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III.5 Principal Laws of Nature and of Nature's God

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The Law of
Self-Preservation

The moral order exists prior to our choices. We do not decide that kindness is good or that murder is evil. These are decided by nature, or better put, by God, who is the Author of Nature’s Law. The first concrete directive of nature is the law of self-preservation. We have a duty to preserve ourselves in existence. This duty also confers on us certain rights, such as the right to defend ourselves against death, injury, or loss of property. This law of nature applies equally to all rational beings.

The most fundamental good is life, but it is not the greatest. We need life to enjoy liberty, but in the hierarchy of goods, liberty is greater. Happiness is the greatest of all human goods because it is the highest perfection of our nature, but we cannot secure it without both life and liberty.

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Liberty, Reason,
and the Family

The family is the foundation of the republic; it is here that the young learn self-governance. The presence of two parents—a man and a woman—is vital to moral growth. Children rely on their parents for guidance until such time as they are able to govern themselves by the light of their own reason. When this power is fully secure, they leave the family and become free citizens.

A good citizen has little need for written law. He governs himself by the unwritten law of nature. He orders his actions in accord with truth and is habituated to right conduct. The good citizen is a threat to the tyrannical regime; he sets aside the corrupt laws of the state and follows the order of law that God has inscribed into nature. He lives under the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

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The Blessings
of Happiness

The happiness of the people is the the greatest good and the ultimate aim of the political order. This good does not result from mere self-preservation, or even from the liberty learned through family life, but from participation in the goods that perfect the social order. The advance of the arts and sciences, the free flow of communication, the increase of business, wealth, and technology, and the securing of justice under the written law is the foundation for this greatest of all human perfections.

If the people are to secure the blessings of happiness, they must ensure that the written laws of the state conform to the unwritten laws that are known to them in nature prior to the establishment of government. Justice within the state flows from the principles of justice found within nature.

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American Deist © 2012‒2013 Edward J. Furton
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