A Treatise of the Laws of Nature
A Treatise of the Laws of Nature, originally titled De Legibus Naturae, first appeared in 1672 as a theoretical response to a range of issues that came together during the late 1660s. It conveyed a conviction that science might offer an effective means of demonstrating both the contents and the obligatory force of the law of nature. At a time when Hobbes’s work appeared to suggest that the application of science undermined rather than supported the idea of obligatory natural law, Cumberland’s De Legibus Naturae provided a scientific explanation of the natural necessity of altruism.
A Treatise of the Laws of Nature, translated, with Introduction and Appendix, by John Maxwell (1727), edited and with a Foreword by Jon Parkin (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Table of Contents
- Richard Cumberland (1632–1718)3
- De Legibus Naturae
- A NOTE ON THIS EDITION
- A TREATISE OF THE LAWS OF NATURE
- TO His EXCELLENCY, JOHN, Lord CARTERET, Lord Lieutenant of IRELAND.1
- THE TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE
- NAMES OF SUBSCRIBERS
- TWO Introductory ESSAYS
- ESSAY I: Of the City, or Kingdom, of God in the Rational World, and the Defects in Heathen Deism
- ESSAY II: Concerning the Imperfectness of the Heathen Morality
- THE CONTENTS
- THE INTRODUCTION
- A PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY INTO THE LAWS of NATURE, c. AND A Confutation of the Elements of Mr. Hobbes’s Philosophy.
- CHAPTER I: Of the Nature of Things.
- Remark on Chapter I
- CHAPTER II: Of Human Nature, and Right Reason.
- General Remarks on Chapter II
- General Remarks on Chapters I and II
- CHAPTER III: Of Natural Good.
- General Remarks on Chapter III
- CHAPTER IV: Of the practical Dictates of Reason.
- General Remarks on Chapter IV
- CHAPTER V: Of the Law of Nature, and its Obligation.
- General Remarks on Chapter V
- CHAPTER VI: Of those Things which are contain’d in the general Law of Nature.
- CHAPTER VII: Of the Original of Dominion, and the Moral Virtues.
- CHAPTER VIII: Of the Moral Virtues in particular.
- CHAPTER IX: Corollaries.
- EDITOR’S NOTE
- APPENDIX: containing
- Appendix I: A Summary of The Controversy between Dr. Samuel Clark and an anonymous Author, concerning the Immateriality of Thinking Substance.
- I.: Every System of Matter consists of a Multitude of distinct Parts.
- II.: Every real Quality inheres in some Subject.
- III.: No individual or single Quality of one Particle of Matter can be the individual or single Quality of another Particle.
- IV.: Every real simple Quality that resides in any whole material System, resides in all the Parts of that System.
- V.: Every real compound Quality, that resides in any whole material System, is a Number of simple Qualities residing in all the Parts of that System; some in one part, some in another.
- VI.: Every real Quality, simple or compound, that results from any whole material System, but does not reside in it, that is, neither in All its distinct Parts, nor in All the Parts of some Portion of it, according to the Explication of the two foregoing Propositions, is the Mode or Quality of some other Substance, and not of That.
- VII.: Every Power, simple or compound, that results from any whole material System, but does not reside in it, that is, in all its Parts in the manner before explained; nor yet resides in any other Substance, as its Subject; is no real Quality at all, but must either be it-self a real Substance, (which seems unintelligible) or else it is nothing but merely an abstract Name or Notion, as all Universals are.
- VIII.: Consciousness is neither a mere abstract Name, (such as the Powers mentioned in Prop. VII.) nor a Power of exciting or occasioning different Modes in a foreign Substance, (such as are all the sensible Qualities of Bodies Prop. VII.) but a real Quality, truly and properly inherent in the Subject it-self, the thinking Substance.
- IX.: No real Quality can result from the Composition of different Qualities, so as to be a new Quality in the same Subject, of a different Kind or Species, from all and every one of the component Qualities.
- X.: Consciousness, therefore, being a real Quality, (Prop. VIII.) and of a kind specifically different from all other Qualities, whether known or unknown, which are themselves acknowledged to be void of Consciousness, can never possibly result from any Composition of such Qualities.
- XI.: No individual Quality can be transferred from one Subject to another.
- XII.: The Spirits and Particles of the Brain, being loose and in perpetual Flux, cannot, therefore, be the Seat of that Consciousness, by which a Man not only remembers things done many Years since; but also is conscious that he himself, the same individual conscious Being, was the Doer of them.
- XIII.: The Consciousness that a Man has at one and the same time, is one Consciousness, and not a Multitude of Consciousnesses; as the Solidity, Motion or Colour of any piece of Matter, is a multitude of distinct Solidities, Motions or Colours.
- XIV.: Consciousness, therefore, cannot at all reside in the Substance of the Brain or Spirits, or in any other material System, as its Subject, but must be a Quality of some immaterial Substance.
- XV.: Difficulties that arise, afterwards, concerning other Qualities of that Immaterial Substance, as, whether it be extended or unextended; do not at all affect the present Argument.
- Appendix II: A Treatise concerning the Obligation, Promulgation, and Observance of the Law of Nature
- CHAPTER I.: The Obligation of the Law of Nature.
- CHAPTER II.: The Promulgation of the Law of Nature.
- CHAPTER III.: The Observance of the Law of Nature.
- Appendix 1: Richard Cumberland’s Original Dedication to De Legibus Naturae
- The Author’s Dedication.1
- Appendix 2: Hezekiah Burton’s “Address to the Reader”
- SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Published Works of Richard Cumberland
- Other Works Referenced in the Text and Notes