On The Duty of Man and Citizen
According to the Natural Law (1673)
Samuel von Pufendorf
On the Impelling Cause for the Establishment of a State
1. Although there is scarcely any pleasure and advantage which it seems cannot be obtained by the duties and situations so far enumerated, it remains for us to investigate the question, why men nevertheless, not content with those little first societies, have established the great societies which go by the names of states. For it is from these foundations that we must deduce the reason for the duties which attend the civil status of men.
2. Here then it is not enough to say that man is by Nature herself drawn into civil society, so that without it he cannot and will not live. For surely it is evident that man is an animal of the kind that loves itself and its interest to the utmost degree. When, therefore, he voluntarily seeks civil society, it must be that he has had regard to some utility which he will derive from it for himself. And though, outside of society with his kind, man would have been much the most miserable of creatures, still the natural desires and necessities of man could have been abundantly satisfied through the first communities, and the duties performed out of humanity or by agreement. Hence it cannot at once be inferred from man’s sociability that his nature does tend exactly to civil society.
3. This will be clearer, if we consider what condition arises among men from the establishment of states; what is required, if one is to be truly called a political animal, that is, a good citizen; and finally what in man’s nature is found to conflict with the character of the civil life.
4. The man who becomes a citizen suffers a loss of natural liberty, and subjects himself to an authority which includes the right of life and death, — an authority at whose command one must do many things from which one would otherwise shrink, and must leave undone many things which one greatly desired to do. And then many actions must be referred to the good of society, which often conflicts with the good of individuals. And yet, by tendencies already inborn, man does not incline to be subject to anyone, but to do everything at his own pleasure, and to favor his own interest in all things.
5. We call a man a truly political animal, that is, a good citizen, if he promptly obeys the commands of the rulers, if he strives with all his might for the public good, and willingly subordinates thereto his private good, or rather if he thinks nothing good for himself, unless it is likewise good for the state too; and finally if he shows himself accommodating to the other citizens. Yet few men’s natures are found to be of themselves adapted to this end. The majority are restrained somehow by the fear of punishment. Many remain all their lives bad citizens and non-political animals.
6. Finally, no animal is fiercer or more untameable than man, and more prone to vices capable of disturbing the peace of society. For, besides the craving for food and love, to which the brutes too are commonly addicted, man is troubled by many vices unknown to the brutes, for example, the insatiable desire for things superfluous and that worst of evils, ambition. There is also the too long-lived memory of injuries, and the burning for revenge, still increasing after a long interval. And then the infinite variety of inclinations and appetites, and every man’s obstinacy in exalting his own fancy. Also the fact that man delights in such mad cruelty to his own kind, that the majority of the woes to which man’s lot in life is exposed proceed from man himself.
7. Therefore the genuine and principal reason why the patriarchs, abandoning their natural liberty, took to founding states, was that they might fortify themselves against the evils which threaten man from man. For, after God, man can most help man, and has no less power for harm. And they are right in their judgment of the malice of men and its remedy, who have accepted as a proverb the saying, that, if there were no courts, one man would devour another. But after men had been brought through their communities into such order that they could be safe from mutual injuries, the natural result was that they enjoyed more richly those advantages which can come to men from other men; for example, that they were imbued from childhood with more friendly habits, and discovered and cultivated various arts, by which human life was made rich and comfortable.
8. The reason for founding a state will become still clearer, if we consider that other means of restraining the malice of men would not have sufficed. For although the natural law commands men to abstain from inflicting any injury, still respect for that law cannot insure to men the ability to live quite safely in natural liberty. For although there may be men or so quiet a temper that, even with impunity assured, they would not injure others; and also other men who somehow check their desires from the fear of an evil that will result; still there is, on the other hand, a great multitude of those to whom every right is worthless, whenever the hope of gain has enticed them, or confidence in their own strength or shrewdness, by which they hope to be able to repel or elude those whom they have injured. There is no one who does not strive to protect himself against such persons, if he loves his own safety; and that protection cannot be had more conveniently than by the help of states. For in spite of the fact that some may have given a mutual pledge to help each other, still, unless there be something to unite their judgments, and firmly bind their wills to carry out the pledge, it is vain for one to promise himself unfailing aid from the others.
9. Lastly, although the natural law sufficiently teaches men that those who inflict injury upon others will not go unpunished, nevertheless neither fear of the Divinity nor the sting of conscience is found to have strength to control the malice of all sorts of men. For with many, through defect of training and habit, the force of reason grows deaf as it were. The result is that they aim at things present only, indifferent to the future, and are moved only by what strikes upon the senses. But since divine vengeance commonly walks with slow foot, for that reason wicked men are given an opportunity to attribute the evils which befall the impious to other causes; especially since they often see wicked men in possession of abundance in those things by which the crowd measures felicity. And then the goads of conscience, which precede the crime, seem less strong than those which follow it, when the deed can no longer be undone. But to check evil desires, the prompt remedy, and one well adapted to human nature, is found in states.