it is displayed: quantitative difference passes into qualitative difference. […]

Among the English, the word “science” does not by any means cover all the branches of knowledge it covers among us and the other continental nations. By science the English mean mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, geography — the branches of knowledge we call the “exact” sciences and those closely allied to them in character. But they do not apply this term to history, psychology, moral philosophy, or metaphysics. It must be said that there is, indeed, a tremendous difference between these two halves of learning as regards the quality of the concepts that prevail in each of them. From one half, every man who is in the least enlightened has already expelled all groundless prejudices, and all rationally minded people already adhere to the same fundamental conceptions in these fields. Our knowledge about these departments of existence is very incomplete, but, at all events, everybody agrees as to what we know definitely in these departments, what we do not yet know, and, lastly, what has been definitely refuted by exact research.

For example, if you say that the human organism needs food or needs air nobody will dispute it. If you say that we do not yet know whether the substances that now serve as man’s food are the only things that can nourish man and that other substances may, perhaps, be found that will be useful for this purpose, no enlightened person will dispute it. He will only add that although new foodstuffs may be found, and in all probability will be found, they have not been found yet; and that for the time being man can only use the known substances, such as cereals, meat, milk, or fish. You, in your turn, will fully agree with this observation, and no dispute can possibly arise. The only point of dispute you can raise is whether the probability of the speedy discovery of new nutritive substances is great or small, and to what category of things these new, as yet undiscovered, substances are likely to belong. But in this dispute, you and your opponent will both know and admit that you are merely expressing assumptions which lack full validity, which may be more or less useful to science in the future (for assumptions, hypotheses, give direction to scientific research and lead to the discovery of truths which confirm or refute them), but are not yet scientific truths. If, finally, you say that man cannot live without food, here again everybody will agree with you and understand that this negative statement has an inseparable logical connection with the positive statement: “The human organism needs food.” Everybody will understand that if one of these two statements is accepted, the other must also be accepted.

It is entirely different in moral philosophy, for example. No matter what you say, some clever and educated men will always come forward and say the opposite. If, for example, you say that poverty has a bad effect upon the mind and heart of man, many clever people will object and say: “No, poverty sharpens thinking, it forces the mind to seek means to avert it; it ennobles the heart by turning our thoughts away from the vanities of pleasure to the virtues of patience, self-sacrifice, and sympathy for the needs and misfortunes of others.” Very well. But if, on the contrary, you say that poverty has a beneficial effect upon a man, there will also be many clever people, perhaps even more than in the first case, who will object and say: “No, poverty deprives a man of the means for intellectual development, hinders the development of an independent character, leads to unscrupulousness in the choice of means for averting poverty, or simply of sustaining life; it is the chief source of ignorance, vice, and crime.” In short, no matter what conclusion you might think of drawing in the moral sciences, you will find that it, and the opposite one, and many others which are inconsistent both with your conclusion and with the opposite one, or with one another, have earnest champions among clever and enlightened people. The same applies to metaphysics, and to history, with which neither the moral sciences nor metaphysics can dispense. […]

The union of the exact sciences, under the government of mathematics — that is, counting, weighing, and measuring — is year after year spreading to new spheres of knowledge, is growing by the inclusion of newcomers. Chemistry was gradually followed by all the sciences concerned with plant and animal organisms: physiology, comparative anatomy, various branches of botany and zoology. Now the moral sciences are joining them. What is happening to the moral sciences is what happens to proud but poverty-stricken people when a distant relative — not, like themselves, proud and boastful of their ancient lineage and incomparable virtues, but a plain, honest man — acquires wealth. For a long time they live off his charity, considering it beneath their dignity to turn, with his aid, to the honest work which made him a success. But gradually, eating better and dressing better, they become more reasonable, their empty boastfulness subsides, they become respectable, and at last they understand that not work but pride is shameful. Finally they adopt the habits that enabled their relative to succeed. Then, with his assistance, they quickly attain a good position and begin to enjoy the respect of rational people, not for the imaginary virtues they had boasted of in the past, but for their new and real qualities which are useful to society, for the work they do.

Not so long ago the moral sciences could not have had the content to justify the title of science they bore, and the English were quite right then in depriving them of a title they did not deserve. The situation today has changed considerably. The natural sciences have already developed to such an extent that they provide much material for the exact solution of moral problems, too. All the progressive thinkers among those who are studying the moral sciences have begun to work out these problems with the aid of precise methods similar to those by which the problems of the natural sciences are being worked out. When we spoke about the controversies among different people on every moral problem, we were referring only to the old and very widespread but now obsolete conceptions and methods of investigation, and not to the character the moral sciences are now acquiring among progressive thinkers. We were referring to the former routine character of these branches of science and not to their present form. In their present form, the moral sciences differ from the so-called natural sciences only in that they began to be worked out in a truly scientific way later, and therefore have not yet been developed to the same degree of perfection as the latter.

The difference here is only one of degree: chemistry is younger than astronomy and has not yet attained the same degree of perfection; physiology is still younger than chemistry and is still further removed from perfection; psychology, as an exact science, is still younger than physiology and has been worked out even less. But, while differing from each other in the amount of exact knowledge acquired, chemistry and astronomy do not differ either as regards the validity of what has been learned, or in the methods employed to arrive at exact knowledge in the particular subjects. The facts and laws discovered by chemistry are as authentic as the facts and laws discovered by astronomy. The same must be said about the results achieved by present-day exact research in the moral sciences. […]

The first result of the entry of the moral sciences into the sphere of the exact sciences is that a strict distinction has been drawn between what we know and what we do not know. The astronomer knows that he knows the dimensions of Mars, and he knows just as positively that he does not know the geological composition of that planet, the character of the plant and animal life on it, or whether there is any plant or animal life on it. If someone took it into his head to claim that clay, granite, birds, or mollusks existed on Mars, the astronomer would reply: you are asserting something you do not know. If the fantast were to go even further in his assumptions and assert, for example, that the birds that inhabit Mars are not subject to disease and that the mollusks do not need food, the astronomer, assisted by the chemist and physiologist, would prove to him that this is impossible. Likewise, in the moral sciences a strict distinction has been drawn between what is known and what is not known, and on the basis of what is known the unsoundness of some of the previous assumptions concerning what still remains unknown has been proved.

It is definitely known, for example, that all the phenomena of the moral world originate from one another and from external circumstances in conformity with the law of causality, and on this basis all assumptions that there can be any phenomena that do not arise from preceding phenomena and from external circumstances are regarded as false. Hence, present-day psychology does not accept, for example, the assumptions that in one case a man performs a bad action because he wanted to perform a bad action, while in another case he performs a good action because he wanted to perform a good action. It says that the bad action, or the good action, was certainly prompted by some moral or material fact, or combination of facts, and that the “wanting” is only the subjective impression which accompanies, in our consciousness, the genesis of thoughts or actions from preceding thoughts, actions, or external facts.

The example most often given of an action based on nothing but our will is this: get out of bed. Which foot do I put out first? Whichever one I want to. But this only appears to be so at a superficial glance. Actually, facts and impressions determine which foot a man puts out of bed first. If there are no special circumstances or thoughts he will put out the foot that is most convenient for the anatomical position of his body in the bed. If there are special motives that outweigh this physiological convenience, the result will change according to the circumstances. If, for example, the thought occurs to the man: “I shall put out my left foot rather than my right,” he will do so. Here, however, one cause (physiological convenience) was simply displaced by another (the thought of displaying independence), or it would be more correct to say that the second cause, being the stronger, triumphed over the first. But how did the second cause arise? Whence came the thought of displaying independence of external conditions? It could not have arisen without a cause. It was created either by something said in conversation with someone, or by the recollection of previous dispute, or something like that. Thus, the fact that a man can, if he wants to, put out the foot that is not convenient for the anatomical position of his body in the bed does not prove that he can put out this foot or that foot without any cause. It only proves that the manner of getting out of bed can be determined by causes that are stronger than the anatomical position of the body before getting out of bed.

The phenomenon that we call “will” is itself a link in a series of phenomena and facts joined together by causal connection. Very often, the immediate cause of the manifestation of our will to perform a certain action is thought. But the definite inclination of the will is also due solely to a definite thought: whatever the thought is, so is the will. If the thought were different the will would be different. But why did a particular thought arise and not a different one? Because it, too, arose from some thought, some fact — in short, from some cause. In this case, psychology says the same thing that physics and chemistry say in similar cases: if a certain phenomenon occurs, we must seek the cause of it and not be satisfied with the vapid statement: it occurred of its own accord without any special cause. “I did this because I wanted to.” That’s all very well, but why did you want to? If you answer: “Simply because wanted to,” It will be the same as saying: “The plate broke because it broke; the house was burned down because it was burned down.” These are not answers at all; they are only a cloak to cover up laziness in seeking the real cause, lack of desire to know the truth. […]

But if the moral sciences are still obliged to say “We do not know” in answer to very many questions, we shall be mistaken if we assume that among the problems they have not yet solved are those which, according to one of the prevailing opinions, are insoluble. No, the ignorance in these sciences is not of this kind. What, for example, does chemistry not know? It does not at present know what hydrogen will be when it passes from the gaseous to the solid state — a metal or a non-metal. There are strong grounds for assuming that it will be a metal, but we do not yet know whether this assumption is correct. Chemistry also does not know whether phosphorus and sulphur are simple substances or whether they will in time be resolved into the simplest elements. These are cases of theoretical ignorance. Another category of problems that chemistry cannot solve at present consists of the numerous cases of inability to satisfy practical demands. Chemistry can make prussic acid and acetic acid, but it cannot yet make fibrin. As we can see, these and other problems it cannot at present solve are of a very special character, character so special that they occur to the minds only of people who are fairly well acquainted with chemistry.

The problems the moral sciences have not vet solved are of exactly the same kind. Psychology, for example, discovers the following fact: a man of low mental development is unable to understand a life different from his own; the more his mind develops, the easier it is for him to picture another sort of life. How is this fact to be explained? In the present state of science, a strictly scientific answer to this question has not yet been found; all we have are various surmises. Now tell us, would this question arise in the mind of anyone not familiar with the present state of psychology? Scarcely anybody but a scientist has even noticed the fact to which this question applies. It is like the question as to whether hydrogen is or is not a metal; people unacquainted with chemistry are not only unaware of this question, they are unaware of the existence of hydrogen. For chemistry, however, this hydrogen, the existence of which would not have been noticed had it not been for chemistry, is extremely important. Similarly, the fact that a man of low mental development is unable to understand a life different from his own, whereas a mentally developed man is able to do so, is extremely important for psychology. Just as the discovery of hydrogen led to an improvement in the theory of chemistry, so the discovery of this psychological fact led to the formation of the theory of anthropomorphism, without which not a step can now be taken in metaphysics.

Here is another psychological problem, which also cannot be definitely solved in the present state of science: children have a propensity for breaking their toys; why is this? Should it be regarded only as a clumsy form of the desire to adapt things to one’s requirements, a clumsy form of what is called man’s creative activity, or is it a trace of the sheer urge to destroy which some writers ascribe to men? […]

Thus, the theoretical problems that are still unsolved in the present state of the moral sciences are, in general, of such a character that they arise in hardly anybody’s mind except the specialist’s. The layman even finds it hard to understand how learned people can spend their time investigating such petty things. On the other hand, the theoretical problems that usually seem to be important and difficult to the layman have, in general, ceased to be problems for present-day thinkers, because they are solved beyond doubt with extreme ease at the very first application of the powerful means of scientific analysis. It is found that half of these problems arise simply from the fact that people are unaccustomed to think, and the other half find answers in phenomena with which everybody is familiar.

What becomes of the flame of a burning candle when we extinguish the candle? Would a chemist agree to call this question a problem? He would say that it is simply a jumble of words arising from ignorance of the most fundamental, the simplest facts of science. He would say: the burning of a candle is chemical process; flame is one of the phenomena of this process, one of its aspects, one of its qualities, to express it in ordinary language. When we extinguish the candle we put a stop to the chemical process; naturally, with its cessation its qualities vanish. To ask what becomes of the flame when we extinguish a candle is like asking what becomes of the figure 2 in the figure 25 when we strike out the whole figure — nothing is left of either the 2 or the 5; both have been struck out. Such a question can be asked only by someone who does not understand what writing a figure and then striking it out means. To all the questions of such people there is one answer: friend, you are totally ignorant of arithmetic and you had better begin to learn it.

For example, the following baffling question is asked: Is man a good or an evil being? Lots of people rack their brains attempting to solve this problem. Nearly half of them decide that man is by nature good, others, also constituting nearly half of the brain-rackers, decide otherwise; they say man is by nature bad. Outside these two opposed dogmatic parties are several skeptics who jeer at both sides and say that the problem is insoluble.

But at the very first application of scientific analysis the whole thing turns out to be as clear as can be. A man likes what is pleasant and dislikes what is unpleasant — this, one would think, is beyond doubt, because the predicate simply repeats the subject: A is A, what is pleasant to a man is pleasant to a man; what is unpleasant to him is unpleasant to him. Good is he who does good to others, bad is he who is bad to others this, too, is clear and simple, one would think. Let us now combine the simple truths; we will get the following deductions: a man is good when, in order to obtain pleasure for himself, he must give pleasure to others. A man is bad when, in order to obtain pleasure for himself, he is obliged to cause displeasure to others. Here human nature cannot be blamed for one thing or praised for the other; everything depends on circumstances, relationships (institutions). If certain relations are constant, the man whose character is molded by them is found to have acquired the habit of acting in conformity with them.

Therefore, we may think that John is good, while Peter is bad; but these opinions apply only to individual men, not to man in general, just as we attribute to individual men and not to man in general the habits involved in sawing planks and forging iron. John is a carpenter, but we cannot say that man in general is or is not a carpenter. Peter can forge iron, but we cannot say that man in general is or is not a blacksmith. The fact that John became a carpenter and Peter a blacksmith merely shows that under certain circumstances, which existed in John’s life, a man becomes a carpenter; while under other circumstances, which existed in Peter’s life, a man becomes a blacksmith. In exactly the same way, under certain circumstances a man becomes good, under others he becomes bad.

Thus from the theoretical side the problem of the good and bad qualities of human nature is solved so easily that it cannot even be called a problem: it contains its own complete solution.

It is quite another matter, however, when you take the practical side; when, for example, it seems to you that it is much better for a man himself, and for all those around him, to be good rather than bad; and when you want to make everybody good. From this aspect the matter presents many difficulties. As the reader will observe, however, these difficulties relate not to science but to the practical application of the means indicated by science. In this respect psychology and moral philosophy are in exactly the same position as the natural sciences. The climate in North Siberia is too cold. If you were to ask how it could be made warmer, the natural sciences would have no difficulty in finding an answer: Siberia is closed to the warm atmosphere of the South by mountains, and its northern slope is open to the cold atmosphere of the North. If there were mountains on the northern border and none on the southern, that part of the country would be much warmer than it is now. But we as yet lack the means with which to put this theoretical solution of the problem into practice.

Similarly, the moral sciences already have theoretical answers to nearly all the problems that are important for life, but in many cases man lacks the means to put into practice what is indicated by theory. Incidentally, in this respect the moral sciences have an advantage over the natural sciences. In the natural sciences, all the means belong to the sphere of so-called external nature; in the moral sciences, only half the means belong to this category, while the other half are contained in man himself. Consequently, half the matter depends entirely upon man feeling strongly enough the need for a certain improvement. This feeling in itself provides him with a very considerable part of the conditions necessary for the improvement. We have seen, however, that the conditions that depend upon the state of man’s own impressions are not enough; material means are also needed. In respect to this half of the conditions, in respect to material means, the practical problems of the moral sciences are in a much more favorable position than they are in respect to the conditions which lie within man himself. Formerly, when the natural sciences were still undeveloped, insurmountable difficulties could be met with in external nature that prevented the satisfaction of man’s moral requirements. This is not the case now: the natural sciences already offer man such powerful means of command over external nature that no difficulties arise in this respect.

Let us return, as an example, to the practical question of how people could become good, so that bad people should become lose an extreme rarity in the world, and that bad qualities should all perceptible importance in life because of the extreme rarity of the cases in which they were displayed. Psychology tells us that the most abundant source of the display of bad qualities is inadequacy of means for satisfying requirements; that man commits a bad action — that is, harms others — almost only when he is obliged to deprive them of things so as not to remain himself without the things he needs. For example, when crops are poor and there is not enough food for everybody, there is a great increase in crime and of all sorts of evil deeds; people rob and cheat one another for a crust of bread.

Psychology also adds that human needs differ greatly in degree of intensity. The most urgent need of every human organism is to breathe; but sufficient means for satisfying this need are available to people in practically all situations, so that evil deeds due to the want of air are hardly ever committed. But if an extraordinary situation arises, when there is not sufficient air for everybody, then such quarrels and wrongdoing do arise. For example, if a large number of people are locked in a stifling room with one window, quarrels and strife nearly always arise and even murder may be committed for a place near the window. Next to the need to breathe (continues psychology), a man’s most urgent requirement is food and drink. Very often very many people suffer from a shortage of the articles needed to satisfy these requirements properly, and this is the cause of the largest number of bad actions of all kinds, of nearly all the situations and institutions that are the constant causes of bad actions. If this one cause of evil were abolished, at least nine tenths of all that is bad in human society would quickly disappear. Crime would be reduced to one tenth. In the course of one generation coarse manners and conceptions would yield to humane manners and conceptions. The restrictive institutions that are based on coarseness and ignorance would be robbed of their foundation, and soon nearly all restriction would be abolished.

We are told that this theoretical conclusion could not be put into practice before because of the imperfection of the technical arts. We are not sure whether this is true in respect to the past, but it is beyond dispute that in the present state of mechanics and chemistry, with the means with which these sciences provide agriculture, the land in every country in the Temperate Zone could provide a great deal more food than is needed for an abundant supply of provisions for populations ten and twenty times larger than the present populations of these countries. [1] Thus, external nature creates no obstacles to supplying the entire population of every civilized country with an abundance of food; the only task that remains is to make people conscious of the possibility and necessity of energetically pursuing this goal.

Rhetorically, it may be said that they are already concerning themselves with this matter sufficiently, but exact and cold scientific analysis reveals the hollowness of the pompous phrases we so often hear on this subject. Actually, not a single human society has as yet adopted on any extensive scale the means indicated by the natural sciences and the science of public welfare for the promotion of agriculture. Why this is so? Why there is such unconcern in human societies for the application of scientific advice to the satisfaction of such an urgent need as the need for food, what circumstances and attitudes generate and foster this bad state of economy, and how circumstances and attitudes must be changed in order that the state of economy may be improved? These are again new problems, the theoretical solution of which is very easy; and again, the practical application of the scientific solutions depends upon man becoming imbued with certain impressions.

We shall not, however, deal here with either the theoretical solution or the practical difficulties of these problems; this would lead us too far afield, and we think that our foregoing remarks are already sufficient to explain the present position of the moral sciences. We wanted to say that the working out of the moral sciences on precise scientific lines is just beginning and that, therefore, exact theoretical solutions for very many extremely important moral problems have not yet been found. But these problems for which theoretical solutions have not yet been found are of a purely technical character and are of interest only to specialists, while, on the other hand, the psychological and moral problems that are extremely interesting, and seem to the layman to be extremely difficult, have already been precisely solved, and, moreover, have been solved very easily and simply with the very first application of exact scientific analysis; theoretical answers to them have already been found.

We added that from these indubitable theoretical solutions arise very important and useful scientific indications as to what means must be employed to improve the conditions of human life, and that some of these means must be taken from external nature whereas others must be provided by the reasoning faculty of man himself. Concerning the former means, external nature no longer creates any obstacles in the present state of development of the natural sciences, and concerning the latter, the only obstacles that are to be met with today are obstacles to the awakening of man’s reasoning faculty arising from the apathy and ignorance of some people and the deliberate opposition of others, and in general from the power that prejudice exercises over the vast majority of people in every society. […]

The next subject to be dealt with in our essays is man as an individual. […]

We shall put aside for a time the psychological and moral-philosophical problems concerning man and deal with the physiological, medical, or any other problems you please, but not with man as a moral being, and try first of all to say what we know about him as a being that a possesses a stomach, a head, bones, veins, muscles, and nerves. We shall examine him only from the side that the natural sciences find in him; the other aspects of life we shall examine later, if time allows.

Physiology and medicine find that the human organism is an extremely complex combination of chemicals that undergoes an extremely complex chemical process we call life. This process is so complex and so important to us that the branch of chemistry engaged in research in it has been awarded the title of special science and is called physiology. […]

Physiology is only a variety of chemistry, and its subject is only a variety of the subjects dealt with in chemistry. Physiology itself has not kept all its departments in strict unity under a common name; some of the aspects of the subjects it investigates, i.e., the chemical processes that take place in the human organism, are of such special interest for man that investigations into them, which are part of physiology, have been awarded the name of separate sciences. Of these aspects we shall mention one: investigation of the phenomena that cause and accompany the various deviations of this chemical process from its normal form. This physiology bears the special name of medicine. Medicine, in part of its turn, branches out into numerous sciences with special names. […]

When a subject under investigation is very complex, it is useful, for the sake of convenience, to divide it into parts. Hence, physiology divides the complex process that goes on in the living human organism into several parts, the most marked of which are: respiration, nutrition, circulation of the blood, motor phenomena, sensation. Like every other chemical process, this entire system of phenomena has its birth, growth, decline, and end. Therefore, physiology regards the processes of respiration, nutrition, blood circulation, motor activity, sensation, and so forth, and conception fertilization, growth, senility, and death, as if they were special subjects. But here again it must be borne in mind that these different segments and aspects of the process are divided only in theory, to facilitate theoretical analysis; actually, they constitute one indivisible whole. […]

Some parts of physiology have already been elaborated very well. Such, for example, are the researches into the processes of respiration, nutrition, blood circulation, conception, growth, and senility. Motor phenomena have not been explained in such detail, and the process of sensation still less. […]

We have said that some parts of the process of life have not been explained in as great detail as others; but this does not mean that we have not already positively learned a great deal about those parts, the investigation of which is at present in a very imperfect state. First, even supposing that some special aspect of the vital process were still totally inaccessible to exact analysis on the lines of mathematics and the natural sciences, its character would be approximately known to us from the character of other parts that have already been fairly well investigated. This would be a case like that of determining the shape of the head of a mammal from the bones of its leg. We know that merely from an animal’s shoulder blade or collarbone science can fairly precisely reproduce its entire figure, including its head so much so that when, later on, a whole skeleton is found, it confirms the scientific inference concerning the whole which was arrived at from one of its parts. We know, for example, what nutrition is. From this we already know approximately what sensation is: nutrition and sensation are so closely interconnected that the character of one determines the character of the other.

Above we said that such deductions concerning unknown parts drawn from known parts are particularly valid and particularly important when they are presented in a negative form: A is closely connected with X; A is B; from this it follows that X cannot be either C, D, or E. For example, supposing the shoulder blade of some antediluvian animal is found; perhaps we shall not be able unerringly to determine to what particular category of mammals it belonged, or perhaps we shall mistakenly put it in the cat or the horse category. But from this shoulder blade alone we can determine without error that it was neither a bird, a fish, nor a testacean.

We have said that these negative deductions are important in all sciences, but they are particularly important in the moral sciences and in metaphysics, because the errors which they have removed did exceptional practical harm to these sciences. In the olden days, when the natural sciences were still undeveloped, the whale was mistakenly regarded as a fish and the bat was regarded as a bird; but in all probability not a single person suffered as a result. Owing to the same cause, however, i.e., inability to subject a thing to exact analysis, mistaken opinions arose in metaphysics and in the moral sciences which caused people much more harm than cholera, plague, and all infectious diseases.

Let us suppose, for example, that idleness is pleasant and that work is unpleasant. If this hypothesis becomes the prevailing opinion, every man will take every opportunity to ensure for himself a life of idleness and compel others to work for him. This will give rise to every kind of enslavement and thievery, from so-called slavery proper and wars of conquest to the present more refined forms of these phenomena. This supposition has actually been made by people; it actually became the prevailing opinion and has prevailed to this day, causing incalculable suffering.

Let us now try to apply to the concept of pleasure or enjoyment the deduction drawn from an exact analysis of the vital process. The phenomenon of pleasure or enjoyment belongs to that part of the vital process which is called sensation. Let us suppose for the moment that we have not yet had exact investigation of this part of the vital process, as a separate part. Let us see whether anything about it can be deduced from the exact information that science has acquired about nutrition, respiration, and blood circulation. We see that each of these phenomena constitutes the activity of certain parts of our organism. We know what parts operate in the phenomena of respiration, nutrition, and blood circulation, and we know how they operate. Perhaps we would err if from this information we drew any conclusion about what particular parts of the organism operate in the phenomenon of pleasant sensation, and about how they operate; but we have clearly seen that only the action of some part of the organism gives rise to what are called the phenomena of life. We see that when there is action there is a phenomenon, and that when there is no action there is no phenomenon. From this we see that in order to obtain a pleasant sensation there must be some kind of action on the part of the organism.

Let us now analyze the concept of action. Action calls for the existence of two things, something that acts and something that is acted upon, and it consists in the former exerting effort to alter the latter. For example, the chest and lungs move and decompose air in the process of respiration; the stomach digests food in the process of nutrition. Thus, a pleasant sensation must also consist in the alteration of some external object by the human organism. We do not yet know exactly what object is altered, or exactly how it is altered, but we already see that the source of pleasure must be some kind of action by the human organism upon external objects.

Let us now try to draw a negative deduction from this result. Idleness is the absence of action; obviously, it cannot produce the phenomenon that is called pleasant sensation. It now becomes perfectly clear to us why the well-to-do classes of society in all civilized countries complain of constant ennui, complain that life is unpleasant. This complaint is quite justified. For the rich, life is as unpleasant as it is for the poor, because owing to the custom introduced in society by a mistaken hypothesis, wealth is associated with idleness, that is, the thing that should have served as source of pleasure is deprived by this hypothesis of the possibility of affording pleasure. Whoever is accustomed to abstract thinking will be convinced in advance that observation of everyday relationships will not contradict the results of scientific analysis. But even those who are unaccustomed to abstract thinking will be led to the same conclusion by pondering the meaning of the facts that constitute so-called high society life. In it there is no normal activity — i.e., activity, the objective side of which corresponds to its subjective role; there is no activity that deserves the name of serious activity.

To avoid a subjective disturbance in the organism, to avoid sicknesses that are the result of inaction, to avoid ennui, the society man must create fictitious activity in place of normal activity. He lacks motion that has an objective rational purpose, so he “takes a constitutional,” i.e., spends as much time putting one foot in front of the other as he ought to do in walking to work. He has no physical work to do, so he spends as much time doing gymnastics for the benefit of his health, i.e., waving his arms and bending his body (if not in the gymnasium, then at the billiard table, or at a turning lathe for a hobby) as he ought to spend on physical work. He has no practical cares concerning himself or his family, so he engages in scandal and intrigue, i.e., spends as much mental effort on nonsense as he ought to spend on practical affairs. But none of these artificial means can afford the human organism the satisfaction that is required for good health.

The life of the rich man of the present day is like that of the Chinese opium eater: unnatural excitement is followed by lethargy, intense satiety by purposeless activity, which leaves him in the very state of ennui from which he tried to escape by indulging in it. […]

When one speaks without a plan, one never knows where one’s words will lead. We see now that we have got to the point of speaking about moral or exalted feelings. On the question of these feelings, practical deductions from ordinary, everyday experience have absolutely contradicted the old hypotheses which ascribed to man a multitude of diverse altruistic strivings. People learned from experience that every man thinks only of himself, is more concerned about his own interests than he is about the interests of others, that he nearly always sacrifices the interests, honor, and life of others to his own. In short, everybody learned that all men are egoists. In practical affairs, all prudent people have always been guided by the conviction that egoism is the only motive that governs the actions of everybody they have dealings with. If this opinion, daily confirmed by the experience of every one of us, were not countered by a fairly large number of other facts of everyday life, it would, of course, soon gain the upper hand in theory, too, over the hypotheses that egoism is only a corrupted heart, and that a man who is not corrupted is guided by motives antithetical to egoism: that he thinks of ‘others’ good rather than his own, that he is prepared to sacrifice himself for others, and so forth.

But the difficulty arose precisely from the fact that the hypothesis that man is prompted in his strivings by the interests of others, a hypothesis refuted by hundreds of experiences in everyone’s daily life, seemed to be confirmed by fairly numerous cases of altruism, self-sacrifice, and so forth. For example, Curtius throws himself into the abyss to save his native city; Empedocles jumps into a crater to make a scientific discovery; Damon offers to die in order to save Pythias; Lucretia stabs herself in order to vindicate her honor.

Until recent times there were no scientific means of precisely deducing these two categories of phenomena from one principle, of bringing opposite facts under one law. A stone falls to the ground, steam rises. In the olden days people thought that the law of gravity which operates in a stone does not operate in steam. It is now known that both these opposite movements, the falling of the stone and the rising of steam, are due to the same cause, are governed by the same law. It is now known that under certain circumstances the force of gravity, which generally tends to make things fall, manifests itself by compelling some bodies to rise. We have repeated many times that the moral sciences have not yet been worked out as fully as the natural sciences, but even in their present, by no means brilliant state the problem of bringing all, often contradictory, human actions and feelings under one principle has already been solved, as have nearly all the moral and metaphysical problems which had puzzled people before the moral sciences and metaphysics began to be elaborated according to strictly scientific method. As in all aspects of man’s life, human motives are not prompted by two natures, two fundamental laws which differ from or contradict one another. As in human life as a whole, all the diverse phenomena in the sphere of human motives and conduct spring from one nature, are governed by one law.

We shall not discuss these actions and feelings which everybody recognizes as being egoistic, selfish, prompted by selfish interest. We shall turn our attention only to those feelings and actions which seem to bear an opposite character. In general, it is necessary only to examine more closely an action or feeling that seems to be altruistic to see that all of them are based on the thought of personal interest, personal gratification, personal benefit; they are based on the feeling that is called egoism. There will be very few cases where this basis will not be apparent even to a man who is not accustomed to make psychological analyses.

If a husband and wife have lived in harmony together, the wife will quite sincerely and very deeply grieve over the death of her husband; but listen to the words in which she expresses her grief: “Who will care for me now? What shall I do without you? Life will be impossible for me without you!” Underscore the words me, I, for me: they express the meaning of her lamentation, they are the basis of her grief.

Let us take a feeling that is far loftier, purer than the greatest connubial love: a mother’s love for her child. Her lamentation over its death is exactly the same: “My angel! How I loved you! What a joy you were to me! How I nursed you! How much suffering, how many sleepless nights you cost me! I have been robbed of all my hopes in you, I have been robbed of all my joy!” Here again we have the same my, I, to me.

The egoistic basis is just as easily discovered in the most sincere and tenderest friendship.

Not much more difficulty is presented by those cases in which a man makes sacrifices for the object of his love. Even though he sacrifices his life, the basis of the sacrifice is personal calculation or an intense burst of egoistic passion. Most cases of so-called self-sacrifice do not deserve that name. The inhabitants of Saguntum committed suicide to avoid falling alive into the hands of Hannibal. Such heroism may rouse wonder, but it was entirely prompted by egoistic interest. These people had been accustomed to live as free citizens, to suffer no wrong, to respect themselves and to be respected by others; the Carthaginian general would have sold them into slavery and their lives would have been a constant torment. They acted in the same way as a man with a toothache who goes to have the bad tooth pulled. They preferred an instant of mortal pain to endless years of torment. In the Middle Ages, heretics burnt at the stake at a slow fire of damp logs would try to break their chains in order to throw themselves into the flames: better to suffocate in an instant than choke for hours. Such indeed was the position of the inhabitants of Saguntum. We were wrong in assuming that Hannibal would have merely sold them into slavery. Had they not exterminated themselves, the Carthaginians would have exterminated them, but they would have first subjected them to barbarous torture, and common sense prompted them to prefer a quick death to a slow and painful one.

Lucretia stabbed herself after Tarquinius Sextus had raped her, but she too was prompted by self-interest. What awaited her in the future? Her husband might have spoken words of consolation and endearment to her, but such words would have been sheer nonsense, testifying to the nobility of the one who uttered them, but by no means averting the inevitable consequences of the incident. Collatinus might have said to his wife: “I regard you as pure and love you as before.” With the conceptions prevailing at that time, however, and prevailing with but little alteration today, he could not have proved his words by deeds; willy-nilly, he had already lost considerable respect and love for his wife. He might have attempted to conceal this loss by deliberately exaggerated tenderness toward her, but such tenderness is more offensive than coldness, more bitter than beating and abuse. Lucretia was right in thinking that suicide was preferable to living in a state that was degrading compared to the life she had been accustomed to. A fastidious person would prefer to go hungry rather than touch food that had been in any way polluted. A self-respecting person would prefer death to degradation.

The reader will understand that we are not saying all this with the object of belittling the great praise of which Lucretia and the inhabitants of Saguntum are worthy. To argue that a heroic action was at the same time a wise one, that a noble deed was not a reckless one, does not, in our opinion, mean belittling heroism and nobility.

From these heroic deeds let us pass to a kind of action which is more ordinary, though still only too rare. Let us examine cases like the devotion of a man who gives up all his pleasure and the free disposal of his time in order to look after another man who needs his care. A man who spends weeks at the bedside of a sick friend makes a far greater sacrifice than if he were to give him all his money. But why does he makes such a sacrifice? What feeling prompts him to do it? He sacrifices his time, his freedom, to his feeling of friendship we emphasize, his feeling. This feeling is so strong that gratifying it gives him greater pleasure than he would obtain from any other occupation, even from his freedom. Were he to ignore it, refrain from gratifying it, he would feel greater discomfort than he would from refraining to gratify all other needs. Of exactly the same kind are the cases when a man forgoes all pleasure and gain for the sake of science or some conviction. Newton and Leibniz, who denied themselves all love for women in order to devote all their time and thoughts to scientific research, were, of course, heroes all their lives. The same must be said of those political figures who are usually called fanatics. Here again we see that a certain need becomes so strong a in a man that it gives him pleasure to satisfy it even at the expense of other very strong needs. By their nature, these cases differ very sharply from the motive that prompts a man to sacrifice a very large sum of money in order to gratify some base passion, but in their theoretical formula they all come under the same law: the strongest passion gains the upper hand over those that are less strong, which are sacrificed to the former.

A careful examination of the motives that prompt men’s actions shows that all deeds, good and bad, noble and base, heroic and craven, are prompted by one cause: a man acts in the way that gives him the most pleasure. He is guided by self-interest, which causes him to abstain from a smaller gain or a lesser pleasure in order to obtain larger gain or a greater pleasure. The fact that good and bad actions are prompted by the same cause does not, of course, diminish the difference between them. We know that diamond and coal are both pure carbon; nevertheless a diamond is diamond, a very costly article, while coal is coal, a very cheap article. The great difference between good and evil fully deserves our attention. We shall begin with an analysis of these concepts in order to ascertain what circumstances develop or weaken good in human life.

It has been noted that different people in the same society regard quite different and even opposite things as good. For example, if a man bequeaths his property to people outside his family, these people regard it as a good action, while the relatives who lose the legacy regard it as a very bad one. The same difference in the conception of good is observed in different societies and in different epochs in the same society. For a long time, the conclusion drawn from this was that there is nothing constant, nothing independent in the concept “good” that could be subject to a common definition, that it is a purely conventional concept, dependent upon the arbitrary opinion of men.

But when we examine more closely the relation of the actions that are called good to the people who call them that, we find that this relation always has one common, invariable feature which causes an action to be placed in the category of good. Why do the people outside the testator’s family regard the action by which they came into possession of the property as good? Because that action was beneficial to them. On the other hand, it was detrimental to the testator’s relatives who lost the legacy, and that is why they regard it as a bad action. War against infidels for the spread of Mohammedanism seemed to the Mohammedans to be a good cause because it benefited them, it brought them booty. This opinion was fostered among them particularly by the higher clergy, whose power grew with new conquests. Individuals regard as good the actions of other people that are beneficial to them; society holds as good what is useful to the whole of society, or to the majority of its members. Lastly, people in general, irrespective of nation or class, describe as good that which is useful to mankind in general.

There are frequent cases when the interests of different nations and classes clash either with one another or with the interests of mankind in general. Equally frequent are cases when the interests of given class clash with the interests of the nation. In all these cases a controversy arises over the character of the action, institution, or connection that is beneficial for some and detrimental to other interests. The adherents of the side to which it is detrimental say that it is bad; the advocates of the side that benefits from it say that it is good. In such cases it is very easy to decide on which side theoretical truth lies. The interests of mankind as a whole stand higher than the interests of an individual nation; the common interests of a whole nation are higher than the interests of an individual class; the interests of a large class are higher than the interests of a small one. In theory, this gradation is beyond doubt; it is merely the application to social problems of the geometrical axioms: “the whole is greater than the part,” “the larger quantity is greater than the smaller quantity.”

Theoretical fallacy inevitably leads to practical harm. In those cases when, for its own advantage, an individual nation tramples upon the interests of mankind, or when an individual class tramples upon the interests of the nation, the result is always detrimental not only to the side whose interest has been encoached upon, but also to the side that has hoped to gain by this. It always turns out that a nation which enslaves mankind ruins itself; an individual class that sacrifices the whole nation to its own interest comes to a bad end itself. From this we see that when national interests clash with class interests, the class which thinks of turning national misfortune to its own advantage is mistaken from the very outset; it is blinded by false calculations.

The illusion that entices it sometimes bears the form of a very sound calculation, but we shall cite two or three cases of this kind to show how fallacious such calculations can be. Manufacturers think that prohibitive tariffs are to their advantage; but in the end it is found that with prohibitive tariffs the nation remains poor and, because of its poverty, cannot maintain an extensive manufacturing industry. Thus, the manufacturing class itself remains not nearly as rich as that class is under free trade. All the mill owners in all the countries that have prohibitive tariffs taken together do not possess half the wealth that has been acquired by the mill owners of Manchester. Landowners in general hope to gain from slavery (serfdom) and from other forms of forced labor; but in the end it is found that the landowning class in all countries where forced labor exists is ruined. Bureaucracy sometimes deems it necessary for its own good to hinder the intellectual and social development of the nation, but here too the result is always that it finds its own affairs disturbed and it becomes impotent.

We have cited cases in which the calculations of a class which harms the interests of the nation in pursuit of its own advantage appear to be extremely well grounded; but here too the result shows that this was only apparent, that the calculations were wrong, that the class which had acted to the detriment of the nation had deceived itself with respect to its own interests. Nor can it be otherwise: the French or Austrian manufacturer is, after all, a Frenchman or an inhabitant of Austria, and everything that is detrimental to the country to which he belongs, the strength of which is the basis of his own strength, the wealth of which is the basis of his own wealth, is detrimental to him too, for it dries up the source of his own strength and wealth.

Exactly the same must be said about the cases where the interests of an individual nation clash with the interests of mankind in general. Here too it is always found that the calculations of the nation which sets out to further its interests by damaging those of mankind were totally mistaken. Conquering nations have always ended by being exterminated or enslaved themselves. […]

We have said all this in order to show that the concept good is not impaired but, on the contrary, is strengthened, is most sharply and precisely defined, when we discover its real nature, when we find that good means utility. Only if we interpret it in this way are we able to eliminate all the difficulties that arise out of the contradictory conceptions of good and evil prevailing in different epochs and civilizations, among different classes and nations. Science deals with nations, not with an individual man; with man, but not with a Frenchman or Englishman, not with the merchant or the bureaucrat. Only what enters into human nature is recognized as a truth in science. Only that which is useful to man in general is regarded as true good. All deviations from this norm in the conceptions of given nation or class are a mistake, a hallucination, which may cause much harm to other people, but most of all to that nation or class which falls into this error by adopting through its own fault, or that of others, a position among other nations or classes that makes it think that what is detrimental to mankind in general is beneficial for itself. “They perished like Avars” — history repeats these words over every nation and every class that is overcome by the fatal hallucination that its interests clash with the interests of mankind in general.

If there is any difference between good and utility, it is only that the concept of good brings out very strongly the feature of constancy, durability, fertility, abundance of lasting and beneficial results, which, however, is also possessed by the concept of utility. It is precisely this feature that distinguishes it from the concepts of pleasure and enjoyment.

The object of all human desires is pleasure, but there are two kinds of sources from which we derive pleasure. One kind is associated with transient circumstances over which we have no control, or if we have, they pass off without any lasting result. The other kind is associated with facts and circumstances which are firmly embedded within us or — if they are outside of us — are present constantly for a long time. A sunny day in Saint Petersburg is a great relief, a source of innumerable pleasant sensations for the inhabitants of that city. But this sunny day is a transient phenomenon, having no foundation and leaving no lasting results in the lives of the inhabitants of Saint Petersburg. It cannot be said that that day provided utility; it provided only pleasure. Good weather in Saint Petersburg is a useful phenomenon only in those few cases, and only for a few people, when it is fairly prolonged and as a consequence creates a lasting improvement in the health of a few invalids. But whoever leaves Saint Petersburg for some place with a good climate acquires something useful with respect to his health and the enjoyment of nature, because he acquires a durable source of lasting pleasure. When a man receives an invitation to a good dinner he receives only pleasure, not something useful (and, of course, he does not even receive pleasure unless he is a gourmet). But if the man with gourmet proclivities comes into a large sum of money, he receives something useful, that is to say, the opportunity to enjoy good dinners for a long time to come.

Thus by useful things we mean the durable principles of enjoyment, so to speak. If this fundamental feature of the concept “utility” were always borne firmly in mind when that term is used, there would be absolutely no difference between utility and good. But, first, the term “utility” is sometimes applied in what might be called a frivolous manner to principles of pleasure which, while not exactly transient, are not very durable either. And second, these durable principles of enjoyment can be divided into two categories according to degree of durability: not very durable and very durable. It is this latter category that is designated by the term “good.” Good is, as it were, the superlative of utility, very useful utility. A doctor has restored to health a man a who had been suffering from a chronic illness — what did the doctor bring his patient, good or utility? Here it would be equally convenient to use either term, because the doctor brought his patient the most durable principle of enjoyment.

Our thinking tends constantly to recall external nature, which is supposed to be the only thing that comes within the purview of the natural sciences, which are supposed to embrace only one part of our knowledge and not the whole of it. We have observed, moreover, that these essays of ours indicate that we have a very cold heart, and a vulgar and low mind, which seeks in all things only utility, which pollutes everything with the quest for material grounds, which understands nothing lofty and lacks all poetic feeling. We want to mask this shameful lack of poetry our heart. We shall look for something poetic with which to ornament our essay. Influenced by the thought of the importance of the natural sciences, we set out in search of poetry in the sphere of material nature, and there we find flowers. Let us then decorate one of our dry pages a with a poetic comparison. Flowers, those enchanting sources of fragrance, those exquisite but fleeting fountains of delight to our eyes, are pleasure or enjoyment. The plant on which they grow is utility. On one plant there are many flowers; some fade, others bloom in their place. Hence, that from which many flowers grow is called a useful thing. But there are numerous annual flowering plants, and there are also rose trees and oleanders which live many years, and each year bring forth many flowers. Likewise it is by its lasting nature that good excels the other sources of pleasure that are simply called useful things and are not vouchsafed the name “good,” just as a violet is not vouchsafed the name “tree.” They belong to the same category of things, but they are not all as great and long-lasting.

The fact that the term “good” is applied to very durable sources of lasting, constant, and very numerous pleasures, of itself explains the importance that all thinking people ascribe to the good when discussing human affairs. If we think that “good is higher than utility,” we are only saying “very great utility is higher than not very great utility”; we are only expressing a mathematical truism, such as that 100 is more than 2, that an oleander bears more flowers than a violet.

The reader sees that the method of analyzing moral concepts in the spirit of the natural sciences, divesting the object of all pomposity and transferring it to the sphere of very simple and natural phenomena, places moral concepts on an unshakable foundation. If by useful we mean that which serves as a source of numerous pleasures, and by good, simply that which is very useful, no doubt whatever remains concerning the aim that is ascribed to man — not by extraneous motives or promptings, not by problematical assumptions, or by mysterious relationships to something which is still very uncertain — but simply by reason, by common sense, by the need for pleasure. That aim is the good. Only good actions are prudent; only he who is good is rational, and he is rational only to the degree that he is good. When a man is not good he is merely an imprudent wastrel who pays thousands of rubles for things that are worth kopeks, spends as much material and moral strength in acquiring little pleasure as could have enabled him to acquire ever so much more pleasure.

But in this same conception of good as very durable utility we find still another important feature, which helps us to discover precisely what phenomena and actions chiefly constitute the good. External objects, no matter how closely they may be bound to a man, nevertheless are only too often parted from him: sometimes he abandons them, sometimes they desert him. Country, kinsmen, wealth-all these things can be abandoned by man, or they can abandon him. But there is one thing he cannot possibly part from as long as he lives; there is one thing that is inseparable from him — himself. If a man can be useful to people because of his wealth, he can also cease to be useful if he loses his wealth. If, however, he is useful to other people because of his own virtues because of his own spiritual qualities, as it is usually expressed — all he can do is commit suicide; but as long as he refrains from doing that he cannot cease to be useful to other people: not to be so is beyond his strength, beyond his power. He may say to himself: I shall be wicked, I shall harm people; but he will not be able to do it, any more than a clever man could be a fool even if he wanted to.

Not only is the good done by the qualities of the man himself much more constant and lasting than the good done merely because he owns certain external objects, but the results are far greater. The good or bad use to which external objects are put is casual; all material means are as easily, and as often, used to people’s detriment as to their benefit. The rich man who uses his wealth to benefit some people in some cases, harms others, or even the same people, in other cases. For example, a rich man can give his children a good upbringing, develop their health and their minds, and impart much knowledge to them. All this would be useful to the children. But whether these things will actually be accomplished is uncertain; often they are not. On the contrary, the children of the rich often receive an upbringing that makes them weak, sickly, feeble-minded, vacuous, and pitiful; in general they acquire habits and ideas that are harmful to them. If such is the influence of wealth upon those whom the rich man cherishes most, then, of course, still more notable is the harm it does to other people who are not so dear to the rich man’s heart. Thus it must be supposed that the rich man’s wealth does more harm than good to the people who have direct relations with him.

But while it is possible to harbor some doubt as to whether the harmful influence wealth exercises upon these individuals is equal to the benefit they derive from it or, as in all probability is the case, greatly exceeds it, it is a totally indisputable fact that the wealth of individuals does far more harm than good to society as a whole. This is revealed with mathematical precision by that section of the moral sciences which began earlier than the others to be elaborated in conformity with an exact scientific system, and some of the departments of which have already been fairly well elaborated by the science of social material welfare that is usually called political economy. What we find in relation to the great ascendancy that material wealth gives some people over others, applies in an even greater degree to the concentration in the hands of individuals of another means of influencing the fate of other people which is external to the human organism — namely, power or authority. It too, in all probability, does much more harm than good even to the people who come into direct contact with it, and the influence it exercises upon society as a whole is incomparably more harmful than beneficial.

Thus, the only remaining real source of perfectly durable benefit for people from the actions of other people are the useful qualities that lie within the human organism itself. That is why it is these qualities which are designated as good, and that is why the term “good” properly applies only to man. His actions are based on feeling, on the heart, and they are directly prompted by that side of organic activity which is called “will.” Therefore, when discussing good, a special study must be made of the laws that govern the action of the heart and will. But the will is given means of gratifying the feelings of the heart by the conceptions formed by the mind, and therefore it is also necessary to pay attention to that aspect of thinking that relates to means of influencing the fate of other people. […]

But we had almost forgotten that the term “anthropological” in the title of our essay still remains unexplained. What is this “anthropological principle in the moral sciences”? The reader has seen what this principle is from the very character of these essays. It is that a man must be regarded as a single being having only one nature, that a human life must not be cut into two halves, each belonging to a different nature; that every aspect of a man’s activity must be regarded as the activity of his whole organism, from head to foot inclusively, or if it is the special function of some particular organ of the human organism we are dealing with, that organ must be regarded in its natural connection with the entire organism. […]

As for the word “anthropology,” it comes from the word “anthropos,” which means “man” — but the reader knows that without our telling him. Anthropology is a science which, no matter what part of the human vital process it may deal with, always remembers that the process as a whole, and every part of it, takes place in a human organism, that this organism is the material which produces the phenomena under examination, that the quality of the phenomena is conditioned by the properties of the material, and that the laws by which the phenomena arise are only special cases of the operation of the laws of nature.

  1. In England, the land could feed at least 150,000,000 people. The panegyrics sung in praise of the astonishing perfection of English agriculture are justified insofar as rapid improvements are taking place there, but it would be a mistake to think that the resources of science are already being sufficiently employed on wide scale. This is just beginning, and nine tenths of the cultivated land in England is still tilled by routine methods that in no way correspond to the present state of agricultural knowledge.