The Ruins HTML version
Part II, Chapter 3
PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF NATURE RELATING TO MAN
Q. Explain the principles of the law of nature with relation to man.
A. They are simple; all of them are comprised in one fundamental and single precept.
Q. What is that precept?
A. It is self-preservation.
Q. Is not happiness also a precept of the law of nature?
A. Yes: but as happiness is an accidental state, resulting only from the development of
man's faculties and his social system, it is not the immediate and direct object of nature; it
is in some measure, a superfluity annexed to the necessary and fundamental object of
Q. How does nature order man to preserve himself?
A. By two powerful and involuntary sensations, which it has attached, as two guides, two
guardian Geniuses to all his actions: the one a sensation of pain, by which it admonishes
him of, and deters him from, everything that tends to destroy him; the other, a sensation
of pleasure, by which it attracts and carries him towards everything that tends to his
preservation and the development of his existence.
Q. Pleasure, then, is not an evil, a sin, as casuists pretend?
A. No, only inasmuch as it tends to destroy life and health which, by the avowal of those
same casuists, we derive from God himself.
Q. Is pleasure the principal object of our existence, as some philosophers have asserted?
A. No; not more than pain; pleasure is an incitement to live as pain is a repulsion from
Q. How do you prove this assertion?
A. By two palpable facts: One, that pleasure, when taken immoderately, leads to
destruction; for instance, a man who abuses the pleasure of eating or drinking, attacks his
health, and injures his life. The other, that pain sometimes leads to self- preservation; for
instance, a man who permits a mortified member to be cut off, suffers pain in order not to