duties from which he withdrew by shortening his life.? Even among savages we meet with the notion that a person is not entitled to treat himself just as he pleases. Among the Goajiro Indians of Colombia, if anybody accidentally cuts himself, say with his own knife, or breaks a limb, or otherwise does himself an injury, his family on the mother's side immediately demands blood-money, since, being of their blood, he is not allowed to spill it without paying for it ; the father's relatives demand tear-money, and friends present claim compensation to repay their sorrow at seeing a friend in pain. That a similar view is sometimes taken by savages with regard to suicide appears from a few statements quoted above. The opinion that suicide is an offence against society at large is particularly likely to prevail in communities where the interests of the individual are considered entirely subordinate to the interests of the State. The religious argument, again, that suicide is a sin against the Creator, an illegitimate interference with his work and decrees, comes to prominence in proportion as the moral consciousness is influenced by theological considerations. In Europe this influence is certainly becoming less and less. And considering that the religious view of suicide has been the chief cause of the extreme severity with which it has been treated in Christian countries, I am unable to subscribe to the opinion expressed by Professor Durkheim, that the more lenient judgment

passed on it by the public conscience of the present time is merely accidental and transient. The argument adduced in support of this opinion leaves out of account the real causes to which the valuation of suicide is due : it is said that the moral evolution is not likely to be retrogressive in this particular point after it has followed



English lawyers have represented suicide as an offence both against God and against the sovereign, who “has an interest in the preservation of all his subjects” (Plowden, Commentaries, i. 261 ; Blackstone, Commentaries on

the Laws of England, iv. 190. Cf.
Ives, op. cit. p. 40 sq.).
2 Simons,

Exploration of the
Goajira Peninsul in Proceed. Roy.
Geo. Soc. N. Ser. vii. 790.

3 Supra, ii. 240 sq.


a certain course for centuries." It is true that moral progress has a tendency to increase our sense of duty towards our fellow-men. But at the same time it also makes us more considerate as regards the motives of conduct ; and not to speak of suicides committed for the benefit of others—the despair of the self-murderer will largely serve as a palliation of the wrong which he may possibly inflict upon his neighbour.

1 Durkheim, Le suicide, p. 377





ACCORDING to current ideas men owe to themselves a variety of duties similar in kind to those which they owe to their fellow-creatures. They are not only forbidden to take their own lives, but are also in some measure considered to be under an obligation to support their existence, to take care of their bodies, to preserve a certain amount of personal freedom, not to waste their property, to exhibit self-respect, and in general, to promote their own happiness. And closely related to these self-regarding duties there are self-regarding virtues, such as diligence, thrift, temperance. In all these cases, however, the moral judgment is greatly influenced by the question whether the act, forbearance, or omission, which increases the person's own welfare, conflicts or not with the interests of other people. If it does conflict, opinions vary as to the degree of selfishness which is recognised as allowable. But judgments containing moral praise or the inculcation of duty are most commonly passed upon conduct which involves some degree of self-sacrifice, not on such as involves self-indulgence.

Moreover, the duties which we owe to ourselves are generally much less emphasised than those which we owe to others. “Nature,” says Butler, “has not given us so

” sensible a disapprobation of imprudence and folly, either in ourselves or others, as of falsehood, injustice, and



cruelty.”? Nor does a prudential virtue receive the same praise as one springing from a desire to promote the happiness of a fellow man. Many moralists even maintain that, properly speaking, there are no self-regarding duties and virtues at all; that useful action which is useful to ourselves alone is not matter for moral notice ; that in every case duties towards one's self may be reduced into duties towards others ; that intemperance and extravagant luxury, for instance, are blamable only because they tend to the public detriment, and that prudence is a virtue only

a in so far as it is employed in promoting public interest.? But this opinion is hardly in agreement with the ordinary moral consciousness.

It is undoubtedly true that no mode of conduct is exclusively self-regarding. No man is an entirely isolated being, hence anything which immediately affects a person's own welfare affects at the same time, in some degree, the welfare of other individuals. It is also true that the moral ideas concerning such conduct as is called selfregarding are more or less influenced by considerations as to its bearing upon others. But this is certainly not the only factor which determines the judgment passed on it. In the education of children various modes of self-regarding conduct are strenuously insisted upon by parents and teachers. What they censure or punish is regarded as wrong, what they praise or reward is regarded as good ; for, as we have noticed above, men have a tendency to sympathise with the retributive emotions of persons for whom they feel regard. Moreover, as in the case of suicide, 4 so also in other instances of self-inflicted harm, the injury committed may excite sympathetic resentment towards the agent, although the victim of it is his own self. Disinterested likings or dislikes often give rise to moral

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approval or disapproval of conduct which is essentially self-regarding. It has also been argued that no man has a right to trifle with his own well-being even where other persons' interests are not visibly affected by it, for the reason that he is not entitled wantonly to waste “what is not at his unconditional disposal.”? And in various other ways—as will be seen directly-religious, as well as magic, ideas have influenced moral opinions relating to selfregarding conduct. But at the same time it is not difficult to see why self-regarding duties and virtues only occupy a subordinate place in our moral consciousness. The influence they exercise upon other persons' welfare is generally too remote to attract much attention. In education there is no need to emphasise any other self-regarding duties and virtues but those which, for the sake of the individual's general welfare, require some sacrifice of his immediate comfort or happiness. The compassion which we are apt to feel for the victim of an injury is naturally lessened by the fact that it is self-inflicted. And, on the other hand, indignation against the offender is disarmed by pity, imprudence commonly carrying its own punishment along with it.

Being so little noticed by custom and public opinion, and stiil less by law, most self-regarding duties hardly admit of a detailed treatment. In a general way it may be said that progress in intellectual culture has, in some respects, been favourable to their evolution ; Darwin even maintains that, with a few exceptions, self-regarding virtues are not esteemed by savages. The less developed the intellect, the less apt it is to recognise the remoter consequences of men's behaviour ; hence more reflection than that exercised by the savage may be needed to see that modes of conduct which immediately concern a person's own welfare at the same time affect the well-being


1 Cf. supra, i. 116 sq.

9 Martineau, Types of Ethical Theory, ii. 126.

3 Cf. Butler, op. cit. p. 339, 39;,; Dugald Stewart, Philosophy of the

Active and Moral Powers of Man, ii. 346 sq.

4 Darwin, Descent of Man, p. 118 sg

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