Imágenes de páginas

whole doctrine, are conformable to reason, and agreeable to the human understanding.

3 What is the seventh character? To be just, because in this law the punishment is proportioned to the transgression. What is the eighth character? To be pacific and tolerant ; because according to the law of nature, all men being brethren, and equal in rights, it advises all to peace and toleration, even for their errors. What is the ninth character of this law ? To be equally beneficent to all men, and to teach them all the true method of being better and happier.

4 If, as you assert, it emanates immediately from God, does it teach us his existerice? Yes; very positively; for every man, who observes with attention, the astonishing scene of the universe, the more he meditates on the properties and attributes of each existence, and on the admirable order and harmony of their motions, the more will he be convinced that there is a supreme agent, a universal and identical mover, designed by the i ame God.

5 Was the law of nature ever known before the present day ? It has been spoken of in every age.

The greater part of lawgivers have pretended to make it the basis of their laws; but they have brought forward only a few of its precepts, and have had but vague ideas of it as a whole.

6 Why has this happened? Because, though it is simple in its basis, it forms in its developement and its consequences, a complicated aggregate which requires the knowledge of a number of facts, and the whole sagacity of reason, in order to be understood.

7 Since the law of nature is not written, may it not be considered as arbitrary and ideal ? No, because it consists altogether in facts, whose demonstration may be at any

time recalled before the senses, and form a science as precise and exact as those of geometry and mathematics: and this very circumstance, that the law of nature forms an exact science, is the reason why men, who are born in ignorance, and live in carelessness, have, till this day, known it only superficially.

SECTION III. The principles of the law of nature as they relate to man:

importance of instruction and self-government. i In what manner does nature command self-preservation ? By two powerful and involuntary sensations which she has attached as two guides or guardian genii to all our actions; one, the sensation of pain, by which she informs us of, and

turns us from whatever tends to our destruction. The other, the sensation of pleasure, by which she attracts and leads us towards every thing that tends to our preservation, and the unfolding of our faculties. 2 But does not this prove that our senses may

deceive us with respect to this end of self-preservation ? Yes; they may for a time. How do our sensations deceive us? In two ways; through our ignorance and our passions. When do they deceive us through our ignorance? When we act without knowing the action and effect of objects on our senses; for instance, when a man handles nettles without knowing their quality of stinging; of when he chews opium in ignorance of its soporific properties.

3 When do they deceive us through our passions ? When, though we are acquainted with the hurtful action of objects, we, notwithstanding, give way to the violence of our desires and our appetites; for instance, when a man who knows that wine inebriates, drinks, notwithstanding, to excess.

4 What results from these facts ? The result is, that the ignorance in which we enter the world, and the inordinate appetites to which we give ourselves up, are opposed to our self-preservation; that in consequence, the instruction of our minds, and the moderation of our passions, are two obligations, or two laws, immediately derived from the first law of preservation.

5 But if we are born ignorant, is not ignorance a part of the law of nature ? No more than it is for us to remain in the naked and feeble state of infancy: far from its being a law of nature, ignorance is an obstacle in the way of all her laws.

6 Whence then has it happened that moralists have existed who considered it as a virtue and a perfection? Because through caprice, or misanthropy, they have confounded the abuse of our knowledge with knowledge itself; as though because men misemploy the faculty of speaking, it were necessary to cut out their tongue; as though perfection and virtue consisted in the annihilation, and not in the unfolding and proper employment of our faculties.

7 Is instruction then necessarily indispensable for man's existence? Yes; so indispensable, that without it, he must be every instant struck and wounded by all the beings which surround him; for if he did not know the effects of fire, he would burn himself; of water, he would be drowned; of opium, he would be poisoned. If in the savage state, he is

unacquainted with the cunning and subterfuges of animals, and the art of procuring game, he perishes with hunger: if in a state of society, he does not know the progress of the seasons, he can neither cultivate the earth, nor provide himself with food: and the like may be said from all his actions arising from all his wants.

8 What is the true meaning of the word philosopher ? The word philosopher signifies lover of wisdom: now, since wisdom consists in the practice of the laws of nature, that man is a true philosopher who understands these laws in their full extent, and, with precision, renders his conduct conformable to them.

9 But does not this desire of self-preservation produce in individuals egotism, that is, the love of self; and is not egotism abhorrent to the social state ? No; for if by egotism is understood an inclination to injure others, it is no longer the love of self, but the hatred of our neighbor. The love of self, taken in its true sense, is not only consistent with a state of society, but is likewise its firmest support; since we are under a necessity of not doing injury to others, lest they should, in return, do injury to ourselves.

SECTION IV. of the basis of morality; of good, of evil, of crimes, of

vice and virtue. 1 What is good, according to the law of nature? Whatever tends to preserve and ameliorate mankind. What is evil? Whatever tends to the destruction and deterioration of the human race.

2 What is understood by physical good or evil, and moral good or evil? By the word physical, is meant whatever acts immediately upon the body; health is a physical good; sickness is a physical evil. By moral, is understood whatever is effected by consequences more or less remote: calumny. is a moral evil; a fair reputation is a moral good, because both of them are the occasion of certain dispositions and habits in other men, with respect to ourselves, which are useful or prejudicial to our well-being, and which attack or contribute to the means of existence.

3 The murder of a man, is it then a crime according to the law of nature? Yes; and the greatest that can be committed; for murder can never be done away.

4 What is virtue according to the law of nature? The

practice of actions which are useful to the individual and to society.

5 What is vice according to the law of nature? It is the practice of actions prejudicial to the individual and to society.

6 In what manner does the law of nature prescribe the practice of good and virtue, and forbid that of evil and of vice ? By the moral and physical advantages resulting from the practice of good and virtue, and the injuries which our very existence receives from the practice of

evil and vice. 7 What division do you make of the virtues ?' We divide them into three classes; 1st, Private virtues, or those which refer to single and insulated persons; 2d, Domestic virtues, or those which relate to families; 3d, Social virtues, or those which respect society at large.

SECTION V. Of individual or private virtues; of knowledge, tempe

rance, industry, cleanliness. 1 Which are the private virtues ? There are four principal ones: namely, knowledge; which comprehends prudence and wisdom. 2d, Temperance ; which includes sobriety and chastity. 3d, Activity; that is, the love of labor, and a proper employment of our time. 4th, Lastly; cleanliness, or purity of body, as well in our clothing, as in our dwellings.

2 How does the law of nature prescribe to us the possession of knowledge? In this way; The man who is acquainted with the causes and effects of things, provides in a very extensive and certain manner for his own preservation, and the developement of his faculties. Knowledge is for him, as it were light acting upon its appropriate organ, making him discern all the objects which surround him, and in the midst of which he moves with precision and clearness.

3 And for this reason, we used to say an enlightened man, to designate, a wise and well informed man. By the help of knowledge and information, we are never left without resources, and means of subsistence; and whence a philosopher, who had suffered shipwreck, observed justly to his companions, who were lamenting the loss of their fortunes, “ As for me,



fortune in myself.” 4 What is the vice opposed to knowledge? Ignorance. How does the law of nature forbid ignorance? By the great injury which our existence sustains from it; for the ignorant, who are unacquainted with either causes or effects, commit, every instant, mistakes the most pernicious to themselves

or others; like a blind man who walks groping his way, and who at every step stumbles against, or is jostled by his companions.

5 What is prudence ? An anticipated view, a foresight of effects, and the consequences of every event: a foresight by which a man avoids the dangers which threaten him, and seizes and raises up opportunities which are favorable: whence it appears that he provides, on a large and sure scale, for his present and future conservation; while the imprudent man, who neither calculates his progress nor his conduct, the efforts required, nor the resistances to overcome, falls every moment into a thousand difficulties and dangers; which more or less slowly destroy his faculties and his being.

6 What is temperance? A well regulated employment of our faculties; which prevents our ever exceeding in our sensible pleasures the end of nature, self-conservation. It is the moderation of our passions. What is the vice opposed to temperance ? The want of government over our passions ; an over-great eagerness to possess enjoyments : in a word, cupidity. What are the principal branches of temperance? Sobriety and chastity.

7 In what manner does the law of nature enjoin sobriety? By its powerful influence over our health. The man of sobriety digests his food with comfort; he is not oppressed by the weight of his aliment; his ideas are clear and easily impressed; he performs every function well; he attends with diligence to his business; he grows old free from sickness; he does not throw away his money in remedies for disorders; he enjoys with gay good humor the goods which fortune or prudence have procured for him.

Thus does generous nature make a thousand rewards flow from a single virtue.

8 By what means does she prohibit gluttony ? By the numerous evils attached to it. The glutton, oppressed by his aliment, digests with pain and difficulty; his head, disturbed by the fumes arising during bad digestion, is incapable of receiving neat and clear ideas; he gives himself up with fury to the inordinate movements of luxury and anger, which destroy his health; his body becomes fat, heavy, and unfit for labor; he passes through painful and expensive fits of sickness; he rarely lives to old age, and his latter part of life is marked by infirmity and disgust.

9 In what light does this law consider drunkenness? As the vilest and most pernicious of vices. The drunkard, deprived of the sense and reason given us by God, profanes


« AnteriorContinuar »