The Ruins HTML version
Part II, Chapter 4
BASIS OF MORALITY; OF GOOD, OF EVIL, OF SIN, OF CRIME, OF VICE
AND OF VIRTUE
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.