Not a member?     Existing members login below:

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

the conveniency of that attachment. The famous court or parliament of love in Provence
formerly decided all difficult cases of this nature.
In societies for play, there are laws required for the conduct of the game; and these laws
are different in each game. The foundation, I own, of such societies is frivolous; and the
laws are, in a great measure, though not altogether, capricious and arbitrary. So far is
there a material difference between them and the rules of justice, fidelity, and loyalty.
The general societies of men are absolutely requisite for the subsistence of the species;
and the public conveniency, which regulates morals, is inviolably established in the
nature of man, and of the world, in which he lives. The comparison, therefore, in these
respects, is very imperfect. We may only learn from it the necessity of rules, wherever
men have any intercourse with each other.
They cannot even pass each other on the road without rules. Waggoners, coachmen, and
postilions have principles, by which they give the way; and these are chiefly founded on
mutual ease and convenience. Sometimes also they are arbitrary, at least dependent on a
kind of capricious analogy like many of the reasonings of lawyers.
[Footnote: That the lighter machine yield to the heavier, and, in machines of the same
kind, that the empty yield to the loaded; this rule is founded on convenience. That those
who are going to the capital take place of those who are coming from it; this seems to be
founded on some idea of dignity of the great city, and of the preference of the future to
the past. From like reasons, among foot-walkers, the right-hand entitles a man to the wall,
and prevents jostling, which peaceable people find very disagreeable and inconvenient.]
To carry the matter farther, we may observe, that it is impossible for men so much as to
murder each other without statutes, and maxims, and an idea of justice and honour. War
has its laws as well as peace; and even that sportive kind of war, carried on among
wrestlers, boxers, cudgel-players, gladiators, is regulated by fixed principles. Common
interest and utility beget infallibly a standard of right and wrong among the parties
concerned.
Remove