The Ruins HTML version
Part II, Chapter 1
OF THE LAW OF NATURE
Q. What is the law of nature?
A. It is the constant and regular order of events, by which God governs the universe; an
order which his wisdom presents to the senses and reason of men, as an equal and
common rule for their actions, to guide them, without distinction of country or sect,
towards perfection and happiness.
Q. Give a clear definition of the word law.
A. The word law, taken literary, signifies lecture,* because originally, ordinances and
regulations were the lectures, preferably to all others, made to the people, in order that
they might observe them, and not incur the penalties attached to their infraction: whence
follows the original custom explaining the true idea.
The definition of law is, "An order or prohibition to act with the express clause of a
penalty attached to the infraction, or of a recompense attached to the observance of that
* From the Latin word lex, lectio. Alcoran likewise signifies lecture and is only a literal
translation of the word law.
Q. Do such orders exist in nature?
Q. What does the word nature signify?
A. The word nature bears three different significations.
1. It signifies the universe, the material world: in this first sense we say the beauties of
nature, the riches of nature, that is to say, the objects in the heavens and on the earth
exposed to our sight;
2. It signifies the power that animates, that moves the universe, considering it as a distinct
being, such as the soul is to the body; in this second sense we say, "The intentions of
nature, the incomprehensible secrets of nature."
3. It signifies the partial operations of that power on each being, or on each class of
beings; and in this third sense we say, "The nature of man is an enigma; every being acts
according to its nature."