Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XIII - A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations
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SECTION XIII - 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).
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Recapitulation.Now, having thus analized the human mind into the chief principles, dispositions or affections of which it is compounded; what follows, but that, this mind so constituted is a law to itself; or that it, and the connexions relative to it, which have likewise been explained as we proceeded in this resolution of the human mind into its component parts, make to man the laws and rules of his ac-tions? Thus laws of conduct are constituted to man for the government of his affections, in order to the attainment of happiness in the same manner that the laws of matter and motion constitute rules to human arts for the attainment of their ends. In the same sense that it is necessary for man to act consonantly to the properties of air and water, in order to gain certain purposes, such as raising water, &c. in the same sense are the connexions relative to our affections, laws or rules to us, how to regulate and direct them, in order to avoid certain evils and to obtain certain goods. We have not in this enquiry meddled with a question, the manner of handling which hath greatly perplexed the science of morality, viz. the freedom of human will:Why we do not here enter into the dispute about liberty and necessity. For this evident reason, that it neither more nor less concerns morals, than it does an enquiry into the connexions of nature, whence the rules in mechanical arts must be deduced. This is manifest. Because, if man be not at all master of his actions, it must be as much in vain to direct him how to act in any one way, as how to direct him in any other. Directions and counsels, or exhortations, can only be of use with respect to things in human power. But if directions, counsels, or exhortations, with regard to industry in cultivating mechanical arts for the benefit or ornament of human life, can be of any use to man, then must man be acknowledged to be master of almost all the powers, faculties and affections to which any other counsels, directions or exhortations can be addressed. For then must he be master of getting knowledge, if he will; master of applying himself to study and labour; he must be capable of being moved by representations of what the interests of society require, and of making that the end of his pursuits; master of despising toil and hardships in that view; and master of aiming at fame and honour, by doing some laudable service to mankind in that way. But if he be so far master of his af-fections and actions, which affections and actions is he not master of in the same sense? Indeed all the grave sophistry about liberty and necessity, with which moral enquiries have been so sadly embarrassed, to the great obstruction of true and useful knowledge, might as well be prefixed to a system of physics as of morals. For if they prove any thing at all, they prove that mankind ought to fold their arms, and let things go as they will. If they prove, or are designed to prove this, are not rules about sowing in seed-time in order to reap in harvest, rules about building ships, or any other machines, as idle as rules about the government of the affections? And if they are not designed to prove this, what are they intended for? For till this is proved to be a necessary consequence of God’s foreknowledge, or of our being influenced by motives, or of whatever other truth from which necessity is thought to follow,—till this be proved, what is called necessity, cannot be contrary to what is called liberty, viz. our having certain things in our power, or our being the disposers or masters of our actions. In fine, whatever proves any thing repugnant to our liberty, must prove that we are not at all masters of doing, or not doing as we will in any case; that we have no power, no dominion, no sphere of activity; or, in one word, that we are not agents: and this being proved, mechanical arts, which are rules to certain actions, or rules for our attaining certain ends, are just as much affected by it, as the science of morals, which is a system of rules to certain other actions, or for our attaining certain other ends. The arguments brought against human liberty, were never said only to prove that necessity extends merely a certain length, and no further. Nor can it be said; for if they prove any thing at all, they must prove universal necessity. And if they do indeed prove universal necessity, then human action in every sense is absurd, and consequently all rules to human actions of any sort or kind are equally absurd; or by the universal necessity they are said to prove, and brought to prove, is meant a necessity with which human agency is very consistent; which will be to say, that they are brought to prove, and do prove that we are not agents in a sense that is however very compatible with our being agents. Surely the controversy about liberty and necessity must be of very little moment, nay, a very idle, impertinent logomachy, if any asserters of necessity think that the necessity they plead for is absolutely consistent with our being masters of our actions, our having a sphere of power which we are capable of using well or abusing, as we please. For never was liberty understood to mean more than dominion and power, and accountableness, in consequence of our being disposers of our actions. And so in this case their necessity is our liberty. But if they really mean an universal necessity, absolutely repugnant to our agency, i.e. to our having the disposal of our actions, which renders rules and directions about actions absurd, as proceeding upon a false supposition; then are those, who treat of gaining certain natural ends by certain actions adjusted to natural connexions, as much concerned in the controversy as moralists, when they treat of attaining certain other ends by actions adjusted to other natural connexions. And for this reason, we may dismiss it as a question which does not particularly concern our subject; but every subject equally, which supposes man to be an agent.
The conclusion from the whole preceding reasoning.And therefore, to go on with our conclusion, we say, that the connexions which we have found to be fixed by nature, relative to our happiness, are laws of nature to our conduct in the same sense that the connexions in nature, relative to certain physical ends, are laws with regard to certain physical arts. They are laws we cannot alter, but to which we must conform, in order to attain our greatest happiness, our best enjoyments, or greatest goods. And they are laws appointed by the Author of nature to our conduct. For all established connexions in nature must mean connexions appointed and upheld, or subsisting by virtue of the will of the Author of nature, who gave being to all things, and to all orders and connexions of things (§3). Now, all this being true, it follows, that man is in the same sense made for prudence and self-government; for industry; for acting with reason, and agreeably to its dictates; for benevolence, or the pursuit of public good; for paternal cares and filial gratitude; for indignation against injury and oppression, and for compassion towards our suffering or distressed fellow-creatures; it follows, I say, that we are made for these ends in the same sense that the eye is made to see, the ear to hear, that a certain structure is made for flying, and another for swiming and living in water, or that bodies are made to gravitate in proportion to their quantities of matter, or are to be considered as having that property in human arts. The Author of nature, who hath made the one kind of connexions, hath likewise made and fixed the other. And if the preceding account of human nature, or of our internal principles and dispositions, and the connexions relative to them be true, to say man is not made for the exercises above-mentioned, to which we may now certainly give the name of virtues, without taking any thing in morals for granted, is to say, a being endued with a governing principle, by which it is intended he should govern himself, is not intended to be so governed; which is to assert, that a governing principle is not, in its nature and end, a governing principle: it is to say, a being endued with a governing principle, the use and end of which is to give him self-command, or the mastership of his affections, is not made to be master of his affections by his governing principle; which is to assert, that he hath a principle which hath an end and use which it hath not: It is to say, that a being who hath social affections, and a principle of benevolence, determined, or adapted to receive different kindly impressions from different objects, is not intended to have these social, affectionate, generous impressions, nor to exercise these affections; but has them for no end at all, or for a quite opposite and contrary end. In fine, let any man consider these virtues, and compare them with the make of the human mind, and all our internal principles and dispositions, and then say that man is made for imprudence, folly, wilfulness, and precipitancy; to be tossed to and fro by tumultuous contradictory affections, without any order or government; and to be cruel, tyrannical, abusive, oppressive, uncompassionate, quite unsocial. Let him say what reason he can give for affirming that the eye is made to enjoy the light, the ear to receive pleasure from music; or, in one word, what reason he can give for saying any thing natural or artificial is made for an end, that will not equally oblige him to say, man is framed, made and intended for rational government of his affections, for benevolence, and the other virtues which have been named. If he says, whatever affections men may have, man is made to pursue his pleasure, let him shew how men can have pleasure but from the gratifications of particular affections; and let him shew that the affections we have named are not belonging to human nature, or that they are not belonging to it as sources of pleasure and enjoyment. In fine, let him shew what other enjoyments human nature is provided for which are superior to the presidence of reason, affections disciplined by reason, and exerting themselves in the order of benevolence that hath been described. We reason from fact or experiment; and what we have maintained, can only be refuted by shewing our analysis of the human mind not to be fact. For if the resolution of the human mind that hath been given be just, our conclusion stands upon the same bottom with all the reasonings in natural philosophy concerning the structures, properties, laws, and final causes of things.Objection why there is so little virtue, so much vice among mankind. The only thing that can be objected against this deduction of the ends for which men are made and intended, is, that men are in fact very irregular; that the affections of mankind are generally very tumultuous and undisciplined, and there is much malignity, ill humour, envy and hatred amongst them; and that the love of power and fame do not generally lead men to benevolent, but rather to mischievous actions. But let mankind be represented as villainous as they have ever been said to be, by any philosopher or politician; or, if you will, more black and deformed than any hath ever yet called them, it will not shake or weaken our reasoning. For though that be not true, but, on the contrary, a very false charge, yet we can sufficiently account for the vilest corruptions that ever have, or ever can take place among mankind, very consistently with the preceding analysis of human nature, and the deduction of our duties; i.e. our natural ends, from that analysis. 1. First of all, there is no other conceivable way of furnishing or qualifying any agent for pursuing the virtues above-named, but by giving them the affections above described, and reason to conduct them. There is no way of qualifying one for doing all under the direction of reason, but by giving him faculties to be guided by reason, and reason to guide them. There is no other way of qualifying one for benevolence, but by giving him a benevolent disposition, and so disposing him, as that he may feel great pleasure in its exercises. Let the objectors against human nature point out what else could be done. Let them name what is wanting to make us rational and benevolent in our behaviour, that nature hath not done for us. If they say reason is too weak in human nature, or does not grow up fast enough to do us great service as a guide, this leads to the second thing to be considered on this head. 2. Which is, that reason must grow and improve by culture. It can only become strong by exercise and improvement. It can only become so powerful as to be habitually our fixed and settled guide and ruler, by repeated acts. For thus alone can any habits be wrought in us; thus alone can any affections, dispositions, principles, or powers and faculties of action in us become habits; i.e. become strong and prevalent. Repeated exercise is the sole way of acquiring habits. It is therefore the sole way of perfecting reason, or any faculty or principle in our constitution; and what other way can we conceive, by which it is better to attain to perfection of any kind than by industry, diligence, and repeated acts? But if this be a necessary or fit law of our nature, in order to our attainment to perfection, that habits should be formed by repeated exercise, and only be so formed; must not the effect of this be, that bad and hurtful habits will be contracted by repeated bad exercises, and that false or wrong associations of ideas will be very powerful, very difficult to be disjoined or undone? Must not the effect of it be, that if bad habits are suffered to grow up to a great degree of strength in our minds by bad education, or through carelesness about our education, and reason is not early accustomed to rule and govern in young minds, that rational dominion over the affections will be very difficultly acquired; the sensitive appetites will be exceeding riotous; and every passion that has been often called forth, or incited to indulge itself by tempting shews of pleasure, will become imperious, headstrong, and unruly? For it must be remembered, that we are not merely intellectual beings, but that we have senses and corporeal appetites, which will necessarily become, in consequence of the law of habits, too strong for reason and benevolence to govern, if they are not early accustomed to the government and discipline of reason. And it must likewise be remembered, that our opinions of goods must regulate our affections; and therefore, if false ideas have been imbibed early, and have long passed unexamined, uncontroverted in the mind, these wrong associations of ideas, and false judgments of things, will be very hard to overcome; it will be extremely difficult to eradicate or correct them. But what is all this, but, in one word, a long habit of acting without reason, or of despising reason, instead of inuring our ideas, fancies, opinions, and appetites, to receive their direction from our reason, and to act under its presidence and government. And therefore, in speaking of our being made to consult reason, and act under its conduct and guidance, we took notice of the necessity of right education, in order to establish reason early into our governing principle (§8). But having elsewhere* discoursed at great length of the power of habits, and the way in which they are formed, and of the chief sources of corrupt affections amongst mankind, it is sufficient to take notice here in general, that there are almost no vices among mankind which could take place amongst them, were we not endued by nature with the best affections; affections necessary to make us social, benevolent, great and good. They are corruptions or misguidances of them. Every hurtful affection is a very good one perverted. Accordingly Mr. Locke hath shewn us in his excellent treatise on education,21 how easily all the vices may be early engendered, nay, brought to a very great height of obstinacy by bad example and wrong methods of education; but he hath, at the same time, shewn us how all the vir-tues may be yet more easily formed in tender minds. And indeed there is no character in human life however enormous, that shews any affection naturally belonging to us, which is not of the greatest use, however hurtful its wrong turns, degeneracies, perversions or corruptions may be. Nor is there any other cause of degeneracy and corruption but bad habit, or not accustoming ourselves to exert our reason, and to act under its direction; which, how nature could have better furnished us for doing, than by giving us reason capable of high improvements; or have better impelled us to do, than by making us to see from examples, and feel from our own experience, as it does, the dismal effects of not acting rationally, the sad consequences of not consulting, or not obeying our reason, and of rashly giving way to every passion or appetite that circumstances may tempt into hurtful indulgences to specious semblance of pleasure, is inconceivable.
For howsoever odd, whimsical, or foolish the ruling passion in any heart may be, it is some passion necessary to excellent enjoyments and gratifications, that is become so odd, fantastical, or unreasonable. If it is any sensual appetite that is the ruler, and triumphs over all other affections of whatever kind, intellectual or social, will it follow from hence, that we ought not to have had senses, or to have been capable of sensitive pleasure? If it is the lust of power that has got the ascendant over benevolence in any one, to such a degree, that it is become his maxim; Si violandum est jus, regnandi gratia violandum est; aliis rebus pietatem colas.
Which is almost as great a height of villainy as it can arrive at. Yet ought the desire of power to have had no place in our frame, or is it of no use in it? Or finally, because the desire of getting riches to support a vain and extravagant way of living, if not severely checked, gradually corrupts the honestest minds, and at last engages them in pursuits, which some time before they could not think of without abhorrence; are for this reason all desire of property and power, of preeminence and honour, or even of elegance and grandeur, passions, absolutely condemnable in themselves, and to which human nature ought to have been an utter stranger? What we learn from Salust, Sueton, and other Authors, is by no means improbable, viz. That Julius Caesar had never attempted to destroy the liberties of his country, had he been able to have paid the debts which he had contracted by his excessive prodigality; and that abundance of people sided either with him or Pompey, only because they wanted wherewithal to supply their luxury, and were in hopes of getting by the civil wars, enough to support and maintain their former pride and greatness. But does it follow from hence, that all taste of elegance, all desire of glory, all love of power and wealth, are absolutely pernicious, and that they ought to have no place in our frame, or that we ought to have been made totally incapable of forming any ideas or affections that could ever degenerate into such perverse opinions and lusts? How much more just and truly philosophical is this reasoning in our excellent poet concerning human passions.
Nature, in order to make a necessary diversity of tempers among mankind, must either have made some particular affection originally stronger in one breast, and another in another; or have so ordered the situations of mankind, that the same original affections should of necessity take various turns in consequence of different circumstances calling forth more frequently, some one and some another affection, equally natural to all men. But what follows from hence, but that there is a vice, or a hurtful turn, into which every affection is in peculiar danger of degenerating, as is well known to poets, who describe characters, and place them in various circumstances of actions? Sure it does not follow that any of the affections implanted in the human mind by nature, ought to be wanting. Take them away, and the vices or diseases to which they are incident, will likewise be removed: But so will the perfections or virtues to which they may rise and be improved by due culture, likewise be sent apacking. And to what a low size will men be thus reduced? Tho’ it be reason that forms the virtues, yet our affections are the principles or materials that are formed into virtues by reason. Reason would indeed have nothing to guide, nothing to work upon, if we were not endued with all the affections, from the misguidances of which the most hurtful disturbances of human life proceed.
Man is made for virtue and virtuous happiness.Now what is the result of this, but that man is excellently furnished by nature for attaining, by the due discipline of the affections implanted in him, to prudence, to self-command, to benevolence, to fortitude, and to all that is called virtue; and that this is the end for which he is so made and framed, in the same sense that any thing is said to be made for the end to which its frame and constitution is well adapted; that this is his happiness, his perfection, the ultimate scope and design of his frame and all the laws relative to it, in any sense of end, scope or design.
[* ] Principles of moral philosophy.
[21 ] Locke, Thoughts Concerning Education, 127–34.
[22 ] Pope, An Epistle to the Right Honourable Richard Lord Viscount Cobham, 11.
[23 ] Cicero, De officiis 3.21.82. The passage is a Latin translation from Euripides’ play Phoenician Women, lines 524–25, in Euripides, vol. 5.
[24 ] Pope, An Essay on Man, epistle II, 191–202.