Social Ethics: Sociology and the Future of Society

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman; Michael R. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
AS TO “THE ORIGIN OF EVIL”

HERE IS humanity, developing naturally, like any other organism, but modified, artificially, like no other organism.

Here are we, with all our splendid intelligence, our power of communication, our long, recorded history, our wide knowledge, and our tremendous accumulated social energy which we call the human will.

It would seem as if we, above all forms of life, should leap forward, growing in a smooth, swift current with ever better and higher degrees of power and happiness.

Quite the contrary is our record.

Our behavior throughout history is a matter of wonder and shame to the few people who have the intelligence to see it as a whole. We behave, not better than other animals, but worse—far worse.

It is precisely because of and in order to correct our remarkable misbehavior that religion after religion has poured its light upon us—lights of varying color, varying power, and, of whatever quality, always submerged in the continuing misbehavior of the people.

This prominent and painful fact has stirred the philosopher in all ages, its cause being discussed in deepest perplexity as “The Origin of Evil.”

The evil referred to is not in the accidents and difficulties of nature, but in our own acts. We have not dogmatized about the evils of the world about us, but have striven to understand them, overcome them, avoid them. We make shelters, fires and clothing against the cold and

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