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The Ruins

Part II, Chapter 7
ON CONTINENCE
Q. Does the law of nature prescribe continence?
A. Yes: because a moderate use of the most lively of pleasures is not only useful, but
indispensable, to the support of strength and health: and because a simple calculation
proves that, for some minutes of privation, you increase the number of your days, both in
vigor of body and of mind.
Q. How does it forbid libertinism?
A. By the numerous evils which result from it to the physical and the moral existence. He
who carries it to an excess enervates and pines away; he can no longer attend to study or
labor; he contracts idle and expensive habits, which destroy his means of existence, his
public consideration, and his credit; his intrigues occasion continual embarrassment,
cares, quarrels and lawsuits, without mentioning the grievous deep-rooted distempers,
and the loss of his strength by an inward and slow poison; the stupid dullness of his mind,
by the exhaustion of the nervous system; and, in fine, a premature and infirm old age.
Q. Does the law of nature look on that absolute chastity so recommended in monastical
institutions, as a virtue?
A. No: for that chastity is of no use either to the society that witnesses, or the individual
who practises it; it is even prejudicial to both. First, it injures society by depriving it of
population, which is one of its principal sources of wealth and power; and as bachelors
confine all their views and affections to the term of their lives, they have in general an
egotism unfavorable to the interests of society.
In the second place, it injures the individuals who practise it, because it deprives them of
a number of affections and relations which are the springs of most domestic and social
virtues; and besides, it often happens, from circumstances of age, regimen, or
temperament, that absolute continence injures the constitution and causes severe diseases,
because it is contrary to the physical laws on which nature has founded the system of the
reproduction of beings; and they who recommend so strongly chastity, even supposing
them to be sincere, are in contradiction with their own doctrine, which consecrates the
law of nature by the well known commandment: increase and multiply.
Q. Why is chastity considered a greater virtue in women than in men?
A. Because a want of chastity in women is attended with inconveniences much more
serious and dangerous for them and for society; for, without taking into account the pains
and diseases they have in common with men, they are further exposed to all the
disadvantages and perils that precede, attend, and follow child- birth. When pregnant
 
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