Front Page Titles (by Subject) OBSERVATION III: A man is destined by nature to lead a social life with men. - Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence
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OBSERVATION III: A man is destined by nature to lead a social life with men. - Samuel von Pufendorf, Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence 
Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence, translated by William Abbott Oldfather, 1931. Revised by Thomas Behme. Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Behme (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009).
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A man is destined by nature to lead a social life with men.
1. Man has this in common with all living things to whom it has been given to realize their own existence, that he loves himself most, is zealous to protect himself in every way, and strives to acquire the things which seem good to him, and to repel the evil. And commonly, indeed, this love of each man whatsoever towards himself is so great that any and every inclination towards any and every other man yields to it. At times some seem, indeed, to embrace others with a more tender affection than themselves, and to rejoice more in the blessings of others than in those which are especially theirs, and to grieve more over the ills of others than over their own. Thus frequently parents would prefer to have transferred to themselves the pain which they see their children suffering. Thus it is well established that many have met death with equanimity, in order to save others united to them by a special bond. But, in truth, this was done either because, as the result of an intimate relationship, they regarded the good or evil of others as their own, or else because, by that display of affection or fidelity, they were on the way to acquire some special good for themselves. Thus some parents rejoice more effusively in the blessings of their children than in their own blessings, because the blessing which affects equally both themselves and their offspring is in their judgement doubled. Thus we would often be willing to redeem the suffering of one of our loved ones by our own suffering, because the weapon, as it were, which seeks us would be inflicting a more severe wound by passing through so dear a body. And he who does not refuse to die for another, either hopes for so much glory from that act that he judges he can well afford to pay for it with his life, or else he fears that on the other’s death such evil would come upon himself that life would no longer be worth living for him.
2. Now, in truth, man would have been very little different from beasts, nor would he be living a life much more civilized or comfortable than they, were it not that he had some other inclination also implanted in him by nature, namely, that he enjoys living in the society of his kind. This is so clear that it does not need to be set forth at length. Nothing is more gloomy for a man than perpetual solitude. To him alone among animate beings has it been given to set forth to others in articulate sound the feelings of his mind, than which there is no instrument better adapted to form or to preserve society. In no genus of living beings can the advantages of one be so much promoted by others, as in that of men among one another. Such is the state of need of human life, that, were not a number to unite upon a mutual task, life could be preserved only with the utmost difficulty. The weakness of human beings just born is greater than that of any other animal, and while in the case of others but a few days or months are sufficient to enable them to look out for their own food, in the case of men a number of years is hardly sufficient. Add, also, that the earth has everywhere placed their food before beasts, but what suits man requires generally industry and cultivation. And yet the ability to gather food for the stomach is but a very small part in one’s deserving the dignity of the name man. Nay, we should not simply be the prey of beasts, but should also rage against one another mutually, in the manner of wild monsters, were it not that nature had altogether bidden us to unite to form a peaceful society.1
3. However, so that the reasons of those who undertake to deny matters as clear as the foregoing, may not, perchance, move one, it should be known: (1) These two inclinations, by which man loves himself and seeks after society, ought, by the intention of nature, so to be tempered that nothing be lost to the latter through the instrumentality of the former. That is to say, nature commended to man self-love, in such a way that he should, nevertheless, commit nothing because of it, which would conflict with his inclination to society, or injure the very nature of society. And when, through the exorbitance of his emotions, he neglects that, and seeks his own advantage together with some hurt to others, there arises whatever disturbance there be in which men conflict with one another. (2) That definite individuals unite to form a definite kind of society comes about either in consequence of a special congruence of dispositions or of other qualities, or else because they imagine that they can obtain some special end better with these persons than with those. Now it is by no means necessary for all men to coalesce into one society in which all are equal to one another; but it is sufficient if the same persons get together in several and distinct groups, which are, nevertheless, by no means altogether mutually unsociable, but refrain from unjust injuries towards one another, and, as far as they are permitted by closer obligations, share with one another their advantages and blessings.
4. All this being posited, answer can be made without difficulty to the following position which some maintain: “It is, indeed, true that for man in the course of nature, or as far as he is man, that is, immediately after birth, to have a state of perpetual solitude fall upon him, is irksome; infants need the help of others in order to live, adults their help in order to live well; and by the compulsion of nature men seek to gather together. And yet, in truth, civil societies are not mere gatherings, but they are treaties, for entering into which good faith and pacts are necessary. The force of these is unknown to infants and the uninstructed, their usefulness is unknown to those who are without experience of the losses which come from the absence of society. And so it comes about that the former, because they do not understand what society is, cannot enter into it, and the latter, because they do not know what it is good for, show no interest in it. Therefore, all men, since they are born as infants, are born unfit for society, and a very great many remain so all their life long; but, by discipline, and not by nature, man becomes fit for society.”2 But it is readily apparent that the colour of objection rises pretty much from a quibble about the Greek word πέφυκε, which Latin translators commonly turn aptus natus est [has been born fit for], and by this is properly signified a natural inclination towards something, together with a natural potency of receiving an actual fitness for exercising that thing; even if that actual fitness should not be in him immediately by birth, but have to be introduced by industry, and it alone. And so the sense of that trite saying, “Man is by nature a social animal,” is this: Man is destined by nature to society with his like, and this is most suitable and useful to him; and man has been endowed with such a disposition that, by cultivation, he can receive a fitness for acting well in that society; nay more, this is perhaps the principal fruit produced by societies, namely, that the recently born, in whom no actual understanding of those things has been implanted by nature, may, within societies, be fashioned into suitable members of the same. Nor does this fitness exist merely within the limits of marriages or families, but it extends also to the establishment of states, where several families come together for the sake of security and a richer life, and manage their affairs by the common counsel of the society under definite laws about commanding and obeying. Such societies nature has altogether wished to have among men, although it has been left within the free choice of men, and so is to be determined by pacts, just what individuals are to be united to what society, or who is to be set at their head for governing them. Nor does the state cease to be in itself congruent with nature, because many struggle to its helm by unjust force and crimes. But, as there are a number of special forms of states, so the diverse dispositions of men better agree with diverse forms. But if, in truth, some one’s disposition out of pride disdains to accept the equality of conditions, without which society cannot coalesce or stand, this is by no means an indication that man is not a social animal; but that the individual in question is either less fit to live in some special kind of society, suppose, for example, one in which all enjoy an equal right; or else in a faulty way indulges more than is right in self-love, which, however, nature bade agree peacefully with the inclination towards society. But the objection which is advanced, namely, that the advantages of life can be furthered better by mastery than by mutual effort, is of no moment. For there is no stable mastery at all without society, and it is altogether impossible for all men to have dominion over other men.
5. Now as for the further objection: “If man loved man in the course of nature, that is, as man, no reason could be given why each single individual should not love each other single individual, as being equally a man, or why he should the rather frequent those in whose society honour and advantage are accorded him beyond others.”3 To meet this it should be known that all men, indeed, have been brought together by the similarity of their nature towards one another, so that in actual fact that general friendship resulting from a common nature ought also to be common to all, unless some one, perchance, has by his crimes made himself unworthy of it. Now, in truth, a number of circumstances are added to that common nature which are responsible for one loving this one more than that one; suppose, for example, that there was between them a greater congruence of dispositions in regard to special inclinations, or else that their birthplaces were not far apart. But then and only then could no reason be given, if all men had grown up out of the earth together like fungi, without any relationship to one another,4 or if they had among one another a similarity of dispositions at every point. But as such a state of men has never existed, so no conclusion can be drawn from supposing it, contrary to what the actual facts show.
As for the rest, a man more gladly frequents those in whose society honour and advantage are accorded him, rather than to a second person, because each man loves his own advantages. And this is by no means repugnant to nature, provided only the harmony of society be not disturbed by that love. For nature has not bidden us to cultivate societies with the purpose of neglecting the care of ourselves; since, forsooth, societies bring about in the very highest degree the condition that, through the mutual sharing of aid and of blessings with a number, we can the more conveniently look out for our own blessings. And even though a man, in uniting himself to some society, should be accustomed to regard primarily his own advantage, and secondarily that of his associates, nevertheless, nothing prevents him from owing so to foster his own private advantage that the advantage of the society be not hurt, or injury brought upon individual members; or from sometimes neglecting his own advantage to care for the advantage of the society. And the argument which is advanced, namely, that the origin of great and long-enduring societies, that is, of states, did not come from the mutual benevolence of men, but from their mutual fear (using this word for any prevision and precaution whatsoever taken against a future evil),5 has nothing to do with the case. For it was in the highest degree congruent with human nature that, since one by one, or a few at a time, they had been exposed to injuries, a number united with one another should fortify themselves against ills; nor is the sole end and use of states the avoidance of evil. Nor is it required, in order for some society to be called congruent with nature, that it have arisen out of mutual benevolence alone, although neither is that entirely absent in establishing states; since, forsooth, at least those who lay the first foundations, as it were, of states, are most of them united to one another in mutual benevolence, although, perchance, others afterwards may be induced to join them out of fear.
6. Now it is worth while to have considered in just what condition men would be living if they should be deprived by nature of every obligation to cultivate society among themselves, or if they were not social animals. Here it is assuredly apparent that, since no right had obtained mutually among them, the result would have been that each individual whatsoever would have had equal rights with others to any thing whatsoever; and, without any injury, any one whatsoever, as far as each one’s strength had admitted of so doing, could have inflicted upon any one whatsoever what he thought would make for his own preservation; and from that would have resulted the war of all against all, which is the very life of beasts.6 For, just as, because of the fact that man has no community of right with the brutes, any man whatsoever (when you remove the respect in which particular men have already acquired for themselves above others rights over brutes) may properly, as far as his strength allows him, whenever he so pleases, either kill any animal whatsoever, or compel it to perform a service, without thereby doing an injury to the brute; thus, if I had no obligation towards any man, assuming that I had the natural faculty to hurt or even to kill a second person, I might properly defend my life and limbs as far as I could, and employ all the means serving thereto, and it would rest with me alone to judge of their aptness to that end; and so I might not merely appropriate to myself all those things which I judged to be conducive to my interest, but I might even kill any man whatsoever, or weaken or constrain him in some fashion, if, indeed, that should seem to be expedient for my security, especially since, in such a state, I could take no precautions for my security except by violence, as no mutual obligation existed. And, since any one whatsoever would have had the same licence regarding any one else whatsoever, what else would men have been but wild beasts, rapacious against their own kind? But, in truth, since men have never existed in such a state, and by the intention of the Creator ought never to exist in it, it is utterly incongruous and almost self-contradictory to call this the state of nature. And so the inconveniences also directly resulting from such a state ought not to be substituted as the foundations of the law of nature (although, in actual fact, that no such state exists among men is due to the law of nature); but rather this, namely, that God has directly destined man to cultivate a social life.7 For had this not been the direct intention of God, it would not have been more necessary for men to enter into pacts with one another because of the disadvantages resulting from a non-social life, than for other animals to enter into a pact with bears, wolves, or lions to avoid the disadvantages of the non-social life which they lead. Nor is there ground for retorting that they do not have reason by which they may understand the force of pacts. For neither would God have given men reason, had He not wished to destine them to cultivate society.
[1. ] On the Stoic origin of the double foundation of natural sociability in the natural weakness [imbecillitas] of man and the telos of his reasonable nature, see JNG, 2, 3, §§14–15, with numerous references to Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius.
[2. ] See Hobbes, De cive, chap. 1, §2, no. 1.
[3. ] Ibid.; cf. JNG, 7, 1, §2.
[4. ] Allusion to De cive, chap. 8, §1; cf. JNG, 2, 2, §7.
[5. ]De cive, chap. 1, §2 (at the end).
[6. ]De cive, chap. 1, §§3ff; Leviathan, chap. 13.
[7. ] Pufendorf does not yet see the methodological function of Hobbes’s natural state of war of everyone against everyone and its right to everything. It serves as a counterfactual supposition in contrast to the civil state, showing the necessity of the latter by a deduction ad absurdum of the former. See Thomas Hobbes, The Elements of Law Natural and Politic, ed. Ferdinand Tönnies, intro. M. M. Goldsmith (London: Cass, 1969), chap. 14, §§10ff: “But that right of all men to all things, is in effect no better than if no man had right to any thing. For there is little use and benefit of the right a man hath, when another as strong, or stronger than himself, hath right to the same. . . . The estate of hostility and war being such, as thereby nature itself is destroyed . . . he therefore that desireth to live in such an estate, as is the estate of liberty and right of all to all, contradicteth himself. For every man by natural necessity desireth his own good, to which this estate is contrary.” That methodological procedure is later adopted by Pufendorf himself in his mature work, the JNG,Eris, and the Dissertatio de statu hominum naturali, when he contrasts the fictitious “state of single individuals left alone by themselves” (in se) with the “state of culture,” and the (pure) “natural state of individuals in relation to one another” (ad alios) with the “civil state” in order to prove the necessity of the latter states for the survival and appropriate development of mankind. See JNG, 2, 2, §2 and 3, §15; Dissertatio de statu hominum naturali, in Dissertationes academicae selectiores (Uppsala, 1677), §§4 and 7; Eris, “Specimen controversiarum,” chap. iii “De statu hominum naturali,” §3 (pp. 134–35).