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   Chapter 4 BASIS OF MORALITY; OF GOOD, OF EVIL, OF SIN, OF CRIME, OF VICE AND OF VIRTUE.

The Ruins; Or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires and the Law of Nature By C.-F. Volney Characters: 3662

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Q. What is good, according to the law of nature?

A. It is everything that tends to preserve and perfect man.

Q. What is evil?

A. That which tends to man's destruction or deterioration.

Q. What is meant by physical good and evil, and by moral good and evil?

A. By the word physical is understood, whatever acts immediately on the body. Health is a physical good; and sickness a physical evil. By moral, is meant what acts by consequences more or less remote. Calumny is a moral evil; a fair reputation is a moral good, because both one and the other occasion towards us, on the part of other men, dispositions and habitudes,* which are useful or hurtful to our preservation, and which attack or favor our means of existence.

* It is from this word habitudes, (reiterated actions,) in

Latin mores, that the word moral, and all its family, are

derived.

Q. Everything that tends to preserve, or to produce is therefore a good?

A. Yes; and it is for that reason that certain legislators have classed among the works agreeable to the divinity, the cultivation of a field and the fecundity of a woman.

Q. Whatever tends to cause death is, therefore, an evil?

A. Yes; and it is for that reason some legislators have extended the idea of evil and of sin even to the killing of animals.

Q. The murdering of a man is, therefore, a crime in the law of nature?

A. Yes, and the greatest that can be committed; for every other evil can be repaired, but murder alone is irreparable.

Q. What is a sin in the law of nature?

A. Whatever tends to disturb the order established by nature for the preservation and perfection of man and of society.

Q. Can intention be a merit or a crime?

A. No, for it is only an idea void of reality: but it is a commencement of sin and evil, by the impulse it give

s to action.

Q. What is virtue according to the law of nature?

A. It is the practice of actions useful to the individual and to society.

Q. What is meant by the word individual?

A. It means a man considered separately from every other.

Q. What is vice according to the law of nature?

A. It is the practice of actions prejudicial to the individual and to society.

Q. Have not virtue and vice an object purely spiritual and abstracted from the senses?

A. No; it is always to a physical end that they finally relate, and that end is always to destroy or preserve the body.

Q. Have vice and virtue degrees of strength and intensity?

A. Yes: according to the importance of the faculties, which they attack or which they favor; and according to the number of persons in whom those faculties are favored or injured.

Q. Give me some examples?

A. The action of saving a man's life is more virtuous than that of saving his property; the action of saving the lives of ten men, than that of saving only the life of one, and an action useful to the whole human race is more virtuous than an action that is only useful to one single nation.

Q. How does the law of nature prescribe the practice of good and virtue, and forbid that of evil and vice?

A. By the advantages resulting from the practice of good and virtue for the preservation of our body, and by the losses which result to our existence from the practice of evil and vice.

Q. Its precepts are then in action?

A. Yes: they are action itself, considered in its present effect and in its future consequences.

Q. How do you divide the virtues?

A. We divide them in three classes, first, individual virtues, as relative to man alone; secondly, domestic virtues, as relative to a family; thirdly, social virtues, as relative to society.

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