LAW of NATURE
Containing the Preliminary Parts of that Knowledge.
Of the Origine and the Variety of MORAL ENTITIES.
IT was the Business of the First and Highest Philosophy *, and that by which alone it could fully answer the Design of its Name and Institution, to deliver the most Comprehensive Definitions of Things, and to rank them agreeably under their proper Classes, subjoining the General Nature and Condition of every sort of Beings. Now as the Series of Natural Things hath been fairly enough regulated by those who have hitherto apply'd themselves to the adorning of that Science, so it is evident that Men have not been equally sollicitous about constituting the Entia Moralia, or Moral Entities, nor treated them with that Respect which their Dignity requir'd. Many Authors seem never so much as to have thought on them; others only touch them lightly over, as idle Fictions of no use or moment in the World. When at the same time, it was highly expedient that they should be fully understood by Mankind, who are endu'd with the power of producing them, and through whose whole Lives and Conducts their Force and Activity is diffus'd. This Reflexion obligeth us to premise somewhat on a part of Knowledge generally neglected; so far as shall seem requisite to illustrate our Principal Undertaking. Especially left our Definitions of Moral Things should, either upon account of their Obscurity, or of their Novelty, prove a Stop to the Reader, who perhaps in common Treatises hath rarely met with the like Terms. And here, if those who have been bred up in the nicer Delicacies of Letters, shall disdain our Endeavours of this kind, and cast a censorious Frown on Words unknown to Ancient Eloquence, we only petition them for this Favour; that as we often pardon the Impertinencies of their over-scrupulous Exactness, so they would be pleas'd to grant us the like Toleration, whilst we profess a closer regard to the strict Severity of things, than to the Exterior Ornaments of Speech. For how to express our selves with more Advantage about these Matters we are yet to seek; unless by tedious Circumlocutions we would leave them more obscure and more perplex'd than we found them. Against the Charge of Novelty Tully himself will be our Advocate: New Names (says (a) he, are to be apply'd to new things: nor is this to be wonder'd at by any Man of ordinary Knowledge, when he considers, that in every Art and Craft not vulgarly understood, there is a Variety of Terms coin'd for that particular Subject. And then giving Examples in the Liberal and Mechanic Arts, he concludes; a Philosopher of All Men hath an especial Right to this Privilege; for Philosophy is the Art of Life, and he that would undertake to explain its Rules, cannot, from the common currency of words, find stock enough to answer his Occasions (b). But he that can upon no account digest such Harshness of Stile, is left at his Liberty to turn but of these rougher Tracts, and to pass immediately to a Field or more Smoothness and Pleasure.
* The Metaphysicks.
(a) See Finib. l. 3.
(b) We find Maniltus using the like Excuse: L. III.
Ornari res ipsa negat, contenta doceri: Et si qua externâ referantur nomina linguâ, Hoc operis, non vatis erit: non omnia flecti Possunt, & propriâ melius sub voce notantur.
Nor hope sweet Verse and curious Turns to find: I'll leave thy Passions, and instruct thy Mind,
And though some Words of foreign stamp appear, Seem harsh, untun'd, uneasie to thy Ear, This is the Subject's, not the Writer's Fault: Some things are stiff, and will not yield to thought. I must be plain: and if our Art hath found Expressions proper, it neglects the sound.
II. All the Beings which compose this Universe, as they consist of such Principles as were by the most wise Creator temper'd and fitted for Reproducing of each particular Essence; so they have every one of them their proper Assertions arising from the Disposition and Aptitude of their Substance, and exerting themselves in agreeable Actions, according to that portion of strength which their Divine Author and Founder hath imprinted on them. These Affections we now usually call Natural, since the Term Nature hath been extended so far, as to denote not only the General Mass of things, but also the Modes and Acts flowing from the internal force of their Constitution, by which is produc'd that infinite Variety of Motions which turns and manages all the Business of our World. Those Things which exercise their Operations either without any Sense at all, or with pure down-right Sense, or with such as is assisted by very imperfect Reflexion, are guided by the sole Instinct of Nature, and are unable to govern their Actions by any Rules or Modes of their own Invention. But Man, who besides his excellent Form and most accurate Contexture of Body, fitting him for the noblest and the quickest Offices of Life and Motion; is endu'd with a singular Light of Understanding, by the help of which he is able most exactly to comprehend and to compare Things, to gather the Knowledge of Obscurities from Points already settled, and to judge of the Agreement which Matters bear to each other, and hath also the Liberty of exerting, suspending, or moderating his Actions, without being confin'd to any necessary Course and Method; Man, we say, is farther inverted with the Privilege of inventing and applying new Helps to each Faculty, for the more easie Regulation of its Proceedings. To consider what numberless Modes and Notions have been introduc'd for the assistance of the Understanding, and for preventing the Confusion which might arise from the undistinguish'd Vastness of its Objects, is the Province of another sort of Enquirers. Our Business is to declare, how, chiefly for the direction of the Will, a certain kind of Attributes have been imposed on Natural Things and Motions; whence there springs up a peculiar Agreement and Conveniency in the Actions of Mankind, a grateful Order and Comeliness for the Ornament of Human Life. And these Attributes are call'd Moral Entities, because the Manners and the Actions of Men are judg'd and temper'd with relation to them; and do hence assume a Face and Habit different from the horrid Stupidity of the Dumb Creation.
III. We may define our Moral Entities to be Certain Modes superadded to Natural Things and Motions, by Understanding Beings; chiefly for the guiding and tempering the freedom of Voluntary Actions, and for the procuring of a decent Regularity in the Method of Life. We call them Modes, because we conceive Ens or Being in General to be more conveniently divided at large, into Substance, and Mode, than into Substance and Accident, And as Mode is contradistinguish'd to Substance, so it is manifest, that Moral Entities have no self subsistence, but are founded in Substances and in their Motions, and do only affect them after a certain manner. Of Modes, some flow as it were naturally from the things themselves, others are superadded by the Intervention of an intelligent Power. For whatever is endu'd with Understanding, can from the reflex Knowledge of things, and from comparing them with one another, form such Notions as may prove very serviceable in the direction of an agreeable and consistent Faculty. Moral Entities are of this kind; the Original of which is justly to be referr'd to Almighty GOD, who would not that Men should pass their Life like Beasts, without Culture and without Rule; but that they and their Actions should be moderated by settled Maxims and Principles; which could not he effected without the Application of such Terms and Notions. But the greatest part of them were afterwards added at the pleasure of Men, as they found it expedient to bring them in, for the polishing and the methodising of Common Life. And from hence the End of them is plainly to be discover'd, which is not, like that of Natural Beings, the Perfection of the Universe, but the particular Perfection of Human Conduct: as Superior to Brutal, in being capable of regular Beauty and Grace: that thus in so inconstant a Subject as the Motions of Mens Minds, an agreeable Elegance and Harmony might be produc'd.
IV. As the Original way of producing Natural Entities is by Creation, so the manner of framing Moral Entities cannot be better express'd than by the Term of Imposition. For these do not proceed from Principles ingraffed in the Substance of things, but are added, at the Pleasure of intelligent Creatures, to Beings already perfect in a Natural Sense, and to the real Productions of those Beings; and consequently obtain their whole Existence from the determination of their Authors. The same Power assigns them such and such Effects, which, when it sees convenient, it can destroy without causing any Natural Alteration in the Subject to which they were apply'd. Hence, their force and ability of Operation doth not consist in this, that they can by their internal efficacy produce any Natural Motion or Change in Things, without the intervention of other Causes; but, partly in shewing Men, how they ought to govern their Freedom of Action, and chiefly in making them capable of receiving Benefit or Injury, and of exercising several Works towards other Persons, with some peculiar Effect. And the efficacy of Moral Entities produc'd by Almighty God flows from this Principle, that he by his Right of Creation, hath the Power of circumscribing within proper Limits that Liberty of Will with which he indulg'd Mankind, and when it grows refractory, of turning it which way soever he pleaseth, by the force of some threatned Evil: Men like wise were impower'd to give a force to their Inventions of the same kind; by threatning some Inconvenience, which their strength was able to make good, against those who should not act conformably to them.
V. Since then Moral Entities were instituted for the regulation of Mens Lives, to which End it is necessary that those who are to observe this Rule should bear some settled Relations to one another, should govern their Actions by a fixt Method, and, lastly, should act with determinate respects and titles about such Goods and Possessions as the Occasions of Life require; we may hence conceive them to be principally inherent in Men, and in the Actions of Men, and likewise, after a sort, in Things, which Nature, either by her own Strength, or with the assistance of Human Industry may produce. But though it would be no absurdity to state their Division according to these three Heads or Subjects, yet it seems a more exact method to make the Classes of Natural Entities our Patterns in digesting the Moral Not only because the former have mote engag'd the Studies of Philosophical Men, and being compar'd with the latter, cast a considerable share of their own light and evidence upon them; but likewise because our Understandings are so immers'd in Corporeal Images, as to be hardly capable of apprehending such Moral Beings any otherwise than by their Analogy to those of Nature.
VI. Now though Moral Entities do not subsist of themselves, and for that reason ought not, in general, to be rank'd under the Class of Substances, but of Modes; yet we find many of them to be conceiv'd in the manner of Substances, because other Moral Things seem to be immediately founded in them, just as Quantities and Qualities inhere in the real Substance of Bodies. Farther, as Natural Substances suppose some kind of Space, in which they fix their Existence, and exercise their Motions; so in allusion to these, Moral Persons are especially said to be in some State, which in like mariner contains them, and in which they perform their Operations.
Hence a State may not improperly be defin'd a Moral Entity fram'd and taken up on account of the Analogy it bears to Space. And as Space seems no Principal and Original Being, but is devis'd, to be, as it were, spread under other Things, to hold and to sustain them in some particular manner; so the several States were not introduc'd for their own sakes, but to make a Field for Moral Persons to exist in. Yet there is indeed this difference between State and Space, that the latter is a kind of immoveable Substance extended primarily and of it self, and which might still subsist if all the Natural Things which now fill it, were remov'd: But States, (and all other Moral Beings, consider'd formally as such) obtain no higher Condition than that of Modes or Attributes; so that upon taking away the Persons suppos'd to be in such a State, the State it self is in manifest danger of losing its own existence.
VII. There are two sorts of Spaces, one according to which things are said to be in a place, which the Logicians call Ubi, as here, there, &c. and another according to which they are pronounc'd to be in time, which they call Quando, as Yesterday, to Day, to Morrow, &c. In the same manner we may conceive a double Notion of State, one which denotes a Moral Ubi, and bears an Analogy to Place; and other which includes a respect to Time, signifying the application of some Moral Effect to Persons existing in such a Time. The former State, which hath a relation to Place, may be consider'd either Undeterminately, as it results only from Moral Qualities, or Determinately as it supposeth a dependance on Moral Quantities, and on Comparison. The State of Man consider'd undeterminately, is either Natural or Adventitious. We use the word Natural, not because such a State flows from the internal Principles of Human Essence antecedent to the Power of Imposition, but because it was impos'd by GOD himself, not by Man, and affects us immediately upon our Nativity. We are wont to consider the Natural State of Man, either absolutely or with relation to other Men. The former Notion, 'till we can find a more convenient Term, we may express by the word Humanity, importing that Condition in which Man is plac'd by his Creator, who hath been pleas'd to endue him with Excellencies and Advantages in a high degree above all other Animate Beings (c). Of which State this Principle is a direct Consequence, that Man ought to be a Creature acknowledging and worshipping his Divine Author, and admiring his Works; and that 'tis expected he should maintain a Course of Life, far different from that of Brutes. To this State is oppos'd the Life and the Condition of Irrational Animals.
(c) Cicero Off. 1. Nature hath given us a Person and Character to sustain in a Degree of Excellence, far above any other Creatures.
Since then the very being a Man is a State, obliging to certain Duties, and giving a Title to certain Rights, it cannot be out of the way to consider the precise point of Time at which particular Persons may be said to enter on such a State. And this we conceive ought to be fix'd on the very first Moment when any one may be truly call'd a Man, though he as yet want those Perfections which will follow his Nature in a longer Course: that is, whensoever he begins to enjoy Life and Sense, though his Mother hath not yet deliver'd him into the World. Now because the Obligations cannot be fulfill'd by him, without he understand his own Nature and the Ways of Working, they for that Reason do not actually exert their force,'till he is able to square his Actions by some Rule, and to distinguish them by their proper Differences. But the Rights, on the contrary, date their Validity from the very beginning of our Being, in as much as they engage other Persons, already arriv'd at the full use of Reason, to such and such Performances towards us, and may turn to our Benefit, even whilst we are incapable of apprehending the Favour. Hence, it being a General Right and Privilege of all Men not to be Hurt by Others, if the Body of a Ftus in the Womb should suffer any unlawful Violence, the Injury is not only done to the Parents, but to the Child; who, we suppose, may in his own Name demand Justice on that score, when he is grown up to a Knowlege of the Action. But before the Imperfect Materials have acquir'd an Human Form in the Womb, if any one should dissipate or destroy them, he can't properly be term'd Injurious with regard to that sensless Mass; though he hath indeed broken the Law of Nature, by intercepting a Member of Human Society, and hath done an Injury to the Commonwealth and to the Parents, by depriving them of their promis'd Citizen and Offspring.
The Natural State of Man consider'd with relation to other Men, is that which affects us upon the bare account of an Universal Kindred, resulting from the Similitude of our Nature, antecedent to any Human Act or Covenant, by which One Man is rendred peculiarly obnoxious to the power of Another. According to which sense, those Persons are said to live in a State of Nature, who neither obey one Common Master, nor are at all subject one to the other, nor have any acquaintance by the means of Benefits or of Injuries. To which may be added a third Notion of a Natural State, as it abstracts from all Inventions and Institutions brought in, either by Human Industry, or by Divine Revelation, for the Grace and the Conveniency of Life.
The Adventitious State is that which obligeth Men at, or after the Birth, by the Authority of some Human Constitution; the Divisions of which will be better settled hereafter.
But we ought to observe, by the way, that there's no Reason why People should imagine a State of Nature in the Sense but now deliver'd to be a thing that never was or can be in the World; because there was never any set of Men joyn'd together barely by that Similitude of Nature, as it abstracts from Consanguinity; Eve being knit to Adam in the Conjugal Tie, and all their numerous Descendants being closely united and alli'd by the Communion of Blood and Affinity of Race. For we must know, that the Bond arising from nearness of Birth, doth by degrees wear out, amongst Persons remov'd at a great distance from the Common Stock, nor is esteem'd of any farther force, when once got beyond the reach of those several Appellations and Terms which Mankind have invented to express it by, And therefore such a State, though it did not appear at the Commencement of Human Race, arose afterwards in a longer Tract of Time, when the Memory of the Universal Root, and the Sense of the Relation springing from it, were sunk out of the Thoughts and Minds of Men.
VIII. But although every State supposeth, in the Person whom it affects, a respect: and disposition towards others, in as much as it is attended with some Right, or some Obligation, neither of which we can conceive without an Object to employ their force upon; yet some kinds of States no more expresly include and denote a relation towards other Men, whilst they signifie the manner and process by which the Mutual Business of Mortals is on both sides manag'd and transacted. Of this sort the most signal and material are Peace and War, which two States Libanius says, comprehend all the Affairs and all the Conduct of Life, Peace is that State by which Men live quietly together without the disturbance of Violence or Injuries, and voluntarily discharge their Mutual Duties, as Matters of necessary Obligation. War, on the other hand, is a State of Men mutually engag'd in offering and repelling Injuries, or endeavouring forcibly to recover their Dues. Peace may be divided into Common and Particular; the former such as is maintain'd amongst Men by Duties flowing purely from the Law of Nature; the latter such as derives its force from express Covenants and Leagues, binding both sides to agreeable Performances: This again is branched into Internal and External, the one between Members of the same Commonwealth, the other regarding Persons of different Countries and Governments, whether as Common Friends, or as Special Confederates and Allies. A Common or Universal War ingaging all Mankind at the same time, is an impossible Supposition; this being a direct Consequence of the state of Beasts. Particular War is either Internal and Civil, or External; that between Members of the same, this between those of different Communities. When the Acts of War are suspended, though the State still continue, such a Cessation is call'd a Truce.
IX. States are said to be consider'd determinately, when we measure them according to the high or low degree of Esteem which attends them; or accounting as they are reckon'd more or less honourable. For since peculiar Rights and Obligations accompany each State, every one obtains a larger share of Splendor and Credit, either as Rights are more numerous and more forcible; or as its Obligations are directed towards the performance of such Works as require a singular ability of Parts and Will. On the other hand, those which demand only dull Pains and Labour of Body, are in very little Value and Repute.
X. The latter sort of State, which, in our General Division, we settled with relation to Time in conjunction with some Moral Effect, may be divided, first into Seniority and Juniority; but which are consider'd, either with respect to the duration of Human Existence, and are then call'd Age, the degrees of which are Infancy, Chil[d]hood, Puberty, Youth, Manhood, fix't Age, Declining, Old, and Decrepit Age: or, with regard to some adventitious State, according as a Man hath continued a longer or a shorter time in it. Secondly, Into Plen-age, when One is presum'd able by his own Strength and Discretion to manage his Affairs; and Non-age, when a Person hath need of a Tutor or Guardian, because he is suppos'd, upon account of weakness of Judgment, incapable of dextrously prosecuting his own Business. The limits of this State are different, according to the various Constitutions and Customs of Nations.
Different from Non-age is what we may call an Age capable of meditated Guile; the bounds of which it is likewise impossible to assign. Ælian in his Various History (d) relates a very remarkable way of discovering such an early Deceit. A Boy, having taken up a Golden Plate dropt out of Diana's Crown, was Indicted in Court: The Judges order'd a pack of trifling Play-things to be laid upon the Board, and amongst these a Plate of Gold, and bid the Boy chuse which he lik'd best; who again laying hands on the Gold, was condemn'd as guilty of the former Sacrilege.
(d) Lib. 5. cap. 16.
XI. Before we proceed to other Matters, it seems necessary for us to observe, that, through Scarcity of Words we are frequently compell'd to express, by the same term, the State it self, and the Atribute proper to such a State; though they are really distinct, and form different Conceptions in our Minds (e). Thus, to give an instance, Liberty is us'd as well for a State with analogy to Space, as for a faculty of working with resemblance to an Active Quality. And so Nobility, sometimes expresseth a State, sometimes an Attribute or Affection of the Person in such a State, in the manner of a Positive Quality. So likewise the word Truce denotes both the State of Peace and the Manner of Settling it.
(e) Senec. de Benef. l. 2. c. 34. There is a vast multitude of things which have no peculiar words fix'd upon them; and these we express not by proper, but by forreign and borrow'd Names.
Nor must we forget to hint, that as one Person may he at the same time engag'd in several States, provided that the Obligations of those States do not interfere with one another, so the Obligations adhering to one particular State, may, according to different Parts, be deriv'd from different Principles. And therefore he that only collects the Obligations flowing from a single Principle, and omits the rest, doth not presently form a distinct State incapable of other Obligations besides those which he hath taken notice of. Thus he that gathers several parts of the Office of Priests purely from the Holy Scriptures, doth not in the least deny, but that they are likewise bound to such Performances as the
Constitutions of particular Governments shall farther enjoyn. So we that profess in this Work to treat only of those Duties of Men which the Light of Reason shews to be necessary, do not at all pretend that there ever was, or now is, or ought to be such a State in which those Obligations only should prevail, exclusive of all others. Nay, it would be almost a needless disqui[si]tion to search, whether such a State of Men was once so much as likely to have been in the World. For the Assertion which some so confidently lay down, could never yet be clearly made out. That if Man bad continued in his Primitive Holiness, the Law of Nature alone, as it govern'd him at first, so should have continued it's way, except that one or two Positive Commands might probably have been added to it.We may justly question, whether Mankind, although untainted with Sin, should have always pass'd their Time in the Compass of a single Garden, sustaining themselves with the Fruits of Spontaneous growth, and not have cultivated and adorn'd their ways of living, by Industrious Management, and by Variety of Arts and Inventions. For what prejudice could it have been to their Original Innocence and Integrity, if upon the Multiplication of Human ace, they had divided into separate Societies in the forms of Commonwealths? And what Notion can we frame of such Societies without the Addition of Positive Laws and Constitutions?
XII. Moral Entities, fram'd with Analogy to Substances, are call'd Moral Persons; which are either particular Men, or several joyn'd in one Body by some Moral Tie, consider'd with the State and Office which they maintain in Common Life, Moral Persons are either Simple or Compound. The Simple, according to the difference of their Posts and Employments, are either Publick or Private; as their Duty is immediately apply'd, either to the Benefit of Civil Society, or to the particular Advantage of every Private Member. Publick Persons by the General Custom of the Christian World, are divided into Civil and Ecclesiastical. The former are either Principal or Inferior. Of Principal Persons, some administer Affairs with a Supreme Power; others either execute some part of the Administration by Commission from the Supreme Power, who are properly call'd Magistrates, or else assist with their Advice and Counsel in the Management of the Commonwealth. The Inferior perform a less Noble Service to the Community, and act under the Magistrates, with respect to their Publick Capacity. In War the Officers, whether of higher or lower Commissions, answer to Magistrates, and are assisted, in Subordination, by the Common Soldiers. We reckon Men of that Profession amongst Publick Persons, in as much as they are authoriz'd by the Supream Power, either immediately or mediately, to bear Arms in the Service of the Commonwealth.
There is likewise a peculiar Species of Politick Persons, which we may stile Representatives, because they sustain the Character of other Persons: such as, being invested with the power and authority of acting by Another, do in his room transact Business with the same force and validity, as if he himself had manag'd it. Of this kind are Legates, Vicars, Burgesses, &c.
A new distinction hath been brought in of late, between Ministers of a Representative Character, who are Ambassadors properly so call'd:, and Ministers of the second Order, as Envoyes or Residents, who do not, like the former, express the full Power and Grandeur of their Masters (f.)
(f) Vide Memoirs touchant les Ambassadeurs, p. 542.
With resemblance to these Publick Representatives, Tutors and Guardians are concern'd for Private Persons, as they manage Affairs in behalf of the Pupils or Minors given them in charge.
On this Point Mr. Hobbes (g) is mistaken, when he will have it frequently to happen in Communities, that a Man shall bear the Person of an Inanimate Thing, which therefore is it self not properly a Person; as suppose of a Church, a Hospital, a Bridge, &c. For there appears no Necessity of introducing a Fiction of Law to constitute Persons by whom any of these should be represented. It being more Natural to say in plain Terms, that particular Men are impower'd by the Community, to collect the Revenue, setled for the preserving of such Places or Things, and to carry on and sustain any Suits that shall arise on those Accounts.
(g) Leviath, cap, 16.
The Variety and Division of Ecclesiastical Persons is obvious to every Man, according to the particular Religion in which he hath been bred up. Nor can any Man of Letters be at a loss to apprehend what kinds of Persons are founded in the Management of Schools.
Private Persons are of a vast latitude and extent; yet their principal differences may be taken first from their Business, Craft, or Trade, which imploys their Pains, and exhibits their Livelyhood: and these are either Creditable and Gentile, or such as seem to carry in them more Business or Drudgery. Secondly, From the Condition, or, as we may say, the Moral Situation which any one obtains in a Community; in which respect one is a Citizen, with more or less Privileges. Another a Sojourner, and a third a Stranger. Fourthly, From the Place in a Family, upon which account one is said to be a Housholder, which may comprehend the Person of a Husband, a Father, and a Master; another is call'd a Wife, another a Son, another a Servant: These may pass for the ordinary Members of a Family; the extraordinary are Guests and Lodgers. Fourthly, Upon account of Race and Birth; whence arise Nobles, (divided into different degrees in different Countries,) and Plebeians, Fifthly, From Sex and Age, whence come the differences of Man and Woman, and the distinctions founded in Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age. For though the diversity of Sex and Number of Years are not of External Imposition, yet in the method of a Social Life, they involve some kind of Moral Notion; in as much as different Actions are becoming in different Sexes, and Persons of various Ages require a various Treatment and Application.
XIII. A Compound. Moral Person is then constituted, when several Individual Men are so united together, that what they will or act by virtue of that Union, is esteem'd a single Will and a single Act, and no more. And this is suppos'd to be done, when the particular Members submit their Wills to the Will of one Man, or of one Council, in such a manner as to acknowlege, and to desire others to acknowlege, for the Common Act and Determination of them All, whatever that Man or that Council shall decree or perform, in Matters which properly concern such an Union, and are agreeable to the end and the intention of it. Hence it comes to pass, that whereas in other Cases, when many Men will or act any thing, we conceive so many distinct Wills and Acts as there are in number Natural Persons, or Human Individuals; yet when they close and form a Compound Person, they are suppos'd to have but a single Will, and and every Action which they perform is construed as one only, although a number of Natural Individuals concurs in its production. And hence such a Compound Person doth and ought to obtain some particular Goods and Rights which none of the Members, in their private and separate quality, can claim or arrogate to themselves.
Here also we must remark, that as Natural Bodies continue the same, although in length of Time, by slow and silent degrees they receive a considerable alteration from the various accessions and desertions of their Particles; so by the particular Succession of Individuals, the Identity of the Compound Person is not injur'd: unless at one and the same time such a Change should arrive, as would entirely take away the Nature and Constitution of that United Body. On which Point we shall be more large in another part of our Work.
Compound Moral Persons or Societies, may, after the manner of single Persons, be divided into Publick and Private. And the former again are subdivided into Sacred and Civil. Of the Sacred, some we may call General, as is the Catholick Church, and likewise any particular Church, whether comprehended within the Bounds of such a Nation, or distinguish't from others by Publick Forms of Confession. Others peculiar, as are Councils, Synods, Consistories, Presbyteries, &c. Civil Societies are also either General as a Commonwealth, of which there are many Species, as Simple, Compound, Regular and Irregular; or particular as a Senate, an Order of Knights, a Tribe, a Parliament, &c. Armies may be call'd Military Societies, and consist of Legions or Regiments, Troops, Cohorts, Companies, &c.
Amongst Private Societies we do not only reckon Families, but all the Colleges or Corporations in a Kingdom or a City, as those of the Merchants, of the Artificers, and the like. To make a minute Catalogue of every Species we think unnecessary to our present Design.
XIV. Concerning the Nature of simple Moral Persons, we have this farther to observe, That as one and the same Man may be in several States together, provided they do not clash with each other, so he may sustain several Persons together, upon supposition that the Duties attending those Persons may be perform'd together by him. For though upon a natural account One cannot be both a Husband and a Wife, both a Son and a Daughter; nor in a Moral Consideration, at the same time, a Master and a Servant, a Judge and a Prisoner, a Party and a Witness; yet nothing hinders why the same Man may not be, (for Example) at home a Housholder, a Senator in Parliament, an Advocate in the Halls of Justice, and a Counsellor at Court. In as much as those particular Offices do not require and engage the whole Man; but may, at different times, be all conveniently administred (h). And upon this Principle the wiser Heathens undertook to defend Polytheism (i), which they knew well enough was contrary to Reason: for their excuse was, they only conceiv'd such a Number of Persons in the same Supreme Being, as might answer the variety of Operations which proceeded from his Essence and Nature (k).
(h) Cicero. Off. 1. We must understand, that we are by Nature invested, as it were, with two Persons or Capacities, one Comman to Mankind, on account of our being partakers of Reason, and of that Excellence by which we surpass the Beasts: the other proper to particular Men. A third is cast upon us by Time or Chance: A fourth we undertake and accommodate to our selves by our own Judgment.
Idem de Oratore. I sustain three Persons at the same time; mine own, the Adversary's, and the Judge's.
(i) Senec. de Benef. I. 4. c. 7. There may be so many Appellations of GOD, as there are Employments.
(k) Maxim. Tyrius. Dissert. 21. The GOD's are one in Nature, though many in Name. But we, such is our Ignorance, assign them different Titles according to the different Helps and Favours which they afford Mankind.
It's very plain from the Name and the Notion of Imposition, that when a Man enters on the Capacity of a new Person, there is no Natural Change produc'd in him, no Generation of new Natural Qualities, no Augmentation of old ones: but whatever accrues to him from this Relation, is comprehended within the Sphere of Moral Things. So when a Man's declar'd Consul, he is made ne're the Wiser, nor when he lays down his Office doth he lay down any of his Parts with it. Though some have observ'd, that the Splendor of Man's Dignity hath frequently a strong influence on their Actions, and that many Men have made very different Figures in a Publick and in a Private Station. But we may reckon these Fancies amongst the Common deceptions of Sight, occasion'd by gaudy Pomp and Shew. The Case being much the same, as when Country People imagine the Name and Title of Doctor to have some share in the force and the success of a Prescription (l). Except indeed, that some kinds of Parts and Dispositions are rouz'd and enliven'd by Business; and on the contrary, lye dormant in a State of Ease (m). Yet there is no question to be made, but that when God Almighty imposeth a peculiar Charge and Person on any Man, he can, and often doth indue him with extraordinary Qualities, beyond the Measure of Moral Acquirements; as is evident from the Holy Scriptures (n).
Caussidicum, vendunt amethystina; convenit illis,
Et strepitu & facie majores vivere censûs.
(m) Vide Corn. Nep. Alcibiad. c. 1.
(n) Vide Exod. III, IV. Deut. XXXIV. 9. 1 Sam. X. 6, 9. Matth. X.1, 19, 20.
From what hath been offer'd on this Subject it appears that the Jews heretofore attributed too large effects to their Regeneration, by which the new Person of a Proselyte of Justice was impos'd on a Gentile: as when they affirm'd that there was no force remaining in his former Kindred; that he ought not to esteem or use as Relations his Brethren, Sisters, or Parents; nor his Children begotten in his first Condition (o). The Cause of this Error was their absurd Belief that a new Soul was infus'd into the Proselyte.
(o) Vide Selden de J. N. & G. 1. 2. c. 4.
XV. It may not be amiss, in the last place, to observe, that Men sometimes frame a kind of Shadows or Images of Moral Persons, for the representing of them in Sport and Jest. Whence it came to pass that the term of Person hath been peculiarly challeng'd by the Stage. The essence of a Signed Person consists in this, that the Habit, Gesture, and Speech of another real Person be handsomly express'd: Thus the whole Procedure bears only a Countenance of Mirth, and whatever such a fictitious Actor says or does, leaves no Moral Effect behind it, and is valu'd only according to the Dexterity and Artifice of the Performance. For which reason we may, by the way, justly wonder why Peter Bishop of Alexandria approv'd of the Baptism which Athanasius, when a little Boy had administred to one of his Play-fellows (p).
(p) Sozomen. 1. 2. c. 6, Add the Argument of the Bishops of Minori in the Council of Trent by Father Paul, B. 2. concerning the Intention of the Minister in the Celebration of the Sacrament.
But the Imposition which produceth true Moral Persons is allow'd no such liberty; but ought always to presuppose such Qualities as may contribute to the solid use and real Benefit of Human Life: And he that in constituting Persons hath not a regard to these Endowments, is to he esteem'd an extravagant Buffoon, and a vain Insulter over Mankind. Thus Caligula might have made a Consul of the most Wicked, or of the most Sensless Wretch in Rome, provided the Man had been a free Citizen, and could at least have perform'd the Common and Formal Part of that Office. But to design his Horse Incitatus the same Honour, was a high pitch of Madness, and of insipid Raillery: nor a less Impudence than when he let him up for a Master of a family, and gave him a House and Furniture; where there was good Entertainment provided for Guests invited in the Name of the Beast (q). An equal Madness was it, as well as a horrid Impiety, that many of the Ancients, to flatter their Princes, their Founders of States,and other Worthies, rank'd them after their Death in the number of the Gods (r). And what to think of the Canonization amongst the Modern Papists, no Man of Sense is at a loss.
(q) Sueton. Calig. c. 55.
(r) See Tiberius's Speech in Tacitus, A. IV.
XVI. As to Things consider'd as they are the Object of Law, there seems to be no occasion of ranking them under the Head of Moral Entities. For though Men are conceiv'd as different Persons upon account of their different State or Office, yet Things do not raise such distinct Notions in us with reference to their Owners, whether Our selves or Others, or whether the Propriety be yet uncertain. When at first some things fell under particular Right and Dominion, and others were left exempt, we must not fancy that they themselves acquir'd any new Qualities; it seems rather, that upon introducing this Propriety of Things, a Moral Quality arose amongst Men, of which the Men were the Subjects and the Things only the Terms: For, as during the Primitive Communion of Goods, any Man had a Right of applying to his proper Use, what equally belong'd to All; so when once Masters or Owners were constituted, there sprung up a Right in each particular Master, of dispoling how he pleas'd of his Own, and an Obligation in all other Masters to abstain from his Possessions. But the Things themselves obtain'd nothing hence, but an extrinsical denomination, as they make the Object of such a Right, and of such an Obligation. So when certain Things are said to be Holy or Sacred, no Moral Quality of Holiness inhere's in the Things; only, an Obligation is laid upon Men to treat them in such a particular manner: and when that Obligation ceaseth, they are suppos'd to fall again into promiscuous and ordinary Use. Yet if; still, any Man will positively maintain that there are some Things, as well as Persons, which should be call'd Moral, he must take care so to explain himself, that he may be understood to attribute this Morality to the Things not formally, as if it were inherent, but only objectively, as it is terminated in them.
XVII. Thus much of those Moral Entities which are conceiv'd with Analogy to Substance. We are now to enquire about those that are really and formally Modes, and pass in our Notion as such. Modes may be conveniently enough divided into Modes of Affection and Modes of Estimation: According to the former we suppose Persons to be affected in such and such a manner; according to the latter, both Things and Persons may be rated and valu'd. The former fall under the Name of Quality, the latter of Quantity; if we take both those Terms in the most extended Sense. Qualities, so far as concerns our Business, may be divided into Formal and Operative, Formal Qualities are such as do not tend, nor are directed towards any Act or Work, but agree and are joyn'd with the Subject, in the manner of pure and naked Forms: whence we may likewise call them Simple Attributes. Operative Qualities are either Primitive or Derivative. By the Primitive a Thing is conceiv'd fit and able for such an Act: they are divided into Internal and External, and may be term'd Moral Passive Qualities. The Derivative are those which proceed from the Primitive, and are the Acts themselves, as the former were the Powers.
XVIII Among Moral Attributes, Titles have a considerable place, which are apply'd for the distinction of Persons in Civil Lite, with reference to their State and their Esteem. They are chiefly of two sorts. Some directly signifie the degree of the Rate and Value, which Persons bear in common Account, together with the Qualities peculiar to Men of that Rank: but the State it self they only denote indirectly and by the by, and that either more clearly, or more obscurely, according as such a Title is usually attributed to fewer or to more States. Of this kind are those Honorary Epithets, commonly prefixed to the Name of Great Persons, as Marks of General Respect: as the most Serene, the most Eminent, the most Illustrious: the signification of which rises higher, or falls lower, according to the Condition of the Substantive to which they are joyn'd. Other Titles directly signifie some particular State, or some peculiar Seat and Place in a State, but indirectly denote that degree of Value and Repute which usually accompanies such a State: as are the Names of Moral Persons, of those especially who fill any Post of Honour. Now these Titles are not consider'd, as they are only Notions representing to one Man's Understanding the State and Office of another, but as by virtue of Human Imposition they declare the Power and Authority of the Person that enjoy's them. So that 'tis not a vain Contention about empty Ceremonies, when Men frequently have such hot disputes and quarrels about Titles: because upon the denial of a Title, we are suppos'd at the same time to deny the State, the Office, the Power and the Rights, which such a Title generally expresses or includes. But here we must be sure to observe, that the Imposition of most Titles is not perpetual and uniform; but in different Countries, and in the same Country at different times, admits of very large alterations. Thus the Titles of the first kind which we mention'd (for the Honorary Epithets; made use of by our Ancestors; how mean and little do they sound to the Ears of our own Age: while what was heretofore thought a worthy Mark for the Greatest of Mortal Men, shall now be despis'd by an Inferiour Scribler? For which reason the increase of such Titles does not always argue the increase of Dignity; but when the Titles swell higher while the thing it self maintains its first condition, their Value and Price is supposed to Be considerably debased. Sometimes also a certain Title is affix'd by way of Elogy and Complement to some particular Order, because the quality or thing meant by that Title, is or ought to be conspicuous in the generality of the Members belonging to such an Order. And hence those Members, who are not really possess'd of the thing, do however enjoy the Title. Thus in Order of Men of Letters, many Persons are saluted with the Appellation of most Famous, and most Learned, who are as much any thing else in the World as what those terms signifie. And so too, an idle unactive Nobleman must have Industry and Strength and Valour applied to Him in our Addresses. It happens likewise very commonly, that Private Men or others, either advance or diminish the Titles of Persons, as they judge it convenient for the present Condition of their Affairs to flatter and caress, or to despise and vilifie them. And even in the latter sort of Titles, as we above divided them, it frequently falls out that the Title may continue, tho' the Thing it self, or the Dignity and Right be in a high manner either better'd or impair'd. And farther, 'tis very usual, that in different Countries the same Word shall express very different Degrees of Honour. And therefore it would argue a very unskilful Head, to place in the same Class all those who bear the same Title all over the World. It must not be forgot, that sometimes a bare Title is attributed to a Man without the Thing, or without the Offices and the Profits which used to attend such a Title; only to this intent, that he may hence obtain the External Ensigns and Badges of the Honour, and may acquire a more creditable Place and Seat in the Community of which he is a Member. Lastly, It is worth remarking, that chiefly in the Titles of the Principal Houses of Europe, the same Title sometimes imports both the Family, and the possession of the mention'd Territory; sometimes the Family only, without the Possession, yet with the right of succeeding to it according to the due Course and Order of Inheritance.
XIX. Moral Operative Qualities are either Active or Passive. Of the former the most noble Species are Power, Right, and Obligation. Power is that by which a Man is enabled to do a thing lawfully, and with a Moral Effect: which Effect is, that the Person exercising this power, shall lay an obligation on others to perform some certain business which he requires, or to admit some Action of his as Valid, or not to stop and hinder it; or that he shall confer on others a Licence of doing or possessing something, which Licence they did not before enjoy. Whence appears how wide this Quality runs, and how very diffusive it is of it self. Power, with respect to its efficacy, is divided into perfect, and imperfect. The former is that, the Exercise of which may be asserted even by force, against those who indeavour unlawfully to let and oppose it. Now force is chiefly applied, within the bounds of the same Community by an Action at Law, and without those Bounds by a War. The latter, or imperfect Power is that, the Exercise of which if any Man is unlawfully prohibited, he may be said indeed to be inhumanly dealt with, yet he has no right to defend it either by Process of a Court, or by the force of Arms, unless this inefficacy or imperfection is supplied by absolute Necessity, With respect to its Subject Power is farther divided into Personal, and Communicable. The former is such as one Man cannot lawfully transfer to another. But then this must be consider'd under several differences. For some Powers are so closely united with the Person, that the Acts belonging to them cannot rightly be exercised by Another. Such is the Power of the Husband over the body of his Wife, which no Laws allow him to discharge by a Deputy. In some again, tho' we cannot transfer the Possession, yet we may by Delegacy commit the Acts to the Administration of Others; but in such a manner, that the whole strength of their Authority must be deriv'd from Him, in whom those Powers are originally seated. Of this kind is the Power of such Kings as are constituted by the Will of the People. For they cannot transfer the Right of Reigning to Another, and yet they may use the Service of Ministers for the performance of the Acts belonging to that Right. Communicable Power is such as may be lawfully devolv'd upon Others; and that either at the pleasure of the Person so devolving it, or by the Authority or the Consent of a Superiour.
Lastly, In respect of the Objects, the generality of Powers may be reduced to four Heads. For they regard either Persons or Things; and both these as they are either our own, or other Mens. A Power over our own Persons and Actions is called Liberty; the different acceptations of which word shall be hereafter discuss'd. This must not be conceiv'd as a distinct Principle from him who enjoys it, or as an authority of obliging himself to any thing which is oppos'd by his Inclinations (s): But as a Licence to dispose of himself and of his Actions, according to his free pleasure; which at the same time includes a Negation of any Impediment, proceeding from a Superiour Power. A Power over our own Things or Goods, is called Property. A Power over the Persons of other Men is properly Empire or Command: A Power over other Men's Things, is what the Civilians term Service.
(s) Vide L. 51. D. de Recept. L. 13. D. ad L. Aquil.
XX. Right (t) is that Moral Quality by which we justly obtain either the government of Persons, or the possession of Things, or by the force of which we may claim somewhat as due to us. There seems to be this difference between the terms of Power and Right, that the first do's more expresly import the presence of the said Quality, and do's but obscurely denote the manner how any one acquir'd it. Whereas the word Right do's properly and clearly shew, that the Quality was fairly got, and is now fairly possess'd. We place Right in the Class of Active Qualities, as by virtue of it any thing may be requir'd of others. It may likewise be rank'd in the number of Passive Qualities, as it impowers us lawfully to receive any thing from Others. For Moral Passive Qualities are those by which we are laid to do or suffer somewhat, or to admit and receive it. Of these there be three kinds. One, according to which we rightly indeed admit something, but in such a manner, that neither we our selves have any power of exacting it, nor others any obligation to give it: Such is the Ability of receiving a Gift purely under the Notion of a Gratuity. And that this Quality is not a meer fancy and fiction is evident from this one consideration, that it may be restrained by a Law: A Judge, for example, may be debarr'd the Liberty of taking a Gift from Parties engag'd in a Suit, under what colour or pretence soever. A second Species is such as puts us in a capacity of receiving something from Another, not so, that we can force it from him against his will, unless in cases of Necessity; yet so, that he is oblig'd by some Moral Vertue to pay or to perform it. This Grotius calls Aptitude. The third Species is that by which we are enabled to compel another to some performance even against his Will, to which performance he is likewise fully oblig'd by the force of some Law ordaining a penalty upon his default. Here 'tis worth our remembring, that many things in common reckoning pass under the Notion of Rights, which, if we would speak accurately, we should rather call Compositions made up of Power and Right in the strict sense of those words: at the same time involving, or supposing, some Obligation, some Honour, or the like. Thus the Right or Privilege of being a Citizen, contains both the power of exercising with full virtue all Acts peculiar to the Members of that City, and also a right of enjoying the Benefits proper to it, supposing in the Person an obligation toward the Corporation. So, for example, the Honours and Degrees of Learned Men include both the power of performing certain Actions proper to such a Dignity, and the right of sharing in the Profits of their Order; to which notion there is further added the height of esteem and respect, which accompanies their place and title.
(t) The Latin word Jus is a very wide and ambiguous term: besides the signification here used, it is taken for Law, and for a System or Body of Municipal Laws or Constitutions, and likewise for a Sentence pronounc'd by a Judge.
XXI. An Obligation is that by which a Man is bound under a Moral Necessity to perform, or admit, or undergo any thing. The several kinds of Obligations will be hereafter insisted on at large.
There are also a sort of Moral Patible Qualities, which are conceiv'd to affect the Understandings of Men in some certain manner: as in Natural Qualities, those obtain'd the name of Patible, which affect the Faculty of Sensation. Of this order, are Honour, Ignominy, Authority, Gravity, Fame, Obscurity, and the like.
XXII. It remains that we subjoyn something about the Modes of Estimation, or the Moral Quantities. For 'tis evident in Common Life, that Persons and things are rated, not only according to the extension of their Natural Substance, or according to the intensness of their Motion, and their other Natural Qualities, considered as they flow from the Principles of their Essence; but likewise according to another kind of Quantity different both from Physical and Mathematical: and this Quantity arises from the imposition and the determination of a Rational Power. Now Moral Quantity is met with first in Things, where it is call'd Price; secondly in Persons, where we term it Esteem; both which were included in the Notion of Value; and thirdly in Actions, where it has not yet acquired a peculiar Name. Of each Species we shall treat in its proper place. What we have hitherto insisted on about the Variety and Distinction of Moral Entities, may seem sufficient to our present Design (u)
(u) The Quantities of Moral Actions will be pecularly treated of hereafter.
XXIII. We will only add this general Remarque, That, as Moral Entities owe their Original to Imposition, so they draw their Continuance and their Changes from the same Cause, and when that once ceases, they immediately vanish, just as when we put out the Light, the Shadow instantly disappears. Those which are made by Divine Imposition, are not dissolv'd but by the Divine Pleasure. Those which are fram'd at the Will of Men, are destroy'd by the same power, without the least alteration in the Persons or Things, as to their Natural Substance. For tho' it implies a Contradiction in the Nature of Things, that what has been done already should be made not to have been done; as that a Man, who has been Consul, should not have been Consul; yet we find every day how easie 'tis to cause a Man not to be for the future, what he has already been: and we see at the same time all the Moral Entities that inher'd in such a Man, entirely defac'd, and leaving no real footsteps behind. For 'tis impossible that a Moral Entity should ever grow up to the strength and force of a Natural Quality. Whence 'tis a very weak thing to believe, that, when a Man is constituted such or such a Person, an indelible Character is imprinted on him barely by virtue of that Moral Imposition. For thus, when a Commoner is created a Nobleman, he only acquires new Right, but does not at all change his Substance, or the Qualities founded in it: And if a Nobleman be degraded, he only forfeits the Rights of his Order, but the Benefits he holds from Nature, remain perfect and unimpair'd.
Of the Certainty of Moral Science.
IT has been an establish'd Perswasion among the Generality of Learned Men, that Moral Knowlege is destitute of that Certainty, which is so famous in other pans of Philosophy, and especially in the Mathematicks. The foundation of their Notion is this: they take Morality to be incapable of Demonstration, from whence only true Science, and free from the fear of Error can proceed, but imagine that all its evidence rises no higher than a Probable Opinion. An unhappiness that has been prodigiously injurious to the most noble Disciplines, and the most necessary to Human Life. For hence it came to pass, that Men of Wisdom and Parts were afraid of spending too much labour in cultivating Notions which depended on so weak a bottom. And the same Principle furnish'd those, who were entirely idle and negligent about these Studies, with a fair excuse; while they might alledge, that there was no firm and demonstrative assurance to be had in such Disquisitions, but that they could only be prosecuted in a rude and unaccurate manner. To which Aristotle contributed not a little, who in the common Judgment of the World, has arriv'd at the highest pitch of Mortal Attainments, and left no farther field for the succeeding Industry and Wit of Men. Aristotle then, as to the truth of Ethics, in his Treatise on that Subject address'd to Nicomachus, delivers himself in the following Positions. It must not be expected, that all kinds of things should be explain'd with the same accuracy. Honesty and Justice, which fall under the consideration of Civil Knowlege, have so many different faces, and are liable to so many mistakes, that they seem to be only instituted by Law, and not originally decreed by Nature. We shall therefore think it sufficient, when we discourse on such Heads, or when we argue from them, to shew the Truth in a ruder manner, and under a kind of Shadow and Figure. It becomes a Man well Instituted to require such proof and such explication of any matter, as the nature of the thing will bear. For it seems equally absur'd, to demand Demonstrations from an Orator, and to let a Mathematician satisfie us with Probabilities. We, for our parts as we are not at all influenc'd by the Name of a single Philosopher, so we intend to enquire what Answers are to be return'd to the Principal Arguments urg'd by Him, and Others, so soon as we shall have premis'd a word or two concerning the Nature of Demonstration in general.
II. To demonstrate then, as we apprehend it, is Syllogistically to deduce the necessary certainty of any Matter propos'd, from such Principles as being its Causes, must needs make it known beyond doubt and dispute. Now tho' 'tis manifest that there is such a thing as we here define, and we see Instances of it every day in Mathematical Operations, to which no Man in his Wits ever denied the Art and Power of Demonstrating; yet from the false Exposition of two or three words, it has happen'd that the greatest Number of Philosophers have commuted a wretched oversight in the point, and have rashly excluded this noble way of proof from many parts of Knowlege, which had a just title to its possession. The chief occasion of the Error was this; They found it laid down for a Rule, that the Subject of a Demonstration ought to be necessary, which they interpreted, as if in a demonstrative Syllogism the Subject of the Conclusion, to which the Predicate was applied, ought always to be a thing necessarily existent; as for example, in that thread-bare Instance, Man is Rational, and therefore Visible, the Subject of the Demonstration is Man, who must be own'd for a Necessary Being. But in reality the Subject of Demonstration is not any one single term, but some entire Proposition, the necessary truth of which is from settled Principles syllogistically inferr'd. Where it signifies little, whether or no the Subject of this demonstrable Proposition necessarily exist, but 'tis sufficient, if granting it's existence such certain affections necessarily agree to it, and if it can be made out, that they do thus agree to it, by undoubted Principles. Thus a Mathematician never troubles himself to enquire whether a Triangle be necessary or contingent, so long as he can demonstrate all the Angles of it to be equal to two Right ones. And therefore the Subject of Demonstration is only call'd necessary upon account of the necessary Connection by which the Predicate cleaves to it in Conclusions of that Nature. III. But what kind of Propositions those ought to be which we are to use in Demonstration, will appear from the consideration of its end and effect. That then, which we acquire by Demonstration, is Science, or a clear and certain Knowledge, every way, and at all times constant to it self, and plac'd beyond the fear of mistake. What we have Science of (says Aristotle) we imagine under an impossibility of being otherwise. Therefore 'tis necessary the Propositions should be true, really and absolutely, and not upon Concession or Supposition. For tho' from a Supposition laid down, a long Chain of Conclusions may be drawn, yet 'tis impossible that, being deriv'd from a precarious Principle, the Streams should not relish of the Fountain. And tho' we should make the two most contradictory. Suppositions in nature, one of which must of necessity be true; yet we can by this means only prove for certain to\ o #ti, as the Logicians call it, or that the matter is really so: for to\ dio/ti, or the reason why it is so, requires, as an indispensable condition, the firmness of the precedent Hypothesis. The Propositions of Demonstration must likewise be the first and the highest that can be, so as to want no farther proof, out to deserve credit upon their own evidence; or however, so as to be at last reducible to some first Truth. For as some Propositions are plac'd at a less, and some at a greater distance from the first Principles; so we must not imagine that every Demonstration can be finish'd' in a single Syllogism, but we must carry on the Argument from the Proposition to be demonstrated, till we arrive at the first Principle, on which it depends. For they are not the only Masters of Reasoning, who are so very quick and expert at their quicquid, their atqui, and their ergo, but those also, who beginning at evident Principles, understand how to frame an Argument, by a just train of necessary Consequences. Another Requisite in such Proportions is, that they be immediate, that is, that they flow immediately from one another without any gap or interruption. For a demonstrative Argument should be work'd up in the manner of a Chain, the Proportions being knit within one another, like so many Rings, so that if any one Link breaks, or proves deficient, the whole frame must dissolve and fall in pieces. Lastly, 'tis necessary that the Propositions in Demonstration be the Causes of the Conclusion, as containing the reason why in such a Conclusion the Predicate necessarily agrees to the Subject (w).
(w) Vide Erhard. Weigl. in Analyf. Aristolec. ex Euclid restitut. An Author who hath handled this Point with great Judgment and Accuracy. (x) Ethic. 1. 6. c. 5.
IV. This being premis'd, it is farther observable, that tho' 'tis a thing common to all Moral Disciplines, not to take up with a bare Theory, but to pass into Use and Practice: yet there is a vast difference to be discover'd between the two Principals of them; of which one is concern'd about the rectitude of Human Actions in order to Laws; the other, about the dextrous government of our own, and of other Men's actions, for the Security and the Benefit of our selves, and more especially of the Public. For this latter part of Ethics ought to be rank'd under the name of Prudence, which Aristotle (x) defines; A Habit, active according to reason, about the Good and Evil that can happen to a Man. Whence he thus settles the Duty of a Prudent Person: It seems to me to be the property of a Man of Prudence, to take right Consultations about those things which are Good for him, and of universal Use in well living. And these Opinions he builds upon Axioms drawn from the accurate observation and comparison of Human Manners and Events. But those Axioms do not appear so very firm and evident, as to be the ground of infallible Demonstration, as well upon account of the wonderful frailness and inconstancy, that occurs in the Wits and Tempers of Men, as because the Events of Affairs are frequently turn'd in a little moment, and driven to a Result quite contrary to our Intentions and Expectations (y). Nor is Human Subtlety in the application of these Rules and Maxims baffled only by such unlook'd for Accidents and Occurrences, but the Divine Wisdom is pleas'd, often to interpose, and to elude the craftiest Stratagems, and the best contriv'd Plots of Mortal Designers. And therefore the ablest Managers of Affairs aspire not to act always with strict demonstration of success, but when they have apply'd the most sage circumspection, and the most piercing forecast, they commit the Issue to Providence and Fate (z) For tho' generally we may know what can possibly happen, tho' we may compare these possible Events together, tho' we may determine for certain, not only which of two Possibilities is of greater, and which of lesser value, supposing them now to exist, but also what Effect can proceed from more, what from fewer Causes, either now in being, or hereafter to be; and tho' we may conclude that Effect, which can be produc'd by most Causes and Ways, to have the highest degree of Probability, and therefore best to deserve our hopes and expectations (a): yet all Possibilities do not occur to the mind at all times and places, or, if they do, are not always rightly weigh'd and consider'd: and by reason of strange and sudden Accidents, which could scarcely have been foreseen, many things which we at first thought to be the most possible, or the most likely to fall out, when we come to the point, appear quite otherwise than we before imagin'd them. Hence in Prudential Managements most Men think it sufficient to follow that Rule of Aristotle (b): We ought no less to hearken to the undemonstrated Declarations and Opinions of Skilful, of Ancient, or of Wise Men, than to demonstration it self: for such Persons found their sight of things on Experience, and so look into the very Principles of Action. But let others fight out this Prize. As for the former and more noble Species, which we assign'd to Moral Discipline, that which considers what is Right, and what Wrong, in Human Actions, the best share of which will be illustrated in our present Attempt; this is built altogether on so sure grounds, that we thence draw genuine Demonstrations, able to produce true and solid Science.
(y) 'Tis not barely the Event of Things (says Fabius in Livy, l. 22.) which communicates this Knowlege, for that is only the Instructor of Fro's: but it is the same Immutable Reason which was and will be so long at the world continues in its present Condition.
(z) Vide 2 Sam. X. 12.
(a) Vide D. Cumberland de L. Nat. c 4. § 4. n. 4.
(b) Ethic. l. 6. c. 12.
Or, in other words, its Decrees may be in such a manner deriv'd from certain Principles, as to leave no room, no excuse for doubt (c). This Assertion will be more clearly made our, if we in the first place consider and examine the Arguments usually alledg'd to the contrary. But, by the way We acknowledge Mr. Hobbs (d) to have been extreamly mistaken, when he contends that Ethics and Politiques are therefore capable of a Demonstration à priori, because we our selves are the Authors of the Principles of Justice and Injustice, of Right and Wrong, by making those Laws and Compacts whence the Measures of Justice are to be taken: since before any such Laws or Compacts were instituted, there was no such thing as Justice or Injustice, Public Good or Evil, among Men, any more than among Beasts. The absolute falsness of which Position we shall hereafter have occasion to demonstrate; as there is also a Fallacy lurking under the word Public.
(c) Senec. de Benef. 1. 7. c. 1. Whatever contributes to the improving of our Vertue, or of our Happiness, Nature hath taken are to lay either directly before us, or at a very easie distance, for our search.
(d) De Homine c. 10.
V. To proceed therefore to the Objections; Some affirm Moral Things in general to be uncertain and unstable; and no Science can be of a more firm and settled Nature than the Object about which it is employ'd. To which it may be reply'd; That tho' Moral Entities owe their Original to Imposition, and therefore cannot be call'd Necessary in an absolute sence; yet they do not proceed from such loose and wandring Principles, as that on this account all Knowledge about them should be weak and uncertain. For the very Nature of Man assign'd him by the Wisdom and Goodness of the Almighty Creator, requir'd the Institution of the chief part of them; and these at least cannot be said to be unsettled and uncertain. This will appear beyond dispute, when we come to enquire into the Origine of the Law of Nature. Besides, the Human Actions are chiefly on this account call'd Moral, because they are not necessary, but free; yet from hence it do's not follow, that upon the laying down of certain Principles, such Affections may agree to these Actions, as may be undoubtedly demonstrated concerning them. For 'tis evident, that the Acts which fall under the Conduct of the Law of Nature, do in themselves contain an intrinsical force and power directing towards a Social Life, tho' the actual exercise of them depends on the Free will of Man. While we deliberate, we are properly said to be free, and the effects which are to proceed from our actions are, with respect to the freedom, rightly term'd Contingent: but when we have once determin'd which way to act the connexion between our Actions and the depending Effects is necessary and natural, and consequently capable of Demonstration. Neither do they argue any thing to the purpose, who deny the possibility of passing a clear Judgment on Human Deeds, upon account of the great Variety of Circumstances, any one of which seems to put a new face and a new quality on the Action; whence it happens that Legislators can seldom frame such a Law, as shall admit of no exception, and where there shall not be frequent occasion to neglect the Letter of the Statute, and to have recourse to Equity for Relief. Because indeed there are establish'd Principles, by which it may be shown how much weight and force any Circumstance bears in affecting or varying any Action And these very Principles are the occasion, that Law givers are frequently less anxious about excepting from their Decrees some particular Cases involv'd in extraordinary Circumstances, but proceed with more security in the Use of General Words. For they take it for granted that the Judges, whose Duty it is to examine particular Actions by the Rule of the Law, will be very able to understand what power any Circumstance has over any Fact (e). But hence it cannot be inferr'd that constant and perpetual Decrees do sometimes fail; but we ought rather to conclude, that 'tis not worth while for Legislators in their written Laws to prescribe any thing about Cases that very really happen, since such may be easily determin'd by the Judges out of the Principles of the Law of Nature (f).
(e) And hence chiefly we are to draw the reason of it § 3, 4, 5, 6 de Legib. Laws ought to be enacted, as Theophrastus us'd to say, with regard to things, as they most commonly fall out, not as they sometimes happen beside expectation. Little particular Cases and accidental Exceptions, are not worth the notice of a Legislator.
(f) Add. D. Cumberland de L. N. c. 4. § 4. n. 1.
VI. But to make the Knowledge of the Law of Nature, of which we are now treating, and which includes all Moral and Civil Doctrines that are genuine and solid, to make this Knowledge, we say, fully come up to the measure and perfection of Science, we do not think it necessary to assert with some Writers, that there are several things honest or vile of themselves, and antecedent to all Imposition, and so to make these things the object of our Natural and Perpetual Law, in opposition to positive Laws, where matters are right or wrong, just as the Lawgiver was pleas'd to make them either. For since Honesty (or Moral Necessity) and Turpitude are Affections of Human Deeds, arising from their agreeableness or disagreeableness to a a Rule or a Law, and since a Law is the Command of a Superior, it do's not appear how we can conceive any Goodness or Turpitude before all Law, and without the Imposition of a Superior (g). And truly, as for those who would establish an Eternal Rule for me Morality of the Actions, without respect to the Divine Injunction and Constitution, the result of their Endeavours seems to us to be the joyning with GOD Almighty some Coeval Extrinsical Principle, which he was oblig'd to follow, in assigning the forms and essences of Things. Besides, 'tis acknowledg'd on all hands that GOD created Man, as well as every thing else, according to his own Free-will. From whence it evidently follows, that it must needs have been his Power and Pleasure to indue this Creature with whatever kind of Nature his Wisdom thought fit, And how then should it come to pass, that the Actions of Mankind should be vested with any affection or quality proceeding from intrinsical and absolute Necessity without regard to the Initiation, and to the Good Pleasure of the Creator? So that in reality all the Motions and Actions of Men, upon setting aside all Law, both Divine and Human, are perfectly indifferent: And same of them are therefore only said to be Naturally Honest or Dishonest because that Condition of Nature, which, God has freely bestow'd on Man, strictly enjoyns the performance or the omission of them. Not that any Morality inheres of it self, and without all Law, in the bare Motion, or the meer application of Natural Power (h). And therefore we see Beasts every day doing such things without fault or sin, in committing which Man would have been guilty of the highest Wickedness. Not that the Natural Motions of Men, and of Beasts, are in themselves different, but because some Actions of Men are by the Authority of a Law invested with a Moral Quality, which do's not at all touch or affect the Proceedings of Brutes.
(g) Selden. de J. N. & G. 1. 1. c. 4.
(h) Plato in Sympos. This is the Nature of every Action, to be in it self neither Good nor Vicious; as what we are now doing, drinking, singing, arguing. Neither of these, consider'd by it self, is honest or dishonest; but the manner of performing it gives every Action it's proper denomination. For what is done right, we call Good, and what is done wrong, Evil or Indecent. The same Rule the Philosopher afterwards applies to Love.
Nor will it be to the purpose for any one to object, that since Men are indu'd with Reason, which is wanting in Beasts, therefore there must be a Natural difference between Human and Brutal Actions. For if we consider Reason, as uninform'd with the knowledge and sense of Law, or of some Moral Rule, it might perhaps even in this condition, furnish Man with the faculty of acting more expeditiously and more accurately than Beasts, and might assist the Natural Powers by an additional shrewdness or subtlety. But that it should be able to discover any Morality in Human Actions, without reflecting on some Law, is equally impossible as that a Man born Blind should make a Judgment on the distinction of Colours.
Another Argument in favour of our Opinion is suggested by Osiander, in his Notes on Grotius, de Jure Belli & Pacis (i). If (says he) there were any such thing as Moral Good or Evil before all Law, how could there he any Obligation to make such a difference in our Actions, since all Obligation proceeds from the Command of a Superior? For Moral Good and Evil involve a respect to a Person acting either of those ways; and if that Person be determin'd by no Obligation, he cannot be said properly to Act well or ill.
(i) P. 60.
But here we desire it should be well observ'd, That this indifference of the Natural Motion in Human Actions is by us maintain'd and establish'd only in respect to Morality. For otherwise Actions enjoyn'd by the Law of Nature, have from the determination of the first Cause a native force in themselves in producing effects good and useful to Mankind; as Actions forbidden by the same Law are productive of contrary effects. But this Goodness or Illness which an Action bears naturally and of it self, can never constitute any new thing in Morals, which are quite beyond its reach and concern. For there are many things highly conducing to the happiness and advantage of Man, which are not morally Good, as neither being Voluntary Deeds, nor Performances of any Law; and many Actions which contribute to Human Welfare, do in the same manner promote the Benefit of Beasts, in whom certainly they cannot bear any Moral Quality. Thus the abstaining from mutual Hurt, the moderate use of Meat and Drink, the care of Progeny or Offspring, are equally serviceable in the preservation of Rational and of Irrational Kind; and yet Beasts are never said to perform Actions morally good (k). So tho' all Human Actions falling under the guidance of the Law of Nature, may be finally resolv'd into that natural strength and force which they bear in advancing the Profit or the Harm of Men, consider'd either in a single or in an united state: Yet it does not follow on the other hand, that whatever thing is indu'd with a Natural Power of doing good or harm in any Species of Animals, is therefore the Object of the same Law.
(k) Add. D. Cumberland de L. N. c. 5. § 9.
Another Objection against the Doctrines we are now establishing, is taken from that Passage in Aristotle's Ethics (l): Every Action and every Affection do's not admit a Mediocrity: For there are some Affections which involve a kind of pravity in their very name, as Malice, Impudence and Envy, and e)pixairwnaki/a, or Rejoicing at another Man's Misfortune, and. likewise some Actions, as Adultery, Theft and Murther. Now these and the like being Evil directly and in their own Natures, are not call'd Vices with relation to any excess or defect; for absolutely, and without any degrees, to be guilty of them, it to commit sin. But 'tis by no means a good Consequence, that because we have some names of Actions or, Affections, which of themselves, and without any excess or defect, imply Vice, therefore, there are some Actions and Affections bad in themselves without respect to any Law. Because these Terms or Names do not signifie bare Natural Motions and Acts, but such entire Moral Motions and Acts, as are repugnant to some Law, and so take in and express the whole compass of a Moral Deed, For why, for example, are Envy and its vile Consequent, which we but now mention'd under the Greek name, of e)pixairwnaki/a, reputed evil Affections, but because the Law of Nature ordains, that a Man should never be a Stranger to his own Kind, but should bear a part in the Pleasures and in the Sorrows of his Neighbours: to which Rule it is an open Contradiction, to receive any Joy from the Calamities of others, and to repine at their Happiness and Success (m)? And so what else is Impudence, but a wicked firmness and hardiness of Mind in the commission of such things, as the Law bids him be asham'd of? For not to be asham'd, or not to blush, can never be a fault, when we are not by some Law suppos'd and enjoyn'd to do otherwise. After the same manner, Adultery is the Pollution of another Man's Wife, whom the Laws appropriate to her Husband. Theft is the taking away of another Man's Goods against the consent of the Owner, who by the Law is made the sole Disposer of them. Murder is the Killing of a Person in his Innocence, and against the Laws. Incest is a Conjunction with such a Person, as the Laws oblige us to abstain from, upon account of the Reverence which Men are by Law likewise taught to pay to nearness of Blood. And the same Judgment is to be made of other Vices. But now, if from all these you take away the Respect to the Law, and the Morality inherent in such Actions, the bare Natural Fact will involve no Absurdity or Contradiction. For in a natural and absolute sence, these are altogether indifferent things; to have Conjunction with your nearest Relation, to or with the same Woman who is enjoy'd by another, supposing he has no peculiar right to her as he cannot have without Law; to take away the Life of a Creature of the same Species with your self; to take a thing which another Man had design'd for his use, tho he had obtain'd no right by Law to exclude others from their share in its possession. And the reason why so few Persons can conceive and apprehend such a Natural Indifference as we are maintaining, is only this, because from our Infancy we are taught to detest such Practises; and this. Abhorrence being imprinted on our tender Minds, seems to grow into a kind of Natural Judgment; so that it seldom enters into Mens heads to distinguish between the Materiality and the Formality of those Actions, or between our Performance of them as Natural, and our Commission of them as Moral Agents. Hence it appears that Grotius had not consider'd this Matter throughly, when among those things, to which the Power of GOD himself do's not extend, because they involve a manifest Contradiction, he reckons (n) the Malignity of some Human Actions. Indeed 'tis impossible that twice two should not make four, because twice two and four are really the same thing, and only differ in name, and in our manner of conceiving them. But the Contradiction which appears in Actions repugnant to Nature's Law, is of a much lower degree, and can never rise to an absolute Impossibility. And upon the same account he derives this Malignity from such Actions, as compared with right Reason. For in the very terms of right Reason, when applied to Man, there inheres a respect to the Law of Sociableness enjoyn'd to Human Race by the Creator. Thus at the same rate he alledges () for a proof of the Independency of some of Natures Laws, the necessary agreement and disagreement of things to Rational and Social Nature. But Man obtain'd a Social Nature from the good Pleasure of GOD ALMIGHTY, not from any Immutable Necessity. And consequently the Morality of Actions agreeable or disagreeable to him as a Social Creature, must be deriv'd from the same Original and Spring; and must be attributed to Man, not by an absolute, but by an hypothetical Necessity; or upon supposal of that Condition which GOD was pleas'd freely to bestow on Mankind, above the Privileges of the Inferiour Creation. Nor can this Opinion of Grotius find any shelter or protection in those places of Scripture, which he quotes to shew, that GOD Almighty permits himself to be judg'd according to these Original Laws, and therefore they must be absolutely Immutable. For without doubt GOD declar'd to Mankind from the very Beginning of Things, that he would be a Rewarder of the Good, and an Avenger on the Wicked, Hebr. XI. 6. And that he would render unto every Man according to his works, Rom.II. 6. From which Declaration his Veracity not permitting him to go back, Abraham had reason to make that Appeal which we find Gen. 18. 25. Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right (o)? But how do's it follow hence, that Human Actions have any Moral quality antecedent to the Divine Imposition? Nor do's it at all appear how the same Conclusion can be drawn from the fifth Chapter of Isaiah, where God is pleas'd to refer the Cause between him and his Vineyard to the judgment of Israel and Juda, and concludes, that he may lawfully neglect the farther Care and Culture of it, since the degenerate Fruit made so ill a return to his Pains. And lastly, from that place in the sixth of Micah, where God is said to have a Controversie with his People, and to reason with Israel, it seems to be hinted, that Men may by their own Judgment understand the Equity of returning Thanks for Benefits receiv'd; But we cannot thence infer, that, because Men, who have a sence of Kindness, are oblig'd to be grateful, therefore this Gratitude is not commanded by any Law, but is of it self before all Law a necessary Duty. From all that we have urg'd on this Head, it may appear, that the Sentence, which is frequently in the Mouths of most Men, That the Precepts of Natural Law are of Eternal Verity, is so far to be restrain'd and limited, that this Eternity ought to reach no farther than the Imposition and Institution of GOD ALMIGHTY, and the Origine of Human Kind. Tho', to say the truth, the Eternity which we improperly attribute to the Laws of Nature, is only to be rated in proportion to the Opposition they bear to Positive Laws, these being subject to frequent Alterations, while those remain fixt and unchangeable.
(1) L. 2. c 6.
(m) Add. Stob. Serm. 111.
(n) De J. B. & P. 1. 1. c. 1. § 10.
() Ibid. § 12.
(o) Add. Ezek. XVIII. 25. Rom. III. 6.
VII. It may be farther objected, and with some face of probability among vulgar Judges, That Honesty and Turpitude must needs inhere in some Human Actions of themselves, and by the force of their own Nature, not by the power of external Imposition, for this reason, because our very Blood seems to have a natural sence of wicked Deeds, which it expresses by spreading a sudden redness over the Face, whensoever we are touch'd either with the Memory of them, or with the Reproach. Now they say 'tis very improper to attribute a Natural Effect to a Moral Quality; but on the contrary, that, since such a certain Motion of the Blood raising a redness in the Face, results in the manner of a natural effect from an ill Action, that Ilness or Pravity must likewise be applied to the Action as a natural and a necessary Affection or Quality. In return to which, in the first place we confess that the most wise Creator has implanted in the Minds of Men the Passion of Shame, to serve as it were for a Guard and Defence to Vertue, and for a Bridle to wicked Designs. And it is likewise probable, that unless GOD had design'd Man for an Angel, who was to frame his Proceedings by a Law, he would never have mingled such a Passion in Human Constitutions, since without that Supposition it do's not appear to be of any use at all in the World. But indeed, 'tis no manner of Contradiction, that a Moral Quality owing it's Original to Imposition, should produce in Man (tho' not directly and immediately) a Natural Effect. For the Soul being united by the closest ties to the Body, while it self apprehends Moral Concerns, and is affected with them, may at the same time easily raise a peculiar Motion in some part of the Body. Besides, we ought to observe, that Shame do's not only arise from the pravity of Actions, but also from any Fact, tho' not Morally Evil, which we think will lessen our Character and Esteem. For according to Cartes's Definition, it is nothing else but a Species of Sorrow, founded. upon Self-love, and proceeding from a sence or fear of disgrace: Or, as Aristotle speaks (q), it is a certain Grief and Confusion at things which appear hurtful to our Reputation. For Man is a most ambitious Creature, and highly conceited of his own Excellency, whence he takes an extraordinary Pleasure, if he can find out any Advantage or Perfection in himself, on the strength of which he may brag, and swell, and carry himself above the dimensions of his Neighbours. And whenever he apprehends these Talents to be the least impair'd, and to wear lighter in Common Account, he immediately conceives the deepest regret in his own Mind. Now the Heart, that chief Seat of Human (Excellency, being affected with this Passion, presently sends up the Blood to be an outward Sign of it in the Face. But because Man do's not only value himself upon account of abstaining from Evil Deeds, but for several other things, which are not endued with any Moral Quality, if he suffer in any of these latter Points, he is equally liable to Shame: Thus we see many Persons who cannot forbear blushing at their Lameness, or Baldness, at a Wen, a Crump-back, or any other Deformity of Body, at some particular Diseases, at Poverty, bad Cloaths, at faultless Ignorance, or at harmless Mistake, and at many other Things, which are by no means Morally Evil (r). And among Sins, those especially put a Man to the Blush, which directly argue a lowness and dejection of Mind, and which for that reason make us appear more contemptible (s); nor has the fear of this Contempt the same General Power, but only when we are in danger of suffering it from those Persons, whose Esteem and Good Opinion we are particularly covetous of Enjoying (s). And those desperate Wretches, who have once sinned themselves out of all care of Credit, are not afterwards touch'd with the least Blush upon the commission of the vilest Wickedness (t)? Whatever we have urg'd against the natural, the absolute, and the necessary Goodness or Pravity of Human Deeds, do's not at all seem to rob Moral Knowledge of its requisite Certainty, for this would remain fix't and unmov'd, tho' the Morality of our Actions depended entirely on Imposition.
(q) Rhetor. l. 2. c. 6. de Passion. art. 207.
(r) Add. Sirac. c. XLII. 19. &c.
(s) Vide Aristot. Rhet. l. c. 6.
(t) Add. Cartes.
VIII. But if this Doctrine be true, which we have asserted, what will become of that Moral Latitude, which is so much talk'd of, and so frequently oppos'd to Mathematical Strictness? Do's not that seem to detract somewhat from the Certainty which we maintain? This Doubt will be clearly solv'd, if it be consider'd how far we affirm Demonstration to prevail in these Notions, and in what things this Latitude is to be found. Demonstrations therefore are here chiefly employ'd about Moral Qualities, so far as those Qualities appear for certain to agree to such Actions or Persons: When we enquire (for example) whether such an Action be just or unjust, whether such a Right, or such an Obligation, accrue to such a Person, consider'd in general, or as that personal capacity is common to others with him. Now all these kinds of Truths we maintain to be so clearly and certainly deducible from their genuine Principles and Causes, that Man, in his right Wits, can entertain a Doubt concerning them. And tho' we should discover some little latitude, or something analogous to latitude, in these Questions, yet that would not be able to prejudice the Certainty of them in it self. As for the Goodness or Pravity of Actions, as they denote their agreeableness or repugnancy to the Rule of the Law, in this respect they seem capable of no manner of Latitude, but whatever declines from Good must immediately be pronounc'd Evil. Yet under other Considerations, at least with respect to Men, they admit of something like Latitude; Latitude, properly speaking, being applicable only to Quantity. And first, because in Laws the force and power of obliging Men is not always of the same tenour and degree, but appears more strict in commanding and forbidding some Actions, and more loose about others. Whence it comes to pass that we are forc'd to distinguish between Law and Equity, or between what's rigorously and exactly just, and what's equal and fair to be done. The difference between which things is this, we lye under a more necessary Duty of performing the former, but the latter engage our Obedience with a gentler tie, and with an inferiour obligation. Yet these last have a wider Object than the first; the offices of other Vertues being extended much farther than those of Justice. It happens likewise very commonly, that among Men, and in Human Courts, smaller Derivations from the Law, scarce fall under consideration or animadversion. Many things too are ordain'd and commanded in so weak and indifferent a manner, that they seem to engage Men rather by affecting their Modesty than their Honesty: so that those who perform them deserve commendation, those who omit them are not obnoxious to Reprehension. And among these Matters Grotius (u) seems to refer Concubinage, Divorce, and Polygamy, before they were forbidden by the Law of GOD. These (says he) are such things as Reason it self tells us it is more honest to abstain from; yet not so, as that (setting aside the Divine Precept) they include any grievous fault. But of these we shall treat in their proper place. Hither likewise is to be refer'd that passage of Aristotle (w); He that declines but a little from right dealing, whether so the excess or to the defect, is not charg'd with guilt, but he that transgresses in a larger measure; because his faultiness discovers and betrays it self by its bulk. It may happen too that a thing in it self shall be unobliging and indifferent, and yet the performance or the omission of it shall either always, or however at some certain juncture, be more for our advantage and use. To this Case belong those passages of St. Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Cap. VI. vers. 12. Cap. VII. vers. 6, 7, 8, 9. Cap. X. vers 23. And that observation of Grotius (x), That some times by an abuse of words, those things which Reason shows to be Honest, or better than the contrary, tho' they are not enjoyn'd, yet shall be call'd Dictates or Ordinances of the Law of Nature. From all that has been laid, we may understand whether and in what manner there may be said to be Degrees of Good. If then we consider Good in a strict sence for a Congruity to the Law, 'tis as impossible there should be any thing better than what is Good, as that there should be any thing straighter then what is properly straight. Yet one Good may be pronounced better then another, according to the different Degrees of Necessity which are found in both, and upon account, of which, if they cannot be both perform'd, one of them manifestly gives place to the other.To this purpose see Matthew VIII. 21 & 22. where it was a good thing to bury a dead Father, but a better to follow our Saviour: Acts VI. 2. where it was a good thing to Minister to the Poor, but a better to Preach the Gospel: On which point we shall be larger hereafter. Lastly, when Actions, in themselves lawful and indifferent, are measur'd and rated according to their usefulness or expedience, one of them is declar'd better than another, as it is more advantageous to the present Circumstance or Occasion.
(u) L. l. c. 2. § 6.
(w) Ethic. c. ult.
(x) L. 1. c. 1. § 10.
IX. According to our Doctrine already deliver'd, must that place of Grotius (y) be explain'd, about the Causes of Doubt in Moral Actions, where he says, There is not an equal Certainty to be met with in Morals and Mathematick: which therefore happens, because Mathematical Sciences treat of Forms, as distinct and abstracted from all sorts of Matter, and because the Forms themselves are generally such as will admit of no Medium, as we can find nothing which is not either crooked or straight. But in Morals the least Circumstance alters the Matter, and the Forms, of which they treat, have commonly some intervenient Latitude, by reason of which they sometimes approach nearer to one Extream, and sometimes to the other. Thus between things absolutely commanded, and absolutely forbidden, there are some things left indifferent; but this Medium of Indifference sometimes inclines nearer to the Injunction, sometimes to the Prohibition. Whence frequently arises an Ambiguity, some what like what we meet with in Twilight, or in Water not perfectly hot. As to this Assertion, we must confess, that, as about other Actions, so especially about making War, a Doubt may probably arise, either because the Fact which occasions the War is not yet fully made out, or whether it be of so great Consequence, as to deserve a Prosecution by Arms, where the Cast is so desperate, and where the attending Miseries are so numerous; or whether in the present Juncture and Condition of the Commonwealth, it be a Moot Case, which Course ought to be taken, either to return the Injury in a Hostile manner, or rather to conceal the Affront, and defer the Satisfaction, least an untimely pursuit of Revenge should draw greater Misfortunes on the State. But that the Causes of doubting in such Cases proceed from the uncertainty of Moral Matters, this we absolutely deny. The reason why the Demonstrations in Mathematicks are so very accurate, is not the Abstraction from Matter, but another, that we shall produce by and by. That in Morals the least Circumstance alters the Matter, is an ambiguous expression. If this be the sence of it, that the least Circumstance alters the Quality of an Action, that is, turns it from Good to Evil, this Variation does not at all injure the Certitude of Moral Knowledge. For a Line that recedes never so little from straightness degenerates into crookedness, and yet no uncertainty arises hence in Geometrical Operations. But if this be the meaning of the place, that the least Circumstance either raises or lessens the Quantity of an Action; this, at least in Human regard, is not always true; for trifling Accidents and Punctilio's seldom weigh any thing in the Sentence of a Moral Judge. Yet if we grant this Supposition, it will not in the least diminish the certainty of Morality; since even in Mathematics, the smallest accession, or the most inconsiderable loss varies the Quantity. Lawful or Indifferent Things, which compose the Medium between Commands and Prohibitions, we have already observ'd only in this respect to incline sometimes more to one hand, sometimes to the other, as it appears more expedient and useful sometimes to perform them, sometime to omit them. Yet even hence nothing of Uncertainty can a rise, nor is any such Medium form'd, as we cannot clearly understand either to be Good or Ill. So that those Examples and Instances of Twilight and Lukewarm-water, are improperly applied to the present Case; they being of that kind of Media we call Media Participations as Lukewarm-water partakes of hot and cold together. But those Media which we call Media Negationis, as are Indifferent and Lawful Matters, possess not the least share of cither of the Extreams, but equally deny them both. For we say in the same manner, Good is not Indifferent, and Evil is not Indifferent; and it does not appear, how a Medium of this Nature can prove a Cause and an Occasion of Uncertainty. X. Yet as to the Quantities which are used in Morality, they we confess are capable of some Latitude, and it's chiefly on this account, that Mathematical Knowledge is esteem'd to have so much higher Degrees of Nicety and Exactness than Moral. The reason of all this depends on the different Constitutions of Natural and of Moral Qualtity. For Natural or Physical Quantities may be accurately compared, and measured and divided into the most equal parts; because they are represented as the Affections of Material Things, which are the Objects of our Senses. Whence we may precisely determine, what Rule and Proportion they bear to one another; especially if we imploy the assistance of Numbers, by the application of which all Questions of this kind are most exquisitely solv'd. And besides, those Quantities are the effect of Nature, and consequently immoveable and permanent. On the other hand, Moral Quantities proceed from the Imposition and the Estimation of intelligent and free Agents, whose Judgment and Pleasure not falling under natural Dimensions, the Quantities which they thus conceive and determine, cannot be circumscribed by any such measure, but retain as it were somewhat of the loosness and liberty of their Original. Nor indeed did the ends, for which Moral Quantities were first introduced, require any such punctual Minuteness; but it was sufficient for the use of Human Life, that Persons, Things, and Actions, should be more grosly rated and compar'd together. Thus we discover a Latitude in the value or esteem of Persons; by which tho' we understand that one Person is to be prefer'd to another, yet we cannot exactly determine whether he exceeds him a double,or treble, or quadruple proportion of Worth. The like Latitude occurs in the valuation of different Things, and of Actions belonging to Commerce; on the account of which we can scarcely fix any settled Price on any other things besides those, which the Civilians call res fungibiles, Consumeable Goods, that is, such as we borrow for our present use, upon condition of repaying them in the same quantity and quality: As to the rest, we esteem them equal and indifferent, and to be determin'd by the private Bargains and Agreements of particular Men. And so likewise the proportion between many Faults and Punishments is adjusted with some Latitude: For who, for Example, can tell precisely how many Lashes, and how smartly laid on, comes just up to the guilt of some particular piece of Thievery? But in such Cases we assign what proportion we think fit, with greater loosness and security. We find too a very remarkable Latitude in many Businesses and Affairs of Life: Human Lawgivers are not us'd to cut every thing to the quick. The Laws, and the Philosophers (says (z) Tully) clear Subtleties in a different manner: The Laws no otherwise than as Things may be felt and handled, by reason of their grossness; but the Philosophers, as they may be discern'd by Reason and Understanding. And in the Decision of Causes, 'tis a Maxim vulgarly known, That the Judge does not concern himself with every petty Circumstance. And so when such a number of Honest Men are appointed Arbitrators of any Controversie, there is fair room for Latitude in their Judgment and Sentence (a) Farther, in executing Vindictive Justice, there is an Indulgence made of a convenient Latitude, not only on the part of Clemency, but of Severity too. To which purpose alludes that saying of Tacitus (b); All great Examples have somewhat of Injustice; but the Injury they do to particular Persons is recompen'd by the common Advantage they bring to the publick. And that of Jason in Plutarch (c); 'Tis necessary that those should act unjustly in small Matters, who intend to maintain Justice in the grand and the chief Concerns Most Vertues likewise, besides Justice, admit a free loosness and latitude in the exercise of them; as for example, Pity, Liberality, Gratitude, Equity, and Charity. And so, in common Life, we apply the Names of Habits under a Latitude of Signification. Thus we call him a Just Man, who commits (tho' deliberately) but a few pieces of Injustice. Lastly, we may observe, that if in Moral Consideration some Quantities are brought to an exact Standard, and a punctual Measure, as the Price of some Commodities, the Periods of Time settled by Law, and the like; yet this precise determination do's not so much proceeds from the Things themselves, or from the times, as from the Institution and Will of Men (d). From all these Remarks we conceive the difference between Mathematical and Moral Demonstrations to appear very clear and evident; and it is no more than this, that the former are chiefly imploy'd about Quantity, which is in its own Nature dispos'd for the nicest Division and Determination; whereas the latter endeavour nothing farther than to prove for certain such a Quality of such a Subject, leaving the Decision of Moral Quantities to the larger Scope and Laxitude of Human Will.
(y) L. 2. c. 23. § 1.
(z) Off. III.
(a) Add. L. 105. § de Solution.
(b) Annal. 14. c. 44.
(c) De Sanitat. tuend. & Præcept. reipub. gerend.
(d) Add. D Cumberland, de L. N. c. 8. § 14.
XI. But we must take heed of confounding this Moral Certitude which we have been so long establishing, with that which is so often applied to Matters of Fact; as when we declare (for Example) such a thing to be Morally Certain; because it has been confirm'd by creditable Witnesses. For this latter sort of Moral Certitude is nothing else but a strong Presumption grounded on Probable Reasons, and which very seldom fails and deceives us Zeigler in his Notes on Grotius (e), has not sufficiently distinguish'd this inferiour Certainty from the former and the more noble kind, while, tho' he grants the more general Precepts of Ethics to bear an equal Evidence with the Proportions of any Science properly so call'd, yet he affirms, That the particular Conclusions have a much shorter degree of Certitude, and are often involv'd in dark obscurities, by reason that the things themselves, concerning which such Conditions are form'd, are many ways changeable and contingent: And the Example he brings is this; We have Moral Certitude, and Evidence, that an honest and serious Person, when he takes an Oath, swears truly. And yet this Evidence is not absolutely such, but conditionally, because it is not directly impossible, but that a Man of these good qualities, may forswear himself, since be may fall from his Vertue and Integrity. But now that Certitude, by which we know Perjury to be an Evil, is very different from that by which we believe a good Man is not guilty of Perjury; nor is the latter Proposition deduced fairly as a Conclusion from the former. Thus in the same manner the faith we give to Historians, is reckon'd Morally certain, when they testifie a thing vastly remote from our Memory and Knowledge, and of which there is no real and demonstrative Proof now extant; and especially if many agree in the Relation. Because it is not probable that many Persons should joyn together by compact in putting a trick on Posterity, or should entertain any hopes, that the Lie would not in time be discover'd. And yet for all this, if occasion were, we could produce Examples of many Popular Fables, that have pass'd thro' several Ages, under the Colour and Character of Truth.
(e) L. 2. c. 20. § 1.
Of the Understanding of Man, as it concurs to Moral Actions.
Since that part of Knowlege which we have undertaken to explain, is chiefly employ'd in demonstrating what's right and what's wrong, what's good and what evil, what's just and what unjust in Human Actions, in the first place we are oblig'd to consider and examin the Principles and the Affections of these Actions, and to show how by the help of Imputation, they are conceiv'd to be morally joyn'd and connected to the Authors of them: In this respect then, the excellency of Man chiefly outshines the Condition of Brute Creatures, that he is endow'd with a most noble and exalted Soul, which exerts it self not only with a singular Light as to the Knowing and Judging of Things, but also with a prodigious quickness and activity, as to the embracing or rejecting them. So that on this score the Actions of Mankind ought to be rank'd in a much higher Class then the Motions of Beasts, which proceed purely from the Spurs of Senses, without the precedent help of Reflexion, whatever Charon (f) has alledg'd to the contrary. That Power of the Human Soul which it bears as a Light for its guidance and direction, we commonly call the Understanding, and in this, as it is concern'd about voluntary Actions, we conceive two Faculties: One is that, by which as by a kind of Mirror, the Object is shown to the Will, with a general and confus'd notice whether it be agreeable, or disagreeable, Good or Evil. The other is that by which the Reasons of Good and Evil, which in several Objects offer themselves numerously on both sides, are weigh'd and compar'd, and judgment is given, what, when, and in what manner we are to act; and consultation taken about the most proper Means for the accomplishment of the propos'd End. And here it must be observ'd, that the beginning of a voluntary Act should regularly proceed from the Understanding, whence arises the Vulgar Maxim,
Ignoti nulla Cupido
Objects unknown can never move Desire.
(f) De la Sagesse. L. 1. c. 34.
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