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Philosophical Theses, 1707 On natural law: how reverence for God is signified by respect for human rights - Gershom Carmichael, Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael 
Natural Rights on the Threshold of the Scottish Enlightenment: The Writings of Gershom Carmichael, ed. James Moore and Michael Silverthorne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Philosophical Theses, 1707
In the previous series of inaugural theses which were defended eight years ago under the same President,1 it was argued that the duties by which Nature itself teaches that indirectly and mediately we are to give evidence of a due sentiment of love and veneration for the supreme being, are appropriately reduced to one general law, and may be deduced from it. This law is that we should promote to the best of our ability the perfection of all creatures, but especially the happiness of rational creatures (in which the perfection of the rest is contained), so far as this does not conflict, to the best of our knowledge, with manifestation of the divine glory.2 So, without further preface, we may proceed to take up the thread of the argument which we broke off at that point, and deduce particular kinds of duties from this principle in accordance with the law of nature.
I. First, therefore, as there is no reason to suspect that the greatest happiness which men can obtain for men can detract in any way from either the illustration of divine glory or the happiness, consistent with it, of rational creatures other than man, we may deduce from the general law just established and at the same time substitute for it the following law (which contains in itself all the duties owed to men and which comes a little closer to demonstrating them): that God wills and requires from men as a sign of reverence due to him, that each man do whatever duties he can to promote the common happiness of the whole human race, and scrupulously avoid the contrary actions.3
II. The universal law about promoting the common good of rational creatures proposed at the beginning does not cease to obligate men, even if we suppose that there are no rational creatures other than men whom men can either help or harm. Similarly the obligation of the law laid down in the previous thesis would still exist for a man who lived so much apart from everyone else that there could be no exchange either of benefit or injury between them. In both cases, he who benefits any one part without harm to the other, increases the resources (so to speak) of the whole system; and the way the solitary man would respect either of the aforesaid laws would be by simply preserving his own safety and by diligently looking out for his own interests. But (with occasional rare exceptions) such a solitary state is more represented by fiction than truly existing in any part of the earth. To the contrary, individuals in general live so intermingled with others that the opportunity cannot long be lacking to share benefits with each other, or to offer harm. Moreover the human condition is so framed that one man’s private benefit is often another’s harm, and vice versa. And therefore it is clear that the law about promoting the common good of men can only be observed by the man who in ordering the whole series of his actions sets before his eyes and prepares consistently to follow what is universally useful rather than what is good for himself without regard for others.
III. We recognize that those too who are not separated from the company of others should advance the common good of men not only through the duties which men do for each other, but also through the duties by which each individual takes special care of his own safety, cultivates his own mind, and endeavors to fortify himself as strongly as possible against dependence on external things, in accordance with the rule set out in the previous thesis. Yet the nature of men is so made that individuals need the help of others to live decent lives; they are equipped with various gifts of soul and body with which they may do more good to each other than any animal can, and they are well disposed to do so. But equally they may abuse all these prerogatives of their nature by harming one another, and may give in to the assaults of temptation that provoke them to do so. It is therefore obvious that if the human race is to be safe, it must be sociable; that is, men must readily join with their fellows and treat them well in order that, so far as they can, they may win and preserve mutual benevolence and mutual trust; these are the two hinges on which depends the speedy performance of all the mutual duties which relate to either preserving human life, or making it happier. Moreover neither the duties which relate to the immediate worship of God nor those which pertain to each man’s self-cultivation are ever in conflict with the cultivation of sociability among men (as we have just explained it); to the contrary they very much encourage it and make it more sacred and more useful, and vice versa. From this we safely infer a universal obligation to cultivate sociability as the means instituted by God himself for preserving the common safety of the human race and procuring its advantage. From this rule, as well as from the other rule previously given that each man should seek his own interests without harming others, it is easy to deduce (following the law established in the first thesis) all the duties we must perform toward men. From this latter rule follow the duties which we owe to ourselves, so far as they aim at our own intrinsic perfection. And from the sociability rule follow the duties which we must perform to others, and also to ourselves so far as they relate to making us more useful members of human society.
IV. He who wills the end, normally wills also the means necessary to that end. Hence we should infer that everything which conduces to the common happiness of the human race, and especially to the cultivation of sociability among men for the sake of happiness, is prescribed by natural law; and on the other hand that everything that is in conflict with those things is forbidden by the same law. However in neither category are all these things of the same order. Some are duties whose performance in such circumstances is so absolutely essential to the being of society, that anyone who has not obliged himself to do them of his own accord may be rightly compelled to do them. There are other duties, however, where performance should be left to each man’s sense of shame, since they pertain not so much to the being as to the well-being of society, and should not be forced out of the recalcitrant, since it would be foolish to apply a medicine which was far more painful and difficult than the disease itself. Duties of the former kind should be said to be due of perfect right; duties of the latter kind are due of imperfect right. The justice which is related to the former is not inappropriately called by Grotius expletive justice, and to the latter, attributive justice.4
V. This distinction should not be understood in quite the same sense in the natural state as in the civil. For in the natural state we have to decide by our own private judgment what things are owed us on the basis of perfect right and seize them by our own strength or that of our allies; in the civil state, we should claim them by action taken in the courts and with the help of the magistrate’s authority. And in addition to this, the discrimination of perfect and imperfect right does not rest on quite the same foundation in both cases. For just as in the natural state each claims for himself by his own right all and only that which, antecedent to any civil decree, satisfies the above-mentioned condition of due perfect right, and leaves the rest to the humanity and sense of shame of those from whom they are expected, so in civil societies the distinction is to be taken, at least in the first instance, from the civil laws which give or deny an action. Often, for special reasons, the laws make some performances perfectly owed which nature had otherwise left in each man’s judgment; on the other hand they leave to the judgment of individuals (at least so far as external courts are concerned) other performances which nature otherwise had given the right of forcibly exacting. It does not follow from this that these civil laws are in conflict with the natural laws, provided that they follow their footsteps in the heart of the matter and aim at the great goal for which civil societies are formed, which is to preserve, for each and every citizen, so far as possible, his liberty and his property. In taking up these positions, we have before our eyes (as befits philosophers) not the civil laws of any particular nation but only the natural laws.
VI. We indicated just now that some of the duties which, by the fundamental laws established above, each man owes to the human race have direct and immediate regard to the agent himself, and some to other men. With regard to the former, the law laid down in the first thesis, together with the comments about the purpose of the second law, tells us that every man is obliged to put his own advantage after the common happiness of the human race; but as the strength and faculties of each man are finite and not capable of everything all at once, and as each man can contribute more by his labors to protect his own safety and to advance his own interests than anyone else’s, it is certain that every law commends to each man a certain particular care for himself as his own proper province, urging him not only to promote the happiness of the human race, at least in this way, by looking out for himself without harming others but also to make himself fitter to bring advantages to others by duly cultivating his faculties.
VII. Now the care which each man is obliged to spend on himself extends to both parts of a man, but in the first place to the mind. The mind should be furnished with correct opinions about things relevant to duty; it should learn to make correct judgments about the things that arouse human desire; it should get used to controlling its feelings by the norm of reason; and it should be early trained in some honest profession (suited to the individual’s condition and mode of living). As for the body, its life and health should be preserved and its strength improved by all good means; to this end one should make a moderate and timely use of food and labor and avoid excess in either; one should also avoid immoderate passions, since they weaken the body’s strength; and finally one should develop a habitual spirit of courage, in order to fight off the many dangers that threaten to ruin the body.
VIII. A man not only may but should expend care and labor in performing various duties toward God and mankind, which may exhaust his life and conclude its term earlier than if he had lived softly (for life is not to be measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of good actions we do). One is sometimes bound to expose one’s life to a present danger to save others. But it is never right for any man directly to cut off his life nor to hasten his end in any way, even to avoid by death the most grievous temporal ills, nor to neglect for such a reason any decent means that lies in his power to prolong his life.
IX. Due care for the body’s security not only permits but obliges one to defend it by inflicting violent harm on an unjust aggressor, even (if there is no other way) by killing him. This self-protection is circumscribed by completely different laws, according as one lives in the natural state or under civil government, whether we are considering a just cause for doing it or the time when we may start it or the condition of ending it. It is indeed true that in both states the ultimate defense is permitted not only to preserve one’s life but also to maintain the body’s integrity and chastity, which are of course irreparable goods. In the natural state this extends also to external property, unless it is of such little importance that for its sake (in the absence of other persuasive reasons) prudence does not allow us to expose our own lives, nor humanity the lives of others, to danger. But in the civil state it is for the civil laws to define what is permitted for the preservation of property, except that here too there is room for prudence and humanity, especially where the laws rather give permission than a command.
Further, in natural liberty violent defense rightly begins as soon as it is quite clear that another person is engaged in inflicting violence upon us, and there is no hope of turning him from his hostile intention by gentler means. It is rightly continued until not only the actual danger is repelled and losses made good (whether the losses which originally gave rise to the war or the loss we have sustained in the war), but also till a guarantee is given of not doing harm in the future, a guarantee which gives assurance that the enemy has dropped his intention to do harm or has been deprived of opportunity and means. But in the civil state, we must not embark upon a defense that threatens death or grave bodily injury to someone else, until the unjust aggressor has driven us into such a position that we have no opportunity either of running away or of invoking the help of magistrates or citizens, before the assault against which the ultimate defense is here admitted has had its effect. It must not be continued beyond the point at which we have an opportunity to escape after repelling the actual danger. For vengeance for the injury, guarantee for the future, and compensation for loss (if there has been any so far) should be left in this case to the care of the magistrate.
X. In all these cases humanity requires us to look for a safer means of avoiding injury and not to expose ourselves or others to danger without necessity, especially when the cause of the threatened injury is mistake or madness rather than malice. However a man engaged in a lawful and honest activity does not lose the privilege of defending himself even though he could avoid danger by giving it up. But anyone who challenges another to a duel does lose the privilege. (We extend the term “duel” here to any fight which is formally appointed and settled on certain terms, on whose outcome a dispute depends by agreement of the parties.) So does anyone who when challenged offers himself of his own accord, except perhaps in the case where the safety of innocent men or some other quite valuable right of our own or another’s cannot be defended against an unjust aggressor by any other equally suitable means, though in a civil state which is truly civil this hardly seems likely to happen between private individuals. And “wrongs” properly so called (i.e., insults), which are nearly always the reason why fellow citizens engage in duels, would not provide a just cause for extreme violence even in natural liberty, since it is completely contrary to equity and humanity to repel or take vengeance for an insult in that manner. For the compensation for damage to one’s reputation which is commonly said to be afforded by taking so cruel a revenge for such a “wrong” is purely and simply an illusion cherished by conceited fellows who need to be taught that true reputation (which is simply the opinion men have, and particularly upright and judicious men, of one’s excellence) is to be won and preserved by behaving properly and deserving well of human society. The observation of thoroughly wicked customs, which pass among certain ferocious Desperadoes5 as laws of honor, disgrace a man as a man, as a citizen, and most of all as a Christian.
XI. If someone has taken the initiative in causing harm to someone else but then repents and not only stops doing the harm but also satisfies all the obligations he incurred by it, and if the injured party in the bitterness of his soul does not himself cool down, at that point (but only at that point) the first party begins to enjoy the right and privilege of self-defense; and in this case some have rightly said that the just cause has passed from his enemy to himself. Here it is rightly asked whether between equals in the state of nature it is right to inflict a punishment in addition to all that we indicated in Thesis ix is owed by the wrongdoer to his victim. With Grotius and Locke6 we hold that the answer must be “yes” (at least in the case of the more horrible wrongs, maliciously perpetrated), but the injured party, who will still be seething with anger, should not proceed to punish with the same violence he had used in defense of himself or the recovery of his property.
XII. Further, the care for self-preservation which nature commends to every man not only permits license against an unjust aggressor, but also allows exceptions to otherwise universal laws in other cases. In this sense necessity knows no law (as they say). This is not because any necessity allows us to violate a law, but because it shows that the present case ought to be understood as excepted in the law. The present case of necessity causes no exception in the general precepts of worshipping God and promoting the advantages of human society but only in the particular precepts derived from these fundamental laws, and ought therefore to be taken as prescribing simply the particular duty which in the given circumstances brings the latter into line with the aim defined by the former.
XIII. Thus the necessity of saving a life gives permission not only to amputate a limb afflicted by an incurable condition, but also to hasten the death, in certain cases, of men who would die in any case, and even more allows us to refuse aid which would slightly prolong someone else’s life, if by giving such aid we would doom ourselves to an early death. But as the outcomes of such things tend to be uncertain, and therefore we often have a reason to be uncertain as to what we owe to our own safety and what to the safety of other people, three particular kinds of reasons, it seems, should be brought into the calculation and balanced against each other, viz., the seriousness of the evils feared on both sides, the probability that they will occur, and the number of persons at risk on both sides; in the last case number may be supplemented by worth in the case of a person who is useful to many, but other things being more or less equal, each man is permitted to favor himself.
XIV. There is even less doubt that one may take by force or stealth property which ordinarily belongs to someone else, in order to save one’s life from threatened death. The provisos are: that the owner himself is not exposed to the same crisis; that the taker cannot get what he manifestly needs to preserve his life by any other means; and that he does not refuse to give whatever compensation may be in his power now or later for what he has taken. For separate ownership of property cannot to be supposed to have been introduced without leaving this particle of primitive community in a case of necessity.
XV. Furthermore, an emergency affecting our property sometimes gives us leave to destroy or spoil articles of relatively low value which belong to others, provided that the danger, which without fault on our part threatens a far more valuable piece of our property, cannot be removed in a more convenient way, and provided that we promptly make up the loss which the other man suffers. This principle of equity is followed and at the same time more clearly defined by the laws of most states in the case of threatened shipwreck, fire, and the like; the same is true, and rightly so, for almost all branches of the law.
XVI. Some of the duties which should be performed toward other men are absolute; since they arise from a common obligation, they should be performed toward all men indifferently. Other such duties are hypothetical; as these derive their origin from the voluntary agreements of men or from some particular adventitious state, they are only owed to those with whom we have an agreement or with whom we share some such state.7
XVII. Among absolute duties, this rightly takes the first place, or perhaps rather embraces all the others, that every man should respect and treat any other man as naturally equal to himself. Such equality not only implies that each man is equally a man and consequently subject to a moral obligation from which no one can exempt him, but also that he has certain rights belonging to him which no one has the right to violate. It also implies that no man may claim for himself in his own right any power over others or a greater share of the things that are available to all, merely because he is better furnished than others by nature with certain gifts of mind or body. On the other hand it also implies that nature distributes to all men in the same manner in accordance with the same laws the acquisition of dominion or government. The same point is also made by the golden and universal rule taught by our Lord: As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.8 This also (to omit other clear consequences) refutes the empty claim of the ancient Greeks that they had been made masters by nature and the barbarians their slaves;9 certain Christians should ask themselves whether their own minds are not possessed by a similarly outrageous opinion.
XVIII. Of the elements of a due recognition of natural equality, the most essential to the practice of social life is: let no man harm another or cause loss to another in any way, whether by harming, spoiling, diminishing, or removing that which is now his; or by intercepting what is due to him by perfect right; or by omitting or refusing the performance of any duty to anyone which he is bound to do on the basis of a perfect obligation. So whatever belongs to anyone by legitimate title (whether as given by nature, or assigned by the agency of a human action or law), this precept forbids it to be taken away from him, or spoiled, or harmed, or removed from his sphere of use in whole or in part.
XIX. From this it follows that if harm is inflicted or loss caused by any means to anyone by another, the man found to be responsible for it must make it good so far as possible: no one’s right is abrogated by another man’s wrongdoing. Relevant to the estimation of loss is not only the thing itself which is harmed, destroyed, or stolen, but also the fruits, whether natural or civil, which would have accrued to the owner if the thing had been saved, after deduction of the expenses which would have been necessary for collecting the fruits. Finally, all that subsequently flows from any act of harm as by natural necessity, is regarded as one loss.
XX. Compensation for loss is due not only from those who have inflicted a loss on another person themselves, but also from those who by act or omission inconsistent with perfect obligation were part of the cause of the loss. Where several men in agreement have conspired in one act causing loss, each individual has an obligation proportional to his influence. However if any one of them is caught and is able to pay, he is obligated for the whole in the absence of the rest; once he has paid, the rest owe nothing to the injured party on the score of compensation. Also obligated is the man who has harmed another not by malice aforethought but through culpable negligence, but not the man who has been the occasion of another’s loss absolutely by chance. On the natural equity of noxal actions and on damage by animals, the candidates will respond in the examination room.10
XXI. One should also include among absolute and general duties the duty that everyone should promote the advantage of another, so far as he conveniently can. Each person owes this duty both in an indefinite manner, to become a more useful member of human society by a proper cultivation of mind and body and (so far as the genius and condition of each man allows) by inventing arts and sciences useful to the human race or by developing them to a more perfect condition, and also in a definite manner by doing good to specific persons as opportunity arises. Anyone who refuses to do services of harmless utility to others can very rightly be accused of churlish ill will, i.e., if he refuses services which help the receiver without cost to the giver. But we should probably not stretch the phrase harmless utility to make it the foundation of a perfect right, unless the ground of necessity is also involved; we have admitted above that necessity lends it considerable strength, and indeed we have recognized above that in an extreme case necessity is enough without harmless utility.
XXII. But it often happens that from extraordinary benevolence we should freely do something for someone which involves expense or hard work, in order to relieve his needs or achieve some outstanding advantage for him. These are the only duties (strictly speaking) which deserve to be called benefits. In conferring benefits with generosity as well as prudence, taking account of the condition of the giver and of the receiver, men have an ample opportunity to win conspicuous praise and to deserve well of others. In return the beneficiary is required to show a grateful spirit, which should be attested by the return of equal or even greater benefits when occasion requires and his condition permits. Neglect of this duty betrays a mind which is all the more disgustingly mean in that no action for simple ingratitude is allowed in the courts nor should it be.
XXIII. One obviously does not satisfy the obligations of natural law merely by observing and performing the duties which it enjoins independent of agreements between men. Furthermore, in order to develop human society with beneficial consequences for the human race, it is necessary for men sometimes to take voluntary obligations on themselves by making promises and agreements about the mutual performance of duties which before that act were at each individual’s discretion but which, once the obligation has been voluntarily contracted, have to be performed by those who have made the promises or agreements. Consequently, it is rightly included among the primary precepts of natural law, that every man should keep his pledged faith.
XXIV. Sometimes we speak of future actions which lie in our power in such a way that we express a merely present intention and not a will to impose any obligation upon ourselves; sometimes we speak in such a way as to indicate a will to obligate ourselves but not to confer a perfect right on someone else to require performance; and sometimes we clearly declare either by words or by other signs our will to give away a small portion of our liberty, so that not only are we obligated on the ground of fidelity but the other party acquires a perfect right to require from us the thing or service promised on the ground that it is owed to him, and to extract it out of us against our will if we do not offer it voluntarily. This will so signified, whether it arises from a mutual agreement or a unilateral promise, provided that no legitimate counterclaim may be brought against it, has no less full strength and force to produce a personal right than the actual alienation of his property by an owner has the force to found a right to property.
XXV. The first requirement of the obligation of promises and agreements is consent, both by the party which undertakes the obligation and by the party for whom it is undertaken, and it must be a consent which has been made manifest by appropriate signs by both parties. But since clear consent to a proposal cannot be either given or declared without the use of reason, it follows that the promises and agreements of those who do not have the capacity to use reason (at least to the extent of understanding the matter of the proposal, so far as it refers to them) entail no obligation directly.
XXVI. But one must not suppose that a man has clearly given his consent, who at the time was persuaded that the matter was otherwise than it actually was, and thought in good faith that the point in which he is deceived was recognized by the other party to be a condition of his consent because of the nature of the transaction, even if he did not explicitly state that. Suppose therefore that the event shows that some circumstance was lacking which it is clear that the promising or agreeing party assumed in good faith as a condition of his act (for a judgment about a thing which is not apparent is the same as a judgment about a thing that does not exist, so far as the external forum is concerned, even in natural liberty). In that case the obligation for him to perform the action is dissolved, so far as it is founded on that assumption; except that if he was negligent in investigating the matter or in expressing his meaning and the other party suffers a loss for that reason, the promisor is obliged to make it good, not directly on the strength of the promise but on the basis of a loss culpably inflicted. We caution therefore that in reciprocal agreements no event is readily understood as a condition, unless it is either expressly stated to be such; or is affirmed by the other party to the transaction truly to exist; or is such that the promise would be manifestly impossible or absurd to perform apart from the condition which it is clear that the promisor was not able to perform; or finally unless it concerns the thing itself or the material which is the subject of the agreement, its valuable qualities, or lack of them. But things not assumed as conditions do not vitiate an act otherwise properly conceived, even though they perhaps disappoint expectation, except so far as the party with whom one is dealing can be held responsible for the error, in which case the obligation would be lifted as a form of compensation.
XXVII. Another frequent question is whether a man who has made a promise or an agreement with someone under the influence of force or fear should be deemed to have given the consent which we said above was requisite to the obligation of promises and agreements. We take it as certain that we cannot validly oppose to the obligation of a promise or agreement either fear inflicted by a third party without collusion with a party to the transaction, nor fear justifiably inflicted by any party, nor the fear that the other party to the transaction will inflict an injury, if this fear is rashly conceived and without serious grounds. Therefore we think that much the safest opinion is given by those who teach that whatever can be legitimately promised for the purpose of saving life or averting serious loss must, after it has been promised, be fully performed on grounds of fidelity, even though the promise was extorted by the most unjustified force on the part of the one who required the promise be given. Admittedly this wrong renders him incapable of obtaining by that act any right which he may legitimately use (not to mention that any claim to perfect right is removed from this case by way of compensation because of the wrong inflicted). Yet the bond of veracity and fidelity is in no way dissolved by this, and that prevents the other party from making use of the counterclaim of force and fear (even though it was quite obvious when he was making the promise).11
XXVIII. Further, the object of promises and pacts has to be within our physical and moral power. We cannot therefore be obliged by any agreement to do things which, literally or morally, we cannot do. But it does not follow from this that every promise of something which is impossible or illegitimate is totally without effect, so as to give rise to no obligation. When the recipient of a promise was invincibly ignorant of the circumstances which would render performance impossible or illegitimate, if the promisor knew of them or fraudulently contrived them after contracting the obligation, there is no doubt that he is obliged to make good all the adverse consequences of his act. It seems the same thing must be said in the case of a reciprocal agreement, if the maker of the agreement ought to have known the impediments to carrying it through or afterward caused them by culpable negligence. But in simple promises, where fault on the part of the promisor alone is involved, all that is required is to make good the loss incurred by the recipient of the promise. Moreover the obligation disappears, if the impediments to legitimately performing what was promised were invincibly concealed from the promisor or supervened afterward by sheer chance, with the proviso that if anything in the agreement has to this point been done by the other party in prospect of the performance now impeded, it must be returned, or if that is impossible, then its equivalent. But one must note that by illegitimate we do not here mean everything which is rashly promised and which would not be performed on the ground of duty if no promises had been made. For in many such cases one must apply this third principle that many things which ought not to be done are valid when done. So by illegitimate things which may not be done by any promise or agreement we simply mean those things which are prohibited by law without exception: such as things by which reverence for the deity is directly violated; things by which extreme disaster will fall upon anyone who does them or requires them; and things which damage a perfect right of a third party. Hence it follows that any promises or agreements we make are void if they concern the property or actions of other men, insofar as they depend not on our own will but on that of another. And the same thing must be said about property or actions of our own which have already been pledged to someone else.
XXIX. We may promise to other men and make agreements with them to take over the promises of others, and in general to transfer or acquire any alienable rights, not only through ourselves but also through a third party whom we have made the interpreter of our will. Whatever he does in good faith in accordance with the procedure of a public mandate (i.e., a mandate declared to the person one is dealing with) obligates the mandator himself.
XXX. To preserve sociability among men, as one should, it is as important that veracity should be scrupulously observed in assertions as fidelity in promises and pacts. It is true that in many cases we are not bound to reveal to others the sense of our mind, to the extent that in such cases we have the choice either to speak or be silent, or perhaps, if we are pressed, to brush off an importunate person by turning the talk in a different direction or by giving some rather general response. Nevertheless the universal law of nature which is superior to every exception is: no one should deceive anyone by words or by any other signs which may rightly be regarded as employed for the purpose of expressing concepts to him—i.e., by employing such signs as he judges that the other will duly interpret as intended to signify something to him which is not in fact true or which is not thought to be true by the speaker. For in making an assertion to another, whatever signs a man uses for that purpose, he is taken to be making a tacit agreement with him to use these signs in the same sense in which he thinks they will be understood by the other person with the aid of reason, i.e., in a normal way and in the sense in which such signs are usually understood in similar cases where no particular convention suggests anything different. Therefore equivocations and mental reservations do not avoid the vice of mendacity; and it is in vain to add the limitation, if he to whom the utterance is addressed has the right to understand. For although not all have the right to understand the sense of our mind on any and every matter, yet this right of not being deceived by false speech is common to all. Without it, the use of speech would be largely banished from human life; it would be pointless to tell anyone anything, and no less pointless to listen to it.
XXXI. An oath is rightly held to give a serious weight to both promises and agreements as well as to assertions. In an oath God is called upon to witness to fidelity in the one case, to truthfulness in the other, and in both cases to avenge any falsehood there may be. But since oaths do not so much produce a materially new obligation as add a kind of supplementary bond to an obligation which is valid in itself, the requisites of the obligation of an oath are all the same conditions which are requisite to the strength and validity of the act to which it is added. However, because of the use of the name of God whom one cannot in fact deceive and whom none can mock without punishment, the effect of oaths is not only that a more drastic penalty is to be feared by one who has broken his sworn faith than unsworn faith, but also that every frivolous interpretation is excluded from acts in which they are employed. For it is indeed rightly presumed that a transaction in which such a grave sanction is used is serious and of great importance.
I planned to treat in a similar compendium the rest of the topics of natural jurisprudence also, especially those which concern the doctrine of ownership or dominion and government, and to give a short account of them; for it seemed to me that nothing I could do would be more opportune than a synopsis of that most noble science which has been taught to these candidates with particular care, as to others before them, following the method of the famous Pufendorf. But as the topics already dealt with have grown quite long enough for this kind of work, I once more break off the thread here. I append however the following points, so that no one may complain that specimens of the other parts of philosophy are altogether wanting.
From logic, ontology, and pneumatology
Gershom Carmichael’s Account of His Teaching Method
Gershom Carmichael’s Account of His Teaching Method
(Written in August, 1712)
The Method I have taken and propose to take with ye Class now under my Charge, is as followes.
When they enter’d Semys,1 I employ’d them, for some time, in expounding the Greek Testament & going over ye most necessary things in ye Greek Grammar.
In November, so soon as I could get them furnish’d with ye first sheet of my Compend of Logick (which was then printing) I began them to it, largely exploring every Lesson, when I gave it out, & afterwards examining them upon it, with a repeated explication. Thus I went thro’ ye Compend two or three times, save that I did not prelect the Lesson at giving it out, after the first time. Here I insisted verry largely on the forms of Propositions & Syllogismes, both Categoricall & those that are not so; still shewing them how all are reducible to ye Categorick form. But I reserv’d at least ye half of ye day for ye Greek, till their publick Examination was over.
After the Examination, I turn’d their Lesson, in the Greek Testament, from the Use of an ordinary Greek Lesson, to that of a sacred Exercise; no longer asking a Grammaticall Account of Words; only causing them first read a whole Verse distinctly in Greek, & then say it over in Latin. Thus they went thro’ a page or two, every Morning before Prayer (at least four Mornings in ye Week) & in the Semy Year finish’d ye Evangelists. I have continued ye same Method since, so that in their Course they’ll go thro’ ye whole New Testament.
In January I began [them] to Ars Cogitandi, as being ye best Logick, that I know extant under ye name of Logick, & that is tolerably adapted for ye Use of teaching in a University. Here likewise I prepar’d their way, for reading what was prescrib’d (as I do in all ye parts of my Course) by a previous Explication of each Lesson. In doing this, if ye year be short, & I be not verry much hurry’d, I use to read over every word of ye Lesson, & comment upon it. If otherwise, I give them a more generall View of it, & acquaint them with what I think necessary for their reading it with ye more Ease & Advantage, but especially for guarding them against Errors. And whereas, for ye help of their Memory, I use to cause them write on ye Margins of their Books here & there verry short Notes of what I think most necessary to be remarked, I endeavour, if possible, to dictate these Notes upon each Lesson, before I set them to study it. The Method describ’d in this Paragraph, being what I generally use thro’ ye whole, will not need again to be repeated.
In Ars Cogitandi, I did not oblige my Self to follow ye Author thro his Digressions, tho’ some of his morall ones are too good to be altogether passed by. The places of that book that favour Popery are already noticed, & shortly but judiciously obviated by an unknown hand, in Notes that are printed with ye Book. Besides which, I took further Notice of some of them, in my marginall Animadversions.2
What is wanting in that Book, of ye things commonly treated of in Logick, I gave them some taste of (so far as seem’d necessary) in my Theses: which (in this, as well as in ye other parts) being connected, so as to contain a Compend of ye whole Science, serve not only as Matter of Dispute, but as a Text for teaching.
I began them to ye Exercise of Disputing, I think, some time in February, having first taught them ye Rules of it, from ye Praxis subjoin’d to my printed Compend. For ye Matter of their Disputes, at first I parcell’d out to them ye Compend it self, which serv’d till ye beginning of May, when they began to dispute in ye Common Hall. From that time to ye End of ye Course, ye Theses, that are to be publickly disputed that Week, are first defended in ye Class, by those that are to impugne in publick, & impugned by those that are to defend.
The Afternoons, from ye end of March, or beginning of Aprill, were mostly spent on Pardie’s Elements of Geometry;3 in which they went thro’ 3 books that Year.
The same Year I taught them one half of De Vries his Determinationes Ontologicae:4 I design’d to have gone thro’ ye whole; but could not overtake to end both Ars Cogitandi & it that Session. And I made ye less haste to go thro ye Latter, that Severall of them were not then provided with it.
In ye Baccalour Year, I went again thro Ars Cogitandi, taking in, in ye proper places, what I had in my own Compend & Theses. This took us up till the publick Examination, or verry near it. Then I went thro’, in my ontologick Theses, those Heads, which they had learn’d ye Year before; making them at ye same time, read over again, & reflect upon, what they had learn’d in De Vries concerning them. And from that, I went on to teach them ye remainder of that Authors Determinationes Ontologicae. But because I could not reach ye end of them against ye first of January, & I was then obliged, for ye Sake of my private Schollars, to begin ye Pneumaticks, I referr’d what then remain’d of ye Ontology to ye Afternoons.
Thus, with ye new Year began De Vries his Determinationes Pneumatologicae, which I propos’d to have ended against ye first of March. But when at that time ye part de Deo was yet remaining, I chose to cause them write that part out of my own Pneumaticks; where it is contain’d in two Sheets of Paper; & consists of four Chapters, ye first of which states ye Notion, & by severall Arguments demonstrates the Existence, of a Deity; ye Second treats of ye incommunicable Attributes; ye third of ye communicable Attributes; & ye fourth of ye Operations, or externall Acts, of God.5 This I taught them instead of De Vries his third part.
However, All I could do, was to begin ye Ethicks with ye Month of Aprill; which I did, having before caus’d them write some of my Ethick Theses, which were to be ye Matter of our first Lessons. For my Resolution was, to take ye Plan of my Method from ye Theses, & to consider ye severall Chapters or Paragraphs of Pufendorf de Officio Hominis & Civis (which I at ye same time put in their hands) as they fell in with the things treated of there. Now, that ye Faculty may judge, whether I have, by this Innovation, done any Injustice, either to the Author or ye Subject, I presume to offer ye following Index of ye Theses, & ye Order in which I was thereby led to handle Pufendorfs Book.
The Declar’d Will of God, & Supream Law, or Rule to ye Actions of Rationall Creatures; ye Denominations they receive from thence, Thes: 1, 2, 3 Pufendorf Bk. I (which is allwaies to be understood till I mention ye 2nd) Cap: 2, secs. 1–3 & 11. What Actions & how far, morall & imputable. Th: 4–10. Puf. C.1. Law of God, Natural, Positive. Th: 11. Puf: C: 2. final section. The Natural Law truly Divine Th: 12, 13, 14. How immutable. Th: 15, 16: And because I here likewise consider’d whether it admitt of a Dispensation, & whether of an epieikeia, I took in Puf: C. 2. secs. 9, 10. Knowledge of ye Law of Nature, neither innate in Mens Minds, nor only learn’d from Custom, but gather’d from ye Nature of things. Th: 17. P: C. 3. sec. 12. Law of Nations, whether distinct from that of nature. Th: 10. Morality of Persons, where of Virtue, Vice, vulgar Distinction of ye Cardinal Virtues &c. Th: 19–25. First fundamentall Praecept of ye Law of Nature, to worship God. Th: 26. Puf: C. 4. Second fundamentall Praecept, to promote ye Wellfare of Mankind. Th: 27, and that, first, by procuring all innocent Advantages to ourselves, 2ly by living Sociably towards others. Th 28. Puf. C. 3. secs. 1–4. The Divine Authority & Sanction of these Praecepts. Th. 29. Puf: C. 3. secs. 10, 11. Fundamentall Errors of Hobbes. Th: 30: Right, perfect, imperfect. Justice, particular, universall. Injury. Th. 31, 32, 33. Puf: C. 2. secs. 12–18. Particular Dutys to ourselves, deducible from ye Law of Sociality. Th: 34. Pub. C. 3 final section & C. 5 sec. 1. Duty’s towards the Mind. Th: 35, Puf: C. 5. sec. 2. (Here, because Pufendorf in his litle book passes this subject too lightly, I caused them write about a Sheet of Paper out of my larger Ethick, where among other things, I treat of ye Government of ye Passions; for ye Nature & Distinction of them, as well as ye Determination of ye Will, its different Acts. Liberty &tc. had before been handled in ye Pneumaticks.) Dutys towards ye Body. Th: 36. Puf. C. 5 sec. 3. Wherever different Mens Interests Clash, we must have recourse to ye Law of Sociality for understanding ye Termes of which I remark in general. It requires an Acknowledgement of ye Natural Equality of Men. Th: 37, 38. Puf. C. 7; 2ly it does not exclude nay it requires a peculiar Care of ones self. Th: 39. 3ly Every Mans Right includes a corresponding Obligation upon others, either definite or indefinite. Th: 40. Every perfect Right naturally includes, when counteracted, two accessory Rights; ye One of endeavouring to maintain it, even by hurting him that attempts to violate it; the other of getting it repair’d, when it is actually violated. Th: 41. Since Sociality consists in so maintaining & using our own Rights, as to have a due Regard to every other Mans, there appears no better way of determining what it demands, than by considering, in order, what those Rights are, that every Man has, or is capable of having. Th: 42. These I reduce to six Classes. The first Classe contains natural Rights, such as Life, Limbs, Liberty, & ye Capacity of acquiring adventitious Rights by proper Means. Th. 43., Puf: C. 6, sec. 2. The Second Classe is of those Rights, which a Person acquires by his own proper Deed: Such as ye Property of externall things in ye hands of ye originary Acquirer. Th. 44. Here I treat, of ye Grant of externall Things to Mankind in Generall. Th. 45, 46, 47. Puf. C. 12. sec. 1. Of ye Acquisition of Property by Occupation. Th: 48–52. Puf: C. 12. secs. 2, 3. What things naturally uncapable of being so acquir’d. Th: 53. Puf: C. 12. sec. 4. The Effect of Occupation, in other things, naturall & perpetuall. How it proceeds in moveables, how in Immoveables, & how far it extends. Th: 54–58. Puf: C. 12. secs. 5, 6. Occupation of things abandon’d by ye former Owner. Th: 59. Puf: C. 12 final section. Acquisition of Property by Accession. Th: 60, 61, 62. Puf: C. 12. sec. 7. The Indefinite Obligation arising from Property. Th: 63. Puf: C. 13 sec. 1. The third Classe, is of those Rights which are acquir’d by ye concurring Deeds, of ye Acquirer, & of another from whom they are derived. Th: 64. Rights so deriv’d, either Real or personal. Th: 65. Of ye first sort, ye chief is Property. It may be convey’d, whether the Conveyance of it naturally require Delivery. Th: 66. Property is convey’d either entire, or diminish’d: Servitudes & Diminution of Property. Th: 67. Puf: C. 12 sec. 8. The conveyance of personal Rights, is either of such as were before competent to ye Conveyer and now to ye Acquirer, against a third Person, or Such as were competent to the Conveyer against ye Acquirer himself, but now being convey’d, or rather remitted, to him, are consolidated with his natural Liberty; or lastly, such as were before contain’d in the Conveyers Natural Liberty, but now, when convey’d, are competent to ye Acquirer against ye Conveyer himself. This last Sort comprehends all promissory Deeds. The frequent occasion for them & necessity of faithfull performance. Th: 68. Puf: C. 9 secs. 1, 2, 3. Three wayes of speaking of future Actions, viz. so as only to express or Defigne or so as to oblige imperfectly or perfectly. Th: 69. Puf: C. 9. secs. 6, 7. Perfect Promises either single or reciprocal. Th: 70. Puf: C. 9. sec. 5. All Deeds by which Rights are directly convey’d inter Vivos, require ye Consent of both Partyes; & are therefore enervated by Impotency of Reason, Mistake, Fraud, Force &c. Th: 71–75. Puf: C. 9. secs. 8–16. Its requisite that ye Matter of all such Conveyances be in ye power of ye Conveyer: where, of Promises of things impossible, or unlawfull. Th: 76, 77. Puf: C. 9. secs. 17, 18, 19. Promises, absolute & conditional. Th: 78. Puf: C. 9. sec. 20. Proxys in making or receiving Promises, or Conveyances or Rights whatsomever. Th: 79. Puf: C. 9. sec. 21. Of ye Obligation to truth in Assertions, as founded on an implicit promise. Th: 80. Puf: C. 10. Of Oaths. Th: 81. Puf: C. 11. Of Contracts. I.e., Bargains about such things or Performances, as come under Commerce, & first of their price, or value. Th: 82, 83. Puf: C. 14. Contracts, onerous or lucrative. In those Equality is necessary. Lucrative are Loan for Use, Mandate, & Depositum. Onerous are Barter, Sale, Letting for Hire, Loan for Consumption, & Partnership. Likewise, several Sorts of Lotteries. Contracts are secur’d by Cautioners & Pledges. Th: 84–95. Puf: C. 15. Obligations arising from ye 3rd Classe of Rights. Th: 96. The fourth Classe contains those Rights which a Person acquires immediately by ye Deed of Another, without any concuring fact of his own. Such are ye Rights acquir’d to ye Testamentary Heir, after ye Death of ye Testator, by his declar’d Will. Th: 97. Puf: C. 12. sec. 12. To ye Heir ab Intestato, by ye presum’d Will of the Defunct. Th: 98. Puf: C. 12. secs. 10, 11. To ye owner, or any having reall Right in a thing, as against ye Possessor of it, by that Possession. Th: 99. Puf: C. 13. sec. 2, & final section. To ye Owner against him that had posses’d it, without Right, tho bona fide, in so far as he’s a Gainer by it. Th: 100. Puf: C. 13. secs. 3, 4. To ye Defuncts Creditors, & Legatars against ye Heir, by his entering. Th: 101. To him at whose Expence Another, without Gift or Paction, has receiv’d Advantage, against the Receiver, by his so receiving. Th: 102. The Right to reparation of Dammage, acquir’d to him that suffers it against him that did it, by ye Trespass of ye Latter. How far it extends &c. Th: 103, 104, 105. Puf: C. 6. sec. 4 ff. And lastly ye Right any one has in the necessary Maintenance of his Right, to hurt him that attempts to violate it, which Right he acquires by ye others unjust Attempt. This Maintenance consists either in Defence of Right, or in Prosecution of it. Th: 106. Defence how far to be carried in naturall, & how far in Civill Society. Th: 107–111. Puf: C. 5. secs. 5–16. Violent Prosecution not allow’d to private persons in civil Society: how far to be carry’d in ye State of Nature. Th: 112, 113. Puf: C. 5. sec. 17. The Fifth Classe is of Rights arising from ye Favour of Necessity, occasion’d by some singular Event. Th: 114–117. Puf: C. 5. secs. 10 ff. Of ye Extinction & Loss of Rights. Naturall Rights how capable to be extinguish’d or lost. How Reall Rights. Th: 118. Personall Rights commonly said to be extinguish’d when ye other ceases to be obliged. Th: 119. How many wayes Obligations expire. Th: 120–123. Puf: C. 16. Besides ye perfect Rights of particular Persons or Services, there are some such Rights competent to ye whole Body of Mankind, & in their behalf to be exercis’d by ye particular Members of it, such as that of hindering any Body to destroy himself or another without Cause, tho witting, etc. Th: 124. Puf: C. 5 sec. 4. The sixth and last Classe is of imperfect Rights: those of Humanity, Friendship, Gratitude, etc. Th: 125–128. Puf: C. 8. Of Interpretation. Th: 129. Puf: C. 17. Of particular Societys. Th: 130. Of Conjugall Society. The Termes of it by ye Law of Nature. Th: 131–134. Puf: Book 2. C. 2. Of that between Parents & Children. Th. 135, 136, 137. Puf: Bk. 2. C. 3. Between Masters & Servants. Th: 138, 139, 140. Puf: Bk. II. C. 4. The Necessity of larger Societys. Th: 14. Puf: Bk. 2. C. 5. The Nature & Constitution of Civil Society in Generall. Th: 142. Puf: Bk. 2, C. 6, secs. 1–6.
Thus far they wrote: Which was all prelected, except the thirteen last theses, which correspond to ye 2nd Book of Pufendorf. And ye Theses which were prelected, abating a few towards ye End, were likewise examin’d, together with ye corresponding places of Pufendorf, in ye order above describ’d. In ye marginall Notes upon Pufendorf, I took Care, among other things, to refer them to ye parallel places of Grotius.
The Afternoons this year likewise, after we had ended ye Ontology, were mostly spent on Mathematicks; in which, after having shortly glanced over ye three Books they had learn’d the Year before, I carry’d them thro’ ye fourth & fifth Books of Pardy & acquainted them with ye rudiments of Algebraicall Computation.
I employ’d some of them in making exegeses on philosophicall Subjects (the rules of which Exercise they had been taught from ye Praxis Logica before mention’d) & ask’d the Censures of ye rest upon them. They likewise gave in & defended a Thesis, on ye subject of their Discourse. The same Discourses were afterwards deliver’d in ye Common Hall.
In the Magistrand Year (if God spare them & me together), ye first work must be to compleat what yet remains undone of ye Ethicks, & then, if possible, again to glance over ye Pneumatick & Ethick Theses: tho’ at the same time, I must endeavour, with all convenient Speed, to get them thro’, at least, ye sixth Book of Pardies Elements, without which they can make verry few Steps to purpose in ye Physicks: I must likewise give them a touche of some other parts of Geometry, as time will allow; but for their more thorow acquaintance with them, refer them to ye Professor of Mathematicks.
I would fain be ready to begin ye Physicks about ye middle of November. I’ll first put Le Clerks Physicks6 in their hands, tho a book that has nothing to recommend it, but that it furnishes occasion to talk about a great many different things. But as ye two great Hinges of Naturall Philosophy, or rather ye constituent parts of it, are Mathematicall Demonstration & Experiment, we must look farther than Le Clerk for both.
For ye Demonstrative part, there’s a Necessity of puting some Text into their Hands but whether it shall be Whistons Praelections7 or ye Notes I dictated to my last Classe, or somewhat else, I’m yet to be resolv’d. Whatever it be, ye Progress they have already made in Geometry & Severall of them in Algebra, & ye Inclination they discover that way, make me presage well of their success in this part of Learning.
As for ye Experimentall part, ye University being now so much better furnish’d than heretofore, it will surely be no presumption to hope that we may be in case to teach Natural Philosophy more effectually than ever it was taught here before. And as I endeavour’d formerly to make ye best Use I could of ye few Instruments we had, so I would now make it my business to forecast, & carefully embrace, every Opportunity of illustrating what I teach by proper Experiments & Observations, so far as time & our apparatus will serve. And for this purpose I designe to draw up a Plan beforehand.8 I propose likewise, especially if desired by ye Society, or by particular Persons, to have ye Dyers for Experiments at known & stated Hours, as mention’d in the Proposall.
This, saving personal or accidentall failures, is ye best Method I can propose for my Classe Teaching. But whether some better way may not be taken for ye Advancement both of Philosophical & Philological Learning than this of Subordinate Classes; & particularly what is to be done, that Students of all Denominations may, without a Diminution of their Character, have access to a fit Professors help in each part of Learning, Deserves ye Facultys most Serious Consideration.
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[1.] The reference is to Carmichael’s Philosophical Theses of 1699.
[2.] See above, p. 349.
[3.] See above, pp. 24–25, Supplement I.10.
[4.] Grotius, Rights of War and Peace, I.I.8; and see above, p. 44.
[5.] Thrasones, named after Thraso, the arrogant and boastful soldier of the Roman playwright Terence’s play Eunuchus, and a stock figure of ancient comedy.
[6.] Grotius, Rights of War and Peace, II.XX, pp. 40 ff.; and Locke, Second Treatise, ch. 2, secs. 7–8; see also above, p. 69.
[7.] Pufendorf, On the Duty of Man and Citizen, I.9, p. 68. Carmichael came to regard this distinction as unhelpful in the delineation of rights and obligations; see above, p. 77.
[8.] Matthew 7.12; Luke 6.31.
[9.] See the criticism of Aristotle above, p. 74.
[10.] For noxal actions and damage by animals (pauperies), see above, p. 176, n. 3 and p. 177, n. 4.
[11.] See the discussion of promises made under duress above, pp. 85 ff.
[12.] Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis; Gregory, Astronomiae Physicae.
[1.] In the regenting system, still in place at the University of Glasgow when this report was drafted, “semys,” or the semibaccalaureat year, was the second year of the undergraduate program. The first year was called the “bajan” year, the third year was the baccalaureat year, and the fourth year was the magistrand year. See Coutts, History of the University of Glasgow, p. 178.
[2.] A copy of Carmichael’s annotations on the Ars Cogitandi is housed in the Mitchell Library [City of Glasgow] MS 90.
[3.] Pardie, Elementa geometriae.
[4.] De Vries, De Natura Dei.
[5.] An epitome of his Synopsis Theologiae Naturalis. See above, p. 227.
[6.] Le Clerc, Physica, sive De rebus corporeis.
[7.] Whiston, Arithmetica universalis.
[8.] Carmichael later based his physics classes on the work of the eminent Dutch physicist Willem Jacob ’sGravesande. He wrote to ’sGravesande, 14 October 1721, to express his gratitude for a work that “has been so long desired, in which one may communicate to one’s students the Elements of Mathematical and Experimental Physics in a summary plan of teaching, without an admixture of useless subjects or of dogmas which today one must unlearn.” Letter printed in ’sGravesande, Oeuvres Philosophiques, pp. xxxiii–xxxiv. See also Gori, ’sGravesande, p. 110.