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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [April 1871?]1



My dear Father,

Mill says about 13 way thro’ the last chapter of Utilitarianism that the feeling of justice grows out of the impulse of self defense, and the feeling of sympathy. He says it is not necessary to discuss the origin of the feeling of sympathy, “but that whether it be an instinct or the result of intelligence that it is Common to all animal nature”. and this becomes social sympathy in man;2 but from that passage & from the rest of the passage from which you quote “that the social feelings are a powerful natural sentiment &c” it seems to me that he considers the social feeling in man the result of association and depending upon intellect to a great extent.3 It is very extraordinary that he should recognize the social instincts to be natural to Animals, which he can hardly put down to intellect, and should consider them almost entirely the result of intellect & association in man. Whether he would allow anything innate in the social feelings or not the passage you quote shews that he considers the moral feelings not to be innate; but as a little further on he says that “the moral faculty if not a part of our nature is a natural outgrowth from it capable like the other acquired faculties in a certain small degree of springing up spontaneously”, he must have been very close to allowing the moral faculty to be inheritable, but rather in a muddle on the whole subject4

your affect son | W E Darwin


The date is conjectured from the relationship between this letter, the letter to John Morley, 14 April [1871], and the letter from John Morley, 17 April 1871.
William refers to John Stuart Mill and Mill 1864, pp. 76–7.
William refers to Descent 1: 71 n. 5 and Mill 1864, p. 46.
William refers to Descent 1: 71 n. 5 and Mill 1864, p. 45. CD also discussed this passage in his letter to John Morley, 14 April [1871].


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Mill, John Stuart. 1864. Utilitarianism. 2d edition. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green.


J. S. Mill’s account of the moral sense in Utilitarianism [1863] appears muddled. [See Descent 1: 71 n.]

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 88: 76–7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7048,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19