Tractatus Politicus

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Tractatus Politicus

Post  Yakima Canutt on Thu Mar 19, 2015 12:48 pm


PHILOSOPHERS conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into

which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride,

bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually

pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and

reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow

manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to

make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of

men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be.

Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally

written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics,

which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera,

or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets

when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all

sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of

politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice; and no men

are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or


2. But statesmen, on the other hand, are suspected of plotting against

mankind, rather than consulting their interests, and are esteemed more

crafty than learned. No doubt nature has taught them, that vices will

exist, while men do. And so, while they study to anticipate human

wickedness, and that by arts, which experience and long practice have

taught, and which men generally use under the guidance more of fear than

of reason, they are thought to be enemies of religion, especially by

divines, who believe that supreme authorities should handle public

affairs in accordance with the same rules of piety, as bind a private

individual. Yet there can be no doubt, that statesmen have written about

politics far more happily than philosophers. For, as they had experience

for their mistress, they taught nothing that was inconsistent with


3. And, certainly, I am fully persuaded that experience has revealed all

conceivable sorts of commonwealth, which are consistent with men's

living in unity, and likewise the means by which the multitude may be

guided or kept within fixed bounds. So that I do not believe that we can

by meditation discover in this matter anything not yet tried and

ascertained, which shall be consistent with experience or practice. For

men are so situated, that they cannot live without some general law. But

general laws and public affairs are ordained and managed by men of the

utmost acuteness, or, if you like, of great cunning or craft. And so it

is hardly credible, that we should be able to conceive of anything

serviceable to a general society, that occasion or chance has not

offered, or that men, intent upon their common affairs, and seeking

their own safety, have not seen for themselves.

4. Therefore, on applying my mind to politics, I have resolved to

demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce

from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of,

but only such things as agree best with practice. And that I might

investigate the subject-matter of this science with the same freedom of

spirit as we generally use in mathematics, I have laboured carefully,

not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions; and

to this end I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger,

envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in

the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent

to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of

the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary,

and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to understand

their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them

aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses.

5. For this is certain, and we have proved its truth in our Ethics,

that men are of necessity liable to passions, and so constituted as to

pity those who are ill, and envy those who are well off; and to be prone

to vengeance more than to mercy: and moreover, that every individual

wishes the rest to live after his own mind, and to approve what he

approves, and reject what he rejects. And so it comes to pass, that, as

all are equally eager to be first, they fall to strife, and do their

utmost mutually to oppress one another; and he who comes out conqueror

is more proud of the harm he has done to the other, than of the good he

has done to himself. And although all are persuaded, that religion, on

the contrary, teaches every man to love his neighbour as himself, that

is to defend another's right just as much as his own, yet we showed that

this persuasion has too little power over the passions. It avails,

indeed, in the hour of death, when disease has subdued the very

passions, and man lies inert, or in temples, where men hold no traffic,

but least of all, where it is most needed, in the law-court or the

palace. We showed too, that reason can, indeed, do much to restrain and

moderate the passions, but we saw at the same time, that the road, which

reason herself points out, is very steep; so that such as persuade

themselves, that the multitude or men distracted by politics can ever be

induced to live according to the bare dictate of reason, must be

dreaming of the poetic golden age, or of a stage-play.

6. A dominion then, whose well-being depends on any man's good faith,

and whose affairs cannot be properly administered, unless those who are

engaged in them will act honestly, will be very unstable. On the

contrary, to insure its permanence, its public affairs should be so

ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided by reason or

passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or basely. Nor does it

matter to the security of a dominion, in what spirit men are led to

rightly administer its affairs. For liberality of spirit, or courage, is

a private virtue; but the virtue of a state is its security.

7. Lastly, inasmuch as all men, whether barbarous or civilized,

everywhere frame customs, and form some kind of civil state, we must

not, therefore, look to proofs of reason for the causes and natural

bases of dominion, but derive them from the general nature or position

of mankind, as I mean to do in the next chapter.

Yakima Canutt

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Re: Tractatus Politicus

Post  Yakima Canutt on Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:15 am



IN our Theologico-Political Treatise we have treated of natural and

civil right, and in our Ethics have explained the nature of

wrong-doing, merit, justice, injustice, and lastly, of human

liberty. Yet, lest the readers of the present treatise should have

to seek elsewhere those points, which especially concern it, I have

determined to explain them here again, and give a deductive proof of


2. Any natural thing whatever can be just as well conceived, whether it

exists or does not exist. As then the beginning of the existence of

natural things cannot be inferred from their definition, so neither can

their continuing to exist. For their ideal essence is the same, after

they have begun to exist, as it was before they existed. As then their

beginning to exist cannot be inferred from their essence, so neither can

their continuing to exist; but they need the same power to enable them

to go on existing, as to enable them to begin to exist. From which it

follows, that the power, by which natural things exist, and therefore

that by which they operate, can be no other than the eternal power of

God itself. For were it another and a created power, it could not

preserve itself, much less natural things, but it would itself, in order

to continue to exist, have need of the same power which it needed to be


3. From this fact therefore, that is, that the power whereby natural

things exist and operate is the very power of God itself, we easily

understand what natural right is. For as God has a right to everything,

and God's right is nothing else, but his very power, as far as the

latter is considered to be absolutely free; it follows from this, that

every natural thing has by nature as much right, as it has power to

exist and operate; since the natural power of every natural thing,

whereby it exists and operates, is nothing else but the power of God,

which is absolutely free.

4. And so by natural right I understand the very laws or rules of

nature, in accordance with which everything takes place, in other words,

the power of nature itself. And so the natural right of universal

nature, and consequently of every individual thing, extends as far as

its power: and accordingly, whatever any man does after the laws of his

nature, he does by the highest natural right, and he has as much right

over nature as he has power.

5. If then human nature had been so constituted, that men should live

according to the mere dictate of reason, and attempt nothing

inconsistent therewith, in that case natural right, considered as

special to mankind, would be determined by the power of reason only. But

men are more led by blind desire, than by reason: and therefore the

natural power or right of human beings should be limited, not by reason,

but by every appetite, whereby they are determined to action, or seek

their own preservation. I, for my part, admit, that those desires, which

arise not from reason, are not so much actions as passive affections of

man. But as we are treating here of the universal power or right of

nature, we cannot here recognize any distinction between desires, which

are engendered in us by reason, and those which are engendered by other

causes; since the latter, as much as the former, are effects of nature,

and display the natural impulse, by which man strives to continue in

existence. For man, be he learned or ignorant, is part of nature, and

everything, by which any man is determined to action, ought to be

referred to the power of nature, that is, to that power, as it is

limited by the nature of this or that man. For man, whether guided by

reason or mere desire, does nothing save in accordance with the laws and

rules of nature, that is, by natural right.

6. But most people believe, that the ignorant rather disturb than follow

the course of nature, and conceive of mankind, in nature as of one

dominion within another. For they maintain, that the human mind is

produced by no natural causes, but created directly by God, and is so

independent of other things, that it has an absolute power to determine

itself, and make a right use of reason. Experience, however, teaches us

but too well, that it is no more in our power to have a sound mind, than

a sound body. Next, inasmuch as everything whatever, as far as in it

lies, strives to preserve its own existence, we cannot at all doubt,

that, were it as much in our power to live after the dictate of reason,

as to be led by blind desire, all would be led by reason, and order

their lives wisely; which is very far from being the case. For

"Each is attracted by his own delight."

Nor do divines remove this difficulty, at least not by deciding, that

the cause of this want of power is a vice or sin in human nature,

deriving its origin from our first parents' fall. For if it was even in

the first man's power as much to stand as to fall, and he was in

possession of his senses, and had his nature unimpaired, how could it

be, that he fell in spite of his knowledge and foresight? But they say,

that he was deceived by the devil. Who then was it, that deceived the

devil himself? Who, I say, so maddened the very being that excelled all

other created intelligences, that he wished to be greater than God? For

was not his effort too, supposing him of sound mind, to preserve himself

and his existence, as far as in him lay? Besides, how could it happen,

that the first man himself, being in his senses, and master of his own

will, should be led astray, and suffer himself to be taken mentally

captive? For if he had the power to make a right use of reason, it was

not possible for him to be deceived, for as far as in him lay, he of

necessity strove to preserve his existence and his soundness of mind.

But the hypothesis is, that he had this in his power; therefore he of

necessity maintained his soundness of mind, and could not be deceived.

But this from his history, is known to be false. And, accordingly, it

must be admitted, that it was not in the first man's power to make a

right use of reason, but that, like us, he was subject to passions.

7. But that man, like other beings, as far as in him lies, strives to

preserve his existence, no one can deny. For if any distinction could be

conceived on this point, it must arise from man's having a free will.

But the freer we conceived man to be, the more we should be forced to

maintain, that he must of necessity preserve his existence and be in

possession of his senses; as anyone will easily grant me, that does not

confound liberty with contingency. For liberty is a virtue, or

excellence. Whatever, therefore, convicts a man of weakness cannot be

ascribed to his liberty. And so man can by no means be called free,

because he is able not to exist or not to use his reason, but only in so

far as he preserves the power of existing and operating according to the

laws of human nature. The more, therefore, we consider man to be free,

the less we can say, that he can neglect to use reason, or choose evil

in preference to good; and, therefore, God, who exists in absolute

liberty, also understands and operates of necessity, that is, exists,

understands, and operates according to the necessity of his own nature.

For there is no doubt, that God operates by the same liberty whereby he

exists. As then he exists by the necessity of his own nature, by the

necessity of his own nature also he acts, that is, he acts with absolute


8. So we conclude, that it is not in the power of any man always to use

his reason, and be at the highest pitch of human liberty, and yet that

everyone always, as far as in him lies, strives to preserve his own

existence; and that (since each has as much right as he has power)

whatever anyone, be he learned or ignorant, attempts and does, he

attempts and does by supreme natural right. From which it follows that

the law and ordinance of nature, under which all men are born, and for

the most part live, forbids nothing but what no one wishes or is able to

do, and is not opposed to strifes, hatred, anger, treachery, or, in

general, anything that appetite suggests. For the bounds of nature are

not the laws of human reason, which do but pursue the true interest and

preservation of mankind, but other infinite laws, which regard the

eternal order of universal nature, whereof man is an atom; and according

to the necessity of this order only are all individual beings determined

in a fixed manner to exist and operate. Whenever, then, anything in

nature seems to us ridiculous, absurd, or evil, it is because we have

but a partial knowledge of things, and are in the main ignorant of the

order and coherence of nature as a whole, and because we want everything

to be arranged according to the dictate of our own reason; although, in

fact, what our reason pronounces bad, is not bad as regards the order

and laws of universal nature, but only as regards the laws of our own

nature taken separately.

9. Besides, it follows that everyone is so far rightfully dependent on

another, as he is under that other's authority, and so far independent,

as he is able to repel all violence, and avenge to his heart's content

all damage done to him, and in general to live after his own mind.

10. He has another under his authority, who holds him bound, or has

taken from him arms and means of defence or escape, or inspired him with

fear, or so attached him to himself by past favour, that the man obliged

would rather please his benefactor than himself, and live after his mind

than after his own. He that has another under authority in the first or

second of these ways, holds but his body, not his mind. But in the third

or fourth way he has made dependent on himself as well the mind as the

body of the other; yet only as long as the fear or hope lasts, for upon

the removal of the feeling the other is left independent.

11. The judgment can be dependent on another, only as far as that other

can deceive the mind; whence it follows that the mind is so far

independent, as it uses reason aright. Nay, inasmuch as human power is

to be reckoned less by physical vigour than by mental strength, it

follows that those men are most independent whose reason is strongest,

and who are most guided thereby. And so I am altogether for calling a

man so far free, as he is led by reason; because so far he is determined

to action by such causes, as can be adequately understood by his

unassisted nature, although by these causes he be necessarily determined

to action. For liberty, as we showed above (Sec. 7), does not take away

the necessity of acting, but supposes it.

12. The pledging of faith to any man, where one has but verbally

promised to do this or that, which one might rightfully leave undone, or

vice versâ, remains so long valid as the will of him that gave his word

remains unchanged. For he that has authority to break faith has, in

fact, bated nothing of his own right, but only made a present of words.

If, then, he, being by natural right judge in his own case, comes to the

conclusion, rightly or wrongly (for "to err is human"), that more harm

than profit will come of his promise, by the judgment of his own mind he

decides that the promise should be broken, and by natural right (Sec. 9)

he will break the same.

13. If two come together and unite their strength, they have jointly

more power, and consequently more right over nature than both of them

separately, and the more there are that have so joined in alliance, the

more right they all collectively will possess.

14. In so far as men are tormented by anger, envy, or any passion

implying hatred, they are drawn asunder and made contrary one to

another, and therefore are so much the more to be feared, as they are

more powerful, crafty, and cunning than the other animals. And because

men are in the highest degree liable to these passions (Chap. I, Sec.

5), therefore men are naturally enemies. For he is my greatest enemy,

whom I must most fear and be on my guard against.

15. But inasmuch as (Sec. 6) in the state of nature each is so long

independent, as he can guard against oppression by another, and it is in

vain for one man alone to try and guard against all, it follows hence

that so long as the natural right of man is determined by the power of

every individual, and belongs to everyone, so long it is a nonentity,

existing in opinion rather than fact, as there is no assurance of making

it good. And it is certain that the greater cause of fear every

individual has, the less power, and consequently the less right, he

possesses. To this must be added, that without mutual help men can

hardly support life and cultivate the mind. And so our conclusion is,

that that natural right, which is special to the human race, can hardly

be conceived, except where men have general rights, and combine to

defend the possession of the lands they inhabit and cultivate, to

protect themselves, to repel all violence, and to live according to the

general judgment of all. For (Sec. 18) the more there are that combine

together, the more right they collectively possess. And if this is why

the schoolmen want to call man a sociable animal -- I mean because men

in the state of nature can hardly be independent -- I have nothing to

say against them.

16. Where men have general rights, and are all guided, as it were, by

one mind, it is certain (Sec. 13), that every individual has the less

right the more the rest collectively exceed him in power; that is, he

has, in fact, no right over nature but that which the common law allows

him. But whatever he is ordered by the general consent, he is bound to

execute, or may rightfully be compelled thereto (Sec. 4).

17. This right, which is determined by the power of a multitude, is

generally called Dominion. And, speaking generally, he holds dominion,

to whom are entrusted by common consent affairs of state -- such as the

laying down, interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification

of cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge belong to a

council, composed of the general multitude, then the dominion is called

a democracy; if the council be composed of certain chosen persons, then

it is an aristocracy; and if, lastly, the care of affairs of state and,

consequently, the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of


18. From what we have proved in this chapter, it becomes clear to us

that, in the state of nature, wrong-doing is impossible; or, if anyone

does wrong, it is to himself, not to another. For no one by the law of

nature is bound to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold

anything to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his own

temperament, pronounces to be so; and, to speak generally, nothing is

forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power

(Secs. 5 and Cool. But wrongdoing is action, which cannot lawfully be

committed. But if men by the ordinance of nature were bound to be led by

reason, then all of necessity would be so led. For the ordinances of

nature are the ordinances of God (Secs. 2, 3), which God has instituted

by the liberty, whereby he exists, and they follow, therefore, from the

necessity of the divine nature (Sec. 7), and, consequently, are eternal,

and cannot be broken. But men are chiefly guided by appetite, without

reason; yet for all this they do not disturb the course of nature, but

follow it of necessity. And, therefore, a man ignorant and weak of mind,

is no more bound by natural law to order his life wisely, than a sick

man is bound to be sound of body.

19. Therefore wrong-doing cannot be conceived of, but under dominion --

that is, where, by the general right of the whole dominion, it is

decided what is good and what evil, and where no one does anything

rightfully, save what he does in accordance with the general decree or

consent (Sec. 16). For that, as we said in the last section, is

wrong-doing, which cannot lawfully be committed, or is by law forbidden.

But obedience is the constant will to execute that, which by law is

good, and by the general decree ought to be done.

20. Yet we are accustomed to call that also wrong, which is done against

the sentence of sound reason, and to give the name of obedience to the

constant will to moderate the appetite according to the dictate of

reason: a manner of speech which I should quite approve, did human

liberty consist in the licence of appetite, and slavery in the dominion

of reason. But as human liberty is the greater, the more man can be

guided by reason, and moderate his appetite, we cannot without great

impropriety call a rational life obedience, and give the name of

wrong-doing to that which is, in fact, a weakness of the mind, not a

licence of the mind directed against itself, and for which a man may be

called a slave, rather than free (Secs. 7 and 11).

21. However, as reason teaches one to practise piety, and be of a calm

and gentle spirit, which cannot be done save under dominion; and,

further, as it is impossible for a multitude to be guided, as it were,

by one mind, as under dominion is required, unless it has laws ordained

according to the dictate of reason; men who are accustomed to live under

dominion are not, therefore, using words so improperly, when they call

that wrong-doing which is done against the sentence of reason, because

the laws of the best dominion ought to be framed according to that

dictate (Sec. 18). But, as for my saying (Sec. 18) that man in a state

of nature, if he does wrong at all, does it against himself, see, on

this point, Chap. IV., Secs. 4, 5, where is shown, in what sense we can

say, that he who holds dominion and possesses natural right, is bound by

laws and can do wrong.

22. As far as religion is concerned, it is further clear, that a man is

most free and most obedient to himself when he most loves God, and

worships him in sincerity. But so far as we regard, not the course of

nature, which we do not understand, but the dictates of reason only,

which respect religion, and likewise reflect that these dictates are

revealed to us by God, speaking, as it were, within ourselves, or else

were revealed to prophets as laws; so far, speaking in human fashion, we

say that man obeys God when he worships him in sincerity, and, on the

contrary, does wrong when he is led by blind desire. But, at the same

time, we should remember that we are subject to God's authority, as clay

to that of the potter, who of the same lump makes some vessels unto

honour, and others unto dishonour. And thus man can, indeed, act

contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like

laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal

decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to

the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.

23. As, then, wrong-doing and obedience, in their strict sense, so also

justice and injustice cannot be conceived of, except under dominion. For

nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than

another's; but under nature everything belongs to all -- that is, they

have authority to claim it for themselves. But under dominion, where it

is by common law determined what belongs to this man, and what to that,

he is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his

own, but he unjust who strives, on the contrary, to make his own that

which belongs to another.

24. But that praise and blame are emotions of joy and sadness,

accompanied by an idea of human excellence or weakness as their cause,

we have explained in our Ethics.

Yakima Canutt

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Re: Tractatus Politicus

Post  pinhedz on Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:43 pm

Benedictus (Spinoza, not Cumberbatch)

He was post-Cartesian and tried his best to be Ethical. study

Schrödinger's Hepcat

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Re: Tractatus Politicus

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