The Relation of Laws to different Beings

September 30, 2015

Laws generally are the necessary relations arising from the nature of things. In this sense, all beings have their laws.

  • The Deity has his laws.
  • The material world has its laws.
  • Animals have their laws.
  • Humans have their laws, created by their intelligence.

Some people assert absurdly that the various effects in this world were spontaneously produced by a blind fatality.

But this blind fatality cannot create intelligent beings. There is a primitive reason for these effects.

Laws are the relations between it and different beings, and the relations of these to one another.

God is related to the universe as creator and preserver. The laws by which he created all things are those by which he preserves them.

  • He acts according to these rules, because he knows them.
  • He knows them, because he made them.
  • He made them, because they are relative to his wisdom and power.

The world was formed by the motion of matter, and is void of understanding. The world subsists through so long a succession of ages.

  • Its motions must certainly be directed by invariable laws.

Thus the creation, which seems an arbitrary act, has laws as invariable as those of the fatality of the atheists.

It would be absurd for the Creator to govern the world without those rules, since without them it could not subsist. These rules are a fixed and invariable relation.

In moving bodies, motion is received, increased, diminished, lost, according to the relations of the quantity of matter and velocity.

  • Each diversity is uniformity.
  • Each change is constancy.

Intelligent beings might have laws of their own making. But they also have some which they never made.

Before there were intelligent beings, they were a possibility.

They had therefore possible relations, and consequently possible laws.

Before laws were made, there were relations of possible justice.

To say that just or unjust is what is commanded or forbidden by positive laws, is the same as saying that, before drawing a circle, all the radii were unequal.

The relations of justice therefore are antecedent to the positive law which established them. For example, if human societies existed, it would be right to conform to their laws.

  • If there were intelligent beings that had received a benefit of another being, they should show their gratitude.
  • If one intelligent being had created another intelligent being, the latter should continue in its original state of dependence.
  • If one intelligent being injures another, it deserves a retaliation, and so on.

But the intelligent world is far from being so well governed as the physical. The intelligent world also has its invariable laws, but it does not conform to them so exactly as the physical world.

This is because:

  • on the one hand, intelligent beings are of a finite nature and are consequently liable to error.
  • on the other hand, their nature requires them to be free agents.

Hence they do not steadily conform to their primitive laws, and even those of their own instituting they frequently infringe.

We cannot determine whether animals are governed by the general laws of motion, or by a particular movement. But they do not have a more intimate relation to God than the rest of the material world.

Sensation is of no other use to them, than in the relation they have either to other particular beings, or to themselves.

  • By the allurement of pleasure they preserve the individual.
  • By the same allurement they preserve their species.

They have natural laws, because they are united by sensation.

  • They do not have positive laws because they are not connected by knowledge.
  • Yet they do not invariably conform to their natural laws.

These are better observed in plants that have neither understanding nor sense. Animals are deprived of the high advantages which we have.

But they have some advantages which we have not.

  • They do not have our hopes, but they are without our fears.
  • They are subject, like us, to death, but without knowing it.

Even most of them are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions.

Man, as a physical being, is, like other bodies, governed by invariable laws.

As an intelligent being, he incessantly transgresses the laws established by God, and changes those of his own instituting.

  • He is a limited being left to his private direction.
  • He is subject, like all finite intelligences, to ignorance and error.
  • He loses even his imperfect knowledge.

As a sensible creature, he is hurried away by many impetuous passions. Such a being might every instant forget his Creator.

  • God has therefore reminded him of his duty through religion.

Such a being is liable every moment to forget himself.

  • Philosophy has provided against this by the laws of morality.

Formed to live in society, he might forget his fellow-creatures.

  • Legislators have, therefore, by political and civil laws, confined him to his duty.

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