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PROP. men and philosophers who had in earnest asserted,
and attempted to prove, that there is no natural and unalterable difference between good and evil, would, at the first hearing, be as hardly persuaded to believe that it could ever really enter into the heart of any intelligent man to deny all natural difference between right and wrong, as he would be to believe that ever there could be any geometer who would seriously and in good earnest lay it down, as a first principle, that a crooked line is as straight as a right
So that indeed it might justly seem altogether a a needless undertaking to attempt to prove and es. tablish the eternal difference of good and evil, had there not appeared certain men, as Mr. Hobbes and some few others, who have presumed, contrary to the plainest and most obvious reason of mankind, to assert, and not without some subtilty endeavoured to prove, that there is no such real difference originally, necessarily, and absolutely in the nature of things; but that all obligation of duty to God arises merely from his absolute irresistible power, and all duty towards men merely from positive compact; and have founded their whole scheme of politics upon that opinion: Wherein, as they have contradicted the judgment of all the wisest and soberest part of mankind, so they have not been able to avoid contradicting themselves also; for, not to mention now, that they have no way to show how compacts themselves come to be obligatory, but by inconsistently owning an eternal original fitness in the thing itself, which I shall have occasion to observe hereafter: Besides, this, I say, if there be naturally and absolutely in things themselves no difference between good and evil, just and, unjust, then, in the state of nature, before any compact be made, it is equally as good, just, and reasonable, for one man to destroy the life of another, not only when it is necessary for his own preservation, but also arbitrarily and without any provocation at all, * or any appearance of advantage
See Hobbes de Cive, c. 3. § 4.
to himself, as to preserve or save another man's life, PROP. when he may do it without any hazard of his own: The consequence of which is, that not only the first and most obvious way for every particular man to secure himself effectually, would be, (as Mr Hobbes teaches) to endeavour to prevent and cut off all others, but also that men might destroy one another upon every foolish and peevish, or arbitrary humour, even when they did not think any such thing necessary for their own preservation : And the effect of this practice must needs be, that it would terminate in the destruction of all mankind; which being undeniably a great and insufferable evil, Mr Hobbes himself confesses it reasonable that, to prevent this evil, men should enter into certain compacts to preserve one another. Now, if the destruction of mankind by each other's hands be such an evil, that, to prevent it, it was fit and reasonable that men should enter into compacts to preserve each other, then, before any such compacts, it was manifestly a thing unfit and unreasonable in itself that mankind should all destroy one another. And if so, then for the same reason it was also unfit and unreasonable, antecedent to all compacts, that any one man should destroy another arbitrarily and without any provocation, or at any time when it was not absolutely and immediately necessary for the preservation of himself; which is directly contradictory to Mr. Hobbes's first supposition,* of there being no natural and absolute difference between good and evil, just and unjust, antecedent to positive compact. And in like manner, all others, who, upon any pretence whatsoever, teach that good and evil depend originally on the constitution of positive laws, whether divine or human, must unavoidably run into the same absurdity: For, if there be no such thing asgood andevil in the nature of things, antecedent to all laws, then neither can any one law
* Ex his sequitur injuriam nemini fieri posse, nisi ei quocum initur pactum. De Cive, c. 3. § 4. where see more to the same purpose.
PROP. be better than another, norany one thing whatever be
more justly established and enforced by laws, than the contrary ; nor can* any reason be given why any laws should ever be made at all: But all laws equally will be either arbitrary and tyrannical,+ or frivolous and needless, because the contrary might with equal reason have been established, if, before the making of the laws, all things had been alike indifferent in their own nature. There is no possible way to avoid this absurdity, but by saying, that, out of things in their own nature absolutely indifferent, those are chosen by wise governors to be made obligatory by law, the practice of which they judge will tend to the public benefit of the community. But this is an express contradiction in the very terms. For, if the practice of certain things tends to the public benefit of the world, and the contrary would tend to the public disadvantage, then those things are not in their own nature indifferent, but were good and reasonable to be practised before any law was made, and can only for that very reason be wisely enforced by the authority of laws. Only here it is to be observed, that, by the public benefit, mustf not be understood the interest of any one particular nation, to the plain injury or prejudice of the rest of mankind, any more than the interest of one city or family, in opposition to their neighbours of the same country. But those things only
are truly good in their own nature which either tend to the universal benefit and welfare of all men, or at least are not destructive of it. The true state, therefore, of this case, is plainly this: Some
* Manifestum est rationem nullam esse lege prohibendi noxas
potest, quam mala esse nulla contendere, et tanquam malos perdere et condemnare peccantes ?Arnob. advers. Gentes, lib. 2.
* Qui autem civium rationem dicunt habendam, externorum negant ; dirimunt hi communem generis humani societatem ; qua sublata, justitia funditus tollitur.-Cic. de Offic. lib. 3.
things are in their own nature good and reasonable, PROP, and fit to be done ; such as keeping faith, and performing equitable compacts, and the like; and these receive not their obligatory power from any law or authority, but are only declared, confirmed, and enforced by penalties upon such as would not perhaps be governed by right reason only. Other things are in their own nature absolutely evil; such as breaking faith, refusing to perform equitable compacts, cruelly destroying those who have neither directly nor indirectly given any occasion for any such treatment, and the like: And these cannot, by any law or authority whatsoever, be made fit and reasonable, or excusable to be practised. Lastly, other things are in their own nature indifferent; that is, (not absolutely and strictly so; as such trivial actions, which have no way any tendency at all either to the public welfare or damage; for, concerning such things, it would be childish and trifling to suppose any laws to be made at all; but they are) such things, whose tendency to the public benefit or disadvantage is either so small or so remote, or so obscure and involved, that the generality of people are not able of them. selves to discern on which side they ought to act; and these things are made obligatory by the authority of laws, though perhaps every one cannot distinctly perceive the reason and fitness of their being enjoined; of which sort are many particular penal laws in several countries and nations. But to proceed :
The principal thing that can, with any colour of an answer reason, seem to countenance the opinion of those to the obwho deny the natural and eternal difference of good drawn from and evil, (for Mr. Hobbes's false reasonings I shall the variety hereafter consider by themselves,) is thedifficulty there nions of may sometimes be, to define exactly the bounds of learned right and wrong, the variety* of opinions that have the laws of
* Τα δε καλά και τα δίκαια, περί ών ή πολιτική σκοπείται, τοσάυτην έχει διαφορών και πλάνην ωστε δοκεϊν νόμω είναι, φύσει δε μή.-Aristot. Ethic.
lib. 1. cap. 1.
PROP. obtained even among understanding and learned men
concerning certain questions of just and unjust, esdifferent pecially in political matters, and the many contrary
laws that have been made in divers ages and in differconcerning right and ent countries concerning these matters. But
But as, in painting, two very different colours, by diluting each other very slowly and gradually, may, from the highest intenseness in either extreme, terminate in the midst insensibly, and so run one into the other, that it shall not be possible even for a skilful eye to determine exactly where the one ends and the other begins; and yet the colours may really differ as much as can be, not in degree only, but entirely in kind, as red and blue, or white and black ; so, though it may
very difficult, in some nice and perplexed cases, (which yet are very far from occurring frequently,) to define exactly the bounds of right and wrong, just and unjust, and there may be some latitude in the judgment of different men and the laws of divers nations ; yet right and wrong are nevertheless in themselves totally and essentially different; even altogether as much as white and black, light and darkness. The Spartan law, perhaps, which* permitted their youth to steal, may, as absurd as it was, bear much dispute whether it was absolutely unjust or no, because every man having an absolute right in his own goods, it may seem that the members of any society may agree to transfer or alter their own properties upon what conditions they shall think fit; but if it could be supposed that a law had been made at Sparta, or at Rome, or in India, or in any other part of the world, whereby it had been commanded or allowed, that every man might rob by violence, and murder whomsoever he met with, or that no faith should be kept with any man, nor any equitable compacts performed, no man, with any tolerable use
* Κλέπειν νενόμιστο τες ελευθερες παΐδας, και τι τις δύναιτο.-Plutarch. Apophthegmata Laconica.