Sec. 6: Justice, Injustice

SEC. 6: More REFLECTIONS on JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE

  • The three fundamental laws of nature are, the stability of:
    • possession
    • its transference by consent
    • the performance of promises.
  • The peace and security of human society entirely depend the strict observance of those three laws.
    • It is impossible to establish a good correspondence among men if these are neglected.
  • Society is absolutely necessary for people’s well-being.
    • Their well-being is as necessary to support the society.
  • Whatever restraint they may impose on men’s passions, they are the real offspring of those passions, and are only a more artful and more refined way of satisfying them.
  • Nothing is more vigilant and inventive than our passions.
    • Nothing is more obvious than the convention for the observance of these rules.
  • Nature has, therefore, trusted this affair entirely to men’s conduct.
    • It has not placed in the mind any original principles to determine us to a set of actions, into which the other principles of our frame and constitution lead us.
  • We may draw some new arguments to prove that those laws, however necessary, are entirely artificial and of human invention.
    • Consequently, that justice is an artificial, and not a natural virtue.

 

(1)

  • The first argument I use is derived from the vulgar definition of justice.
    • Justice is commonly defined to be a constant and perpetual will of giving every one his due.
    • In this definition, it is supposed that:
      • there are such things as right and property, independent of justice, and antecedent to it
      • they would have subsisted, though men had never dreamed of practising such a virtue.
  • I have already observed the fallacy of this opinion.
    • I shall here continue my sentiments on this.

 

  • This quality, which we shall call property:
    • is like many of the imaginary qualities of the peripatetic philosophy
    • vanishes on a more accurate inspection into the subject, when considered apart from our moral sentiments.
  • Property does not consist in any of the sensible qualities of the object.
    • For these may continue invariably the same, while the property changes.
  • Property, therefore, must consist in some relation of the object.
    • But it is not in its relation with regard to other external and inanimate objects.
  • For these may also continue invariably the same, while the property changes.
    • This quality, therefore, consists in the relations of objects to intelligent and rational beings.
  • But it is not the external and corporeal relation, which forms the essence of property.
    • For that relation may be the same between inanimate objects, or with regard to brute creatures.
      • Though in those cases it forms no property.
  • The property consists, therefore, in some internal relation.
    • It is in some influence which the external relations of the object have on the mind and actions.
  • Thus the external relation which we call occupation or first possession is not of itself imagined to be the property of the object, but only to cause its property.
    • This external relation causes nothing in external objects.
    • It only has an influence on the mind by:
      • giving us a sense of duty in abstaining from that object
      • restoring that object to the first possessor.
  • These actions are what we call justice.
    • Consequently, the nature of property depends on justice.
      • Justice does not depend on the property.

 

  • If anyone asserts that justice is a natural virtue and injustice a natural vice, he must assert that certain actions in external relations of objects naturally has:
    • a moral beauty or deformity
    • causes an original pleasure or uneasiness.
  • Thus, restoring a man’s goods is considered virtuous, not because nature has annexed a sentiment of pleasure to such a conduct, with regard to the property of others.
    • It is because she has annexed that sentiment to such a conduct, with regard to those external objects, which others have:
      • had the first or long possession, or
      • received by the consent of those who have had first or long possession.
  • If nature did not give us such sentiment, there would not be any such thing as property, naturally nor antecedent to human conventions.
  • Nature has annexed no pleasure or sentiment of approbation to such a conduct.
    • I shall confirm this further.

 

  1. If nature had given us this kind of pleasure, it would have been as evident and discernible as on every other occasion.
    1. We would not have any difficulty to perceive that the consideration of such actions, in such a situation, gives a certain pleasure and sentiment of approbation.
    2. We should not have been obliged to have recourse to notions of property in the definition of justice, and at the same time make use of the notions of justice in the definition of property.
    3. This deceitful method of reasoning is a plain proof, that there are contained in the subject some obscurities and difficulties, which we are not able to surmount, and which we desire to evade by this artifice.

 

  1. Those rules which determine properties, rights, and obligations have no marks of a natural origin in them, but many marks of artifice and contrivance.
    1. They are:
      • too many to have proceeded from nature.
      • changeable by human laws
    2. All of them have a direct and evident tendency to public good and the support of civil society.
      • This last circumstance is remarkable on two accounts:
        1. First, because, though the cause of the establishment of these laws had been a regard for the public good, as much as the public good is their natural tendency, they would still have been artificial, as being purposely contrived and directed to a certain end.
        2. Secondly, because if men had been endowed with such a strong regard for public good, they would never have restrained themselves by these rules; so that the laws of justice arise from natural principles in a manner still more oblique and artificial.
        3. Self-love is their real origin.
        4. A person’s self-love is naturally contrary to another person’s self love.
        5. These several interested passions are obliged to adjust themselves to concur in some system of conduct and behaviour.
        6. This system, therefore, comprehending the interest of each individual, is advantageous to the public, though it is not intended for that purpose by die inventors.

 

(2)

  • In the second place, all kinds of vice and virtue run insensibly into each other.
    • They may approach so imperceptibly that it will be very difficult to determine when the one ends and the other begins.
    • Rights, obligations, and property, admit of no such insensible gradation, but that a man either has a full and perfect property, or none at all;
    • He is either entirely obliged to perform any action or lies under no manner of obligation.
  • However civil laws may talk of a perfect dominion, and of an imperfect, it is easy to observe, that this arises from a fiction, which has no foundation in reason, and can never enter into our notions of natural justice and equity.
  • A man that hires a horse for a day, has as full a right to use it for that time, just as its proprietor can use it on any other day.
    • and it was evident, that however the use may be bounded in time or degree, the right itself is not susceptible of any such gradation, but is absolute and entire, so far as it extends.
  • Accordingly, this right both arises and perishes in an instant.
    • A man entirely:
      • acquires the property of any object by occupation, or the consent of the proprietor
      • loses the property by his own consent, without that insensible gradation remarkable in other qualities and relations.
  • Since this is die case with regard to property, and rights, and obligations, how does it stand with regard to justice and injustice?
    • You will run into inextricable difficulties however you answer this question.
  • If you reply that justice and injustice admit of degree and run insensibly into each other, you expressly contradict the foregoing position, that obligation and property are not susceptible of such a gradation.
    • These depend entirely on justice and injustice and follow them in all their variations.
      • Where the justice is entire, the property is also entire.
      • Where the justice is imperfect, the property must also be imperfect.
      • Vice versa, if the property admits no such variations, they must also be incompatible with justice.
  • If you assent to this last proposition and assert that justice and injustice are not susceptible of degrees, you assert that they are not naturally vicious or virtuous.
    • Since vice and virtue, moral good and evil, and all natural qualities:
      • run insensibly into each other
      • are undistinguishable on many occasions.

 

  • Abstract reasoning and the general maxims of philosophy and law establish that property, right, and obligation do not admit of degrees.
    • Yet in our common and negligent way of thinking, we:
      • find great difficulty to entertain that opinion
      • even secretly embrace the contrary principle.
  • An object must either be in the possession of one person or another.
    • An action must either be performed or not.
    • The necessity is in choosing one side in these dilemmas.
    • The impossibility there often is of finding any just medium, oblige us to acknowledge that all property and obligations are entire.
  • On the other hand, we find that the origin of property and obligation depend on:
    • public utility
    • sometimes on the propensities of the imagination which are seldom on any side entirely.
  • We naturally imagine that these moral relations admit of an insensible gradation.
    • Hence it is, that in references, where the consent of the parties leave the referees entire masters of the subject, they commonly discover so much equity and justice on both sides, as induces them to strike a medium, and divide the difference between the parties.
  • Civil judges, who do not have this liberty and are obliged to give a decisive sentence on some one side, are often at a loss how to give judgement.
    • They are necessitated to proceed on the most frivolous reasons in the world.
  • Half rights and obligations, which seem so natural in common life, are perfect absurdities in their tribunal.
  • for which reason they are often obliged to take half arguments for whole ones, in order to terminate the affair one way or other.

 

  • (3) The third argument I use is that, if we consider the ordinary course of human actions, we shall find that the mind does not restrain itself by any general and universal rules.
    • On most occasions, its actions are determined by its present motives and inclination.
  • Each action:
    • is a particular individual event
    • must proceed from:
      • particular principles
      • our immediate situation:
        • within ourselves
        • with respect to the rest of the universe.
  • If we sometimes extend our motives beyond those very circumstances which cause actions and form general rules for our conduct, these rules are flexible and allow many exceptions.
    • Since this is the ordinary course of human actions, we may conclude that the laws of justice, being universal and perfectly inflexible, can never be:
      • derived from nature
      • the immediate offspring of any natural motive or inclination.
  • No action can be morally good or evil, unless there is some natural passion or motive to:
    • impel us to it, or
    • deter us from it.
  • Die morality must be susceptible of all the same variations natural to the passion.
  • Two persons dispute for an estate.
    • One is rich, a fool, and a bachelor.
      • The is my enemy.
    • The other is poor, a man of sense, and has a big family.
      • This is my friend.
  • Whether I am actuated by a view to public or private interest, by friendship or enmity, I must be induced to do my utmost to procure the estate to the latter.
    • No consideration of the right and property of the persons is able to restrain me if I were actuated only by natural motives, without any combination or convention with others.
  • All property depends on morality.
    • All morality depends on the ordinary course of our passions and actions.
    • Our passions and actions are only directed by particular motives.
    • Such a partial conduct:
      • must be suitable to the strictest morality.
      • could never be a violation of property.
  • Were men, therefore, to take the liberty of acting with regard to the laws of society, as they do in every other affair, they would conduct themselves, on most occasions, by particular judgments.
    • They would consider the characters and circumstances of the persons, as well as the general nature of the question.
  • This would produce an infinite confusion in human society.
    • The avidity and partiality of men would quickly bring disorder into the world, if not restrained by some general and inflexible principles.
  • Men have established those principles with a view to this inconvenience.
    • Men have agreed to restrain themselves by general rules, which are unchangeable by:
      • spite and favour
      • particular views of private or public interest.
  • These rules, then, are artificially invented for a certain purpose, and are contrary to the common principles of human nature, which accommodate themselves to circumstances, and have no stated invariable method of operation.

 

  • I do not perceive how I can easily be mistaken in this matter.
    • When any man imposes on himself general inflexible rules in his conduct with others, he considers certain objects as their property, which he supposes to be sacred and inviolable.
  • But property is perfectly unintelligible without first supposing justice and injustice.
    • These virtues and vices are as unintelligible, unless we have motives, independent of the morality, to:
      • impel us to just actions
      • deter us from unjust ones.
  • Those motives must:
    • accommodate themselves to circumstances
    • admit of all the variations, which human affairs are susceptible of in their incessant revolutions.
  • They are consequently a very improper foundation for such rigid inflexible rules as the laws of nature.
    • These laws can only be derived from human conventions, when men have perceived the disorders that result from following their natural and variable principles.

 

  • This distinction between justice and injustice have two different foundations:
    • interest, when men observe, that it is impossible to live in society without restraining themselves by certain rules;
    • morality, when this interest is once observed and men receive a pleasure from the view of such actions as tend to the peace of society, and an uneasiness from such as are contrary to it.
  • It is the voluntary convention and artifice of people which makes the first interest take place.
    • Therefore those laws of justice are so far to be considered as artifrial.
  • After that interest is once established and acknowledged, the sense of morality in the observance of these rules follows naturally and of itself.
    • It is also augmented by a new artifice
    • We are given a sense of honour and duty in the strict regulation of our actions with regard to the properties of others by:
      • the public instructions of politicians
      • the private education of parents

SEC. 7: THE ORIGIN OF GOVERNMENT

  • Men are most certainly governed by interest in a great measure.
    • Even when they extend their concern beyond themselves, it is not to any great distance.
    • It is not usual for them to look farther than their nearest friends and acquaintance.
  • It is impossible for men to consult their interest in so effective a manner as by a universal and inflexible observance of the rules of justice.
    • These rules alone they can preserve society, and keep themselves from falling into that wretched and savage condition, which is commonly represented as the state of nature.
  • The interest of all men in the upholding of society and the observation of the rules of justice is:
    • great
    • so palpable and evident, even to the most rude and uncultivated humans.
      • It is almost impossible for anyone, who has experienced society, to be wrong in this.
  • How can any disorder ever arise in society if:
    • men are so sincerely attached to their interest
    • their interest is so much concerned in the observance of justice
    • this interest is so certain and avowed?
  • What principle in human nature is:
    • so powerful to overcome so strong a passion, or
    • so violent to obscure such a clear knowledge?

 

  • Regarding passions, men:
    • are mightily governed by the imagination
    • proportion their affections more to the light, under which any object appears to them, than to its real and intrinsic value.
  • What strikes on them with a strong and lively idea commonly prevails above what lies in a more obscure light.
    • It must be a great superiority of value, that is able to compensate this advantage.
  • Everything contiguous to us in space or time:
    • strikes us with such an idea, it has a proportional effect on the will and passions
    • commonly operates with more force than any object, that lies in a more distant and obscure light.
  • Though we may be fully convinced that the latter object excels the former, we are not able to regulate our actions by this judgement.
    • But we yield to the solicitations of our passions which always plead in favour of whatever is near and contiguous.

 

  • This is why men:
    • so often act contrary to their known interest.
    • prefer any present trivial advantage to maintain the order in society, which so much depends on the observance of justice.
  • The consequences of every breach of equity seem to lie very remote.
    • They are not able to counter-balance any immediate advantage that may be reaped from it.
  • They are, however, nevertheless real for being remote.
    • All men are subject to the same weakness.
  • It necessarily happens that:
    • the violations of equity must become very frequent in society
    • the commerce of men is rendered very dangerous and uncertain by those violations.
  • You have the same propension, that I have, in favour of what is contiguous above what is remote.
    • You, therefore, are naturally carried to commit acts of injustice as well as me.
    • Your example:
      • pushes me forward in this way by imitation.
      • affords me a new reason for any breach of equity, by showing me that I should be the fool of my integrity, if I alone should impose on myself a severe restraint amidst the licentiousness of others.

 

  • This quality of human nature is very dangerous to society and also seems to be incapable of any remedy.
    • The remedy can only come from the consent of men.
    • If men are incapable themselves to prefer the remote to the contiguous, they will never consent to anything which would:
      • oblige them to such a choice
      • sensibly contradict their natural principles and propensities.
  • Whoever chooses the means, also chooses the end.
    • If it is impossible for us to prefer what is remote, it is equally impossible for us to submit to any necessity which would oblige us to such a method of acting.

 

  • This infirmity of human nature becomes a remedy to itself.
    • We provide against our negligence about remote objects, merely because we are naturally inclined to that negligence.
  • When we consider any objects at a distance, all their minute distinctions vanish.
    • We always prefer whatever is preferable in itself, without considering its situation and circumstances.
  • This gives rise to what in an improper sense we call reason.
    • It is a principle that is often contradictory to those propensities that display themselves on the approach of the object.
  • In reflecting on any action, which I am to perform next year, I always prefer the greater good, whether at that time it will be more contiguous or remote.
    • Any difference in that does not make a difference in my present intentions and resolutions.
  • My distance from the final determination makes all those minute differences vanish.
    • I am not affected by anything, but the general and more discernible qualities of good and evil.
  • But on my nearer approach, those circumstances, which I at first over-looked, begin to appear and have an influence on my conduct and affections.
    • A new inclination to the present good springs up.
    • This makes it difficult for me to adhere inflexibly to my first purpose and resolution.
  • I may very much regret this natural infirmity.
    • I may endeavour to free my self from it.
    • I may have recourse to:
      • study and reflection within myself
      • the advice of friends
      • frequent meditation
      • repeated resolution.
  • Having experienced how ineffective all these are, I may embrace with pleasure any other expedient which restrains myself and guards against this weakness.

 

  • The only difficulty, therefore, is to find out this expedient to:
    •  cure our natural weakness
    • lay ourselves under the necessity of observing the laws of justice and equity, despite their violent propension to prefer the contiguous to the remote.
  • Such a remedy can never be effective without correcting this propensity.
    • It is impossible to change or correct anything material in our nature.
    • The utmost we can do is to:
      • change our circumstances and situation.
      • render the observance of the laws of justice our nearest interest, and their violation our most remote.
  • But this is impracticable with respect to all mankind.
    • It can only take place with respect to a few whom we thus immediately interest in the execution of justice.
  • Civil magistrates, kings and their ministers, our governors and rulers are indifferent persons to most of the state.
    • They have no interest or but a remote one, in any act of injustice.
  • They have an immediate interest in every execution of justice as they are satisfied with their:
    • present condition
    • part in society.
  • Here then is the origin of civil government and society.
    • Men are not able radically to cure that narrowness of soul in themselves or others.
      • This narrowness makes them prefer the present to the remote.
    • They cannot change their natures.
    • All they can do is to:
      • change their situation
      • render the:
        • observance of justice the immediate interest of some persons
        • violation of justice their more remote interest.
  • These persons, then, are induced to:
    • observe those rules in their own conduct
    • constrain others to a like regularity
    • enforce the dictates of equity throughout the society.
  • They may also:
    • interest others more immediately in the execution of justice if it is necessary
    • create civil and military officers to assist them in their government.

 

  • This execution of justice is the principal advantage of government.
    • But it is not the only one.
  • Violent passions hinder men from distinctly seeing the interest they have in an equitable behaviour towards others.
    • It hinders them from seeing that equity itself.
    • It gives them a remarkable partiality in their own favours.
  • This inconvenience is corrected in the same manner as that above-mentioned.
    • Those who execute the laws of justice will also decide all controversies concerning them.
    • They will decide them more equitably than everyone would in his own case, as they are indifferent to most of the society.

 

  • Through these two advantages in the execution and decision of justice, men acquire a security against the weaknesses and passions of each other and of their own.
    • Under the shelter of their governors, they taste at ease the sweets of society and mutual assistance.
  • But government extends farther its beneficial influence.
    • It is not contented to protect men in those conventions they make for their mutual interest.
    • It often:
      • obliges them to make such conventions
      • forces them to seek their own advantage, by a concurrence in some common end or purpose.
  • The quality in human nature which causes the most fatal errors in our conduct is the quality which:
    • leads us to prefer whatever is present to the distant and remote
    • makes us desire objects more according to their situation than their intrinsic value.
  • Two neighbours may agree to drain a meadow they jointly own.
    • Because it is easy for them to know each other’s mind.
    • Each must perceive the failure to do his part would cause the whole project to be abandoned.
  • But it is impossible that 1,000 persons should agree in any such action.
    • It is difficult for them to concert so complicated a design.
    • It is still more difficult for them to execute it while each seeks a pretext to free himself of the trouble and expence, and would lay the whole burden on others.
  • Political society easily remedies both these inconveniences.
  • Magistrates find an immediate interest in the interest of any considerable part of their subjects.
    • They consult only themselves to form any scheme to promote that interest.
    • The failure of any one piece in the execution is connected with the failure of the whole, though not immediately.
    • They prevent that failure because they find no immediate nor remote interest in it.
  • Thus, bridges are built, harbours opened, ramparts raised, canals formed, fleets equipped, and armies disciplined everywhere by the care of government.
    • Government is composed of men subject to all human infirmities.
    • But it becomes by one of the finest and most subtle inventions imaginable.
      • It is a composition exempted from all these infirmities.

 

Words: 4086

 

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