Chapter 2: The Laws of Nature
Antecdent to the above-mentioned laws are those of nature.
- They are called such because they derive their force entirely from our frame and existence.
- In order to have a perfect knowledge of these laws, we must consider man before the establishment of society.
- The laws received in such a state would be those of nature.
The law, which, impressing on our minds the idea of a Creator, inclines us toward him, is the first in importance, though not in order, of natural laws.
- Man, in a state of nature, would have the faculty of knowing before he had acquired any knowledge.
- Plain it is that his first ideas would not be of a speculative nature.
- He would think of the preservation of his being before he would investigate its original.
- Such a man would feel nothing in himself, at first, but impotency and weakness.
- His fears and apprehensions would be excessive as appears from instances (were there any necessity of proving it) of savages found in forests* trembling at the motion of a leaf, and flying from every shadow.
- In this state, every man, instead of being sensible of his equality, would fancy himself inferior.
- There would, therefore, be no danger of their attacking one another; peace would be the first law of nature.
The natural impulse, or desire, which Hobbes attributes to mankind, of subduing one another, is far from being well founded.
- The idea of empire and dominion is so complex, and depends on so many other notions, that it could never be the first which occurred to the human understanding.
Hobbes asks: Why do men go armed, and have locks and keys to fasten their doors, if they are not naturally in a state of war?
- But is it not obvious, that he attributes to mankind, before the establishment of society, what can happen but in consequence of this establishment, which furnishes them with motives for hostile attacks and self-defence?
Next to a sense of his weakness, man would soon find that of his wants.
- Hence, another law of nature would prompt him to seek for nourishment.
Fear would induce men to shun one another.
- But the marks of this fear are reciprocal.
- It would soon engage them to associate.
- Besides, this association would quickly follow from the very pleasure one animal feels at the approach of another of the same species.
- Again, the attraction arising from the difference of sexes would enhance this pleasure, and the natural inclination they have for each other would form a third law.
Beside the sense or instinct which man possesses in common with brutes, he has the advantage of acquired knowledge; and thence arises a second tie, which brutes have not.
- Mankind have therefore a new motive of uniting, and a fourth law of nature results from the desire of living in society.