Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter x: The Duty of Men in Discourse - The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature
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chapter x: The Duty of Men in Discourse - Samuel von Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature 
The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature, trans. Andrew Tooke, ed. Ian Hunter and David Saunders, with Two Discourses and a Commentary by Jean Barbeyrac, trans. David Saunders (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Duty of Men in Discourse
I.General Rule. To deceive no one by any means established to express our Thoughts.How useful and altogether necessary an Instrument of Human Society Discourse 40 is, there is no Man can be ignorant; since many have made that only an Argument to prove Man to be by Nature design’d for a Social Life. Now that a lawful and beneficial Use may be made hereof for the Good of the same Human Society, the Law of Nature has given Men this for a Duty, That no Man deceive another either by Discourse, or any other Signs which customarily are accepted to express our inward Meaning.
II.Uniform Signification of Words. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1.But that the Nature of Discourse may be more throughly understood, it must first be known, that there is a two-fold Obligation respecting Discourse, whether exprest with the Voice, or written in Characters. The first is, that those who make use of the same Language, are obliged to apply such certain Words to such certain Things, according as Custom has made them to signify in each Language. For since neither any Words nor any particular Strokes form’d into Letters can naturally denote any certain Thing (otherwise all Languages and Characters for writing would be the same; and hence the Use of the Tongue would be to no purpose if every Man might call every Thing by what Name he pleas’d;) it is absolutely necessary among those who speak the same Language, that there be a tacit Agreement among them, that this certain Thing shall be so, or so call’d, and not otherwise. So that unless an uniform Application of Words be agreed upon, ’twill be impossible for one Man to gather the Meaning of another from his Talk. By virtue then of this tacit Compact, every Man is bound in his common Discourse to apply his Words to that Sense, which agrees with the receiv’d Signification thereof in that Language: From whence also it follows, that albeit a Man’s Sentiments may differ from what he expresses in Words, yet in the Affairs of Human Life he must be look’d upon as intending what he says, tho’, as was said, perhaps his inward Meaning be the clear contrary. For since we cannot be inform’d of another’s Mind otherwise than by outward Signs, all Use of Discourse would be to no purpose, if by mental Reservations, which any Man may form as he lists, it might be in his power to elude what he had declar’d by Signs usually accepted to that end.
III.Discourse to be plain. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1. §6.The other Obligation which concerns Discourse, consists in this, that every Man ought by his Words so to express to another his Meaning, that he may be plainly understood. Not but that it is in a Man’s power to be silent, as well as to speak; and whereas no Man is bound to tell every one all that he bears in his Mind; it is necessary that there be some peculiar Obligation that shall engage him first to speak, and then so to speak as that another shall fully understand his Meaning. Such Obligation may arise from a particular Compact, or some common Precept of the Law Natural, or from the Nature of the present Affair, in which Speech is made use of: For oftentimes a Bargain is made expressly with a Man, that he shall disclose to me all that he knows in some Matter; as suppose I desired to be instructed in any Science: Frequently also I may be commanded by some Precept of the Law of Nature to communicate my Skill to another, that by this Means I may be helpful to him, or that I may save him from Mischief, or that I may not give him some Cause or Occasion of receiving a Harm: And lastly, the present Case may require me to declare my Opinion in a Matter wherein another is concerned; as it often happens in Contracts of the greatest Importance.
IV.Silence. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1. §7.But because it cannot always happen, that upon any of these Heads I am obliged to signify my Thoughts upon any Matter, it is plain that I am not bound to disclose in Words any more than another has a Right either perfect or imperfect to require. So that I may, by holding my Tongue, lawfully conceal what he has no just Claim to the Knowledge of, or to the Discovery whereof I lie under no Obligation, however earnestly it be desir’d.
V.Counterfeit Discourse.Nay, since Speech was not only ordain’d for the Use of others, but our own Benefit also; therefore whensoever my private Interest is concern’d, and it occasions Damage to no Body else, I may so order my Words, that they may communicate a Sense different from that which I bear in my Mind.
VI.Figurative Speech.Lastly, because oftentimes those to whom we talk upon some Matters may be so disposed, that from a downright and plain Discourse they would perceive the true State of the Case, which ought rather to be conceal’d, because a full Knowledge would not procure the good End we drive at, but be a Detriment to ’em; we may in such Cases use a figurative or shadow’d way of Speech, which shall not directly represent our Meaning and plain Sense to the Hearers. For he who would and ought to benefit another, cannot be bound to attempt it after such a manner, as shall incapacitate him from obtaining his End.
VII.Verity. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1. §8.From what has been said may be gather’d wherein that Verity consists, for their Regard to which good Men are so much celebrated; to wit, that our Words do fitly represent our Meaning to any other Person who ought to understand ’em, and which it is our Duty to express plainly to him, either by a perfect or imperfect Obligation; and this to the end either that he upon knowing our Minds may make to himself some Benefit thereby, or that he may avoid some undeserv’d Evil, which he would incur upon a wrong Understanding of the Case. Hence by the Bye it is manifest, that it is not always to be accounted Lying, when even for the nonce a Tale is told concerning any Thing in such a manner as does not exactly quadrate with the Thing it self, nor with our own Opinion of it; and consequently, that the Congruity of Words with Things, which constitutes the Logical Verity, is not in all Points the same with Moral Truth.
VIII.A Lye.On the contrary that is rightly call’d a Lye, when our Words bear a different Signification from that which we think in our Minds, whereas the Person to whom we direct our Discourse has a Right to understand the Thing as it really is, and we are under an Obligation of making our Meaning plain to him.
IX.Innocent Untruths. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1. §11.From what is said it appears, * that those are by no Means chargeable with Lying, who entertain Children or the like with Fables and fictitious Discourses for their better Information, they being suppos’d uncapable of the naked Truth. As neither are those who make Use of a feign’d Story to some good End, which could not be attain’d by speaking the plain Truth; suppose, to protect an Innocent, to appease an angry Man, to comfort one who is in Sorrow, to encourage the Fearful, to persuade a nauseating Patient to take his Physick, to soften the Obstinate, or to divert the evil Intention of another, and the like; or, if the Secrets and Resolutions of a Community41 are to be kept from publick Knowledge, we may raise false Rumours in order to conceal ’em, and to mislead the importunate Curiosity of others; or, if we have an Enemy, whom by open Force we cannot Annoy, we may, by way of Stratagem, make Use of any lying Tales to do him Mischief.
X.Equivocation and mental Reservation. L. N. N. l. 4. c. 1. §14.On the other side, if any Man be bound in Duty to signifie plainly his true Meaning to another, he is not without Blame, if he discover only a part of the Truth, or amuse him with ambiguous Discourse, or use some mental Reservation not allow’d in the common Conversation of Men.
[40.]In Pufendorf’s Latin the word is sermo, meaning “conversation” or “discourse,” which Barbeyrac translates as parole and Silverthorne as “language.”
[*] See Grotius de Jure Belli, &c. lib. 3. cap. 1. §9. seqq.
[41.]This is Tooke’s English euphemism for Pufendorf’s arcana reip[ublicae], appropriately translated by Barbeyrac as secrets de l’Etat (secrets of state).