Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION VI - A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
SECTION VI - Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations 
A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations, with Supplements and a Discourse by George Turnbull. Translated from the Latin by George Turnbull, edited with an Introduction by Thomas Albert and Peter Schröder (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
About Liberty Fund:
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
The particular affections belonging to human nature.Now, if we attend to ourselves, we shall find that we have affections of various kinds. 1. Affections to several sensible objects, adapted by nature to give us pleasure, which may be called sensitive appetites, some of which are absolutely necessary to put us upon pursuits requisite to our sustenance, or the support and preservation of our bodily frame, such as hunger and thirst, &c: and others which are not so necessary to that end, but are given us to be capacities of enjoyment, such as the pleasures we receive from light and colours by the eyes, and from sounds by the ear, &c. About these affections there is no dispute. 2. But these are not the only affections belonging to our nature. We have other affections which are called intellectual: such as, a capacity of receiving pleasure by the discernment of the relations of ideas or things by our understanding or reason, properly called the perception of truth, or knowledge; a taste or sense of beauty, which may be defined to be that agreeable percep-tion which objects that have uniformity amidst variety or regularity and unity of design, are adapted to afford us, &c. And, 3. Besides these there is yet another class of affections, which may be justly called social. Inclination to union and society, delight in the happiness of others, compassion toward the distressed or suffering, resentment against injustice or wrong, love of esteem or good reputation, desire of power to help and assist others, gratitude to benefactors, desire of friendship, and several other such like, which have some things in our fellow creatures for their objects. I do not pretend that this is a full enumeration of all the particular affections belonging to human nature. Some others shall be mentioned afterwards. But I am apt to think the principal affections constituting our nature, or our capacities of gratification and enjoyment, will be found to be reducible into one of these three classes. And let me observe with regard to them, before we go further, 1. That the greater part of these affections rest in some external object, and may therefore properly be said to have something without ourselves for their object, towards which they tend. As hunger hath food for its object, so hath the love of arts, arts for its object, and the love of reputation, reputation for its object; and as none of these objects is more or less external than another, and none of these affections is more or less distinct from self-love, or the general desire of happiness, than another; so benevolence, or delight in the good of another, hath an object which is neither more nor less external than the objects of those other above-named affections; and is an affection which is neither more nor less distinct from self-love than these other affections. And therefore all the grave perplexity with which moral writings have been tortured with respect to the interestedness and disinterestedness of certain affections, might as well have been objected against any other affections as against those, the reality of which it hath been thought sufficient to explode, to say, that if they are allowed to take place in our frame, then would there be a disinterested principle of action in the nature of a being, which like every sensible being, can only be moved by self-love, or regard to itself, which is absurd. It is sufficient to evince the impertinence and absurdity of this jangling, to shew that by the same argument it may be proved, that we have no affections which tend towards and rest in external objects. And yet it is certain, that had we not particular affections towards external objects, there could absolutely be no such thing as happiness at all, or enjoyment of any kind. If by saying that all our affections must be interested, and that none of them can be disinterested, be meant that they are our own affections, and that the gratifications they afford us are gratifications to ourselves, our own pleasures, or our own perceptions, then are all our affections in that sense equally interested; they are all equally our own, for they are all equally felt by ourselves. But if by saying none of our affections are or can be disinterested, be meant, that none of our affections can tend towards, or rest in an external object: This is to say, not merely that the good of others cannot be the object of any affection in our nature; but to say that nothing without us can be the object of our desire, whether animate or inanimate, which none will assert. This I mention, because all the arguments brought by certain philosophers against a principle of benevolence in our nature, turn upon an imagined contrariety between such a principle and self-love, as a principle of action. But, 2. It is in the gratifications of these particular affections in our nature, that the greater part of the enjoyments of which we are made capable by nature consists. And therefore, if we would know the laws or connexions of nature with regard to our happiness, we must know the establish-ed laws or connexions of nature with regard to these affections, and the objects adapted to them. That is, we must know in what manner and to what degree they give pleasure to us; what are the consequences of indulging any one of them too little or too much; the several tones and proportions nature hath prescribed to them, by fixing the boundaries of pain and pleasure; their relations one to another; their agreements or disagreements; their jarrings and interferings, or coalitions and mixtures; and, in one word, as many of their effects and consequences in different circumstances of action, as we can observe, in order to know how to regulate them, so as to have the greatest pleasure and the least pain we can. The rules of our conduct, in order to have happiness, can only be deduced from the laws or rules, according to which, in consequence of the frame and constitution of our minds, and the relations we stand in to external objects, our particular affections operate, or are operated upon by objects, or by one another.