March 12, 2012
Chapter Four - Of the Divine Law


[T]he fact that all bodies colliding with smaller bodies lose as much of their own motion as they impart to other bodies is a universal law governing all bodies, and follows from Nature’s necessity. Similarly, the fact that a man, in remembering one thing, forthwith calls to mind another l like it, or which he has seen along with it, is a law that necessarily follows from the nature of man. But the fact that men give up, or are compelled to give up, their natural right and bind themselves to live under fixed rules, depends on human will. And although I grant that, in an absolute sense, all things are determined by the universal laws of Nature to exist and to act in a definite and determinate way, I still say that these latter laws depend on human will. My reasons are as follows:

I. Man, insofar as he is part of Nature, constitutes a part of the power of Nature. Thus whatever follows from the necessity of man’s nature- that is, from Nature as we conceive her to be determinately expressed in man’s nature-follows from human power, even though it does so necessarily. Therefore the enacting of these man-made laws may quite legitimately be said to depend on human will, for it depends especially on the power of the human mind in the following respect, that the human mind, insofar as it is concerned with the perception of truth and falsity, can be quite clearly conceived without these man-made laws, whereas it cannot be conceived without Nature’s necessary law, as defined above.

2. We ought to define and explain things through their proximate causes. Generalisations about fate and the interconnection of causes can be of no service to us in forming and ordering our thoughts concerning particular things. Furthermore, we plainly have no knowledge as to the actual co-ordination and interconnection of things - that is, the way in which things are in actual fact ordered and connected -so that for practical purposes it is better, indeed, it is essential, to consider things as contingent. So much for law taken in the absolute sense.

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