PART 1 of 2
Timothy N. Baldwin, JD.
January 24, 2014
I explained in Lesser-Evil Principle Shaped the Constitution how the Founders used the lesser evil principle to form the Constitution. This is hard for some to admit, but the Founders expressed and incorporated this principle plainly. There is no denying it. One who does is only fooling himself.
So, these questions necessarily follow:
Did the founders use an evil principle? If not, then you admit the lesser evil principle is not evil.
If yes, then is our Constitution founded on a bed of evil? If it is, why are lesser-evil rejecters insisting that we “get back to the Constitution”?
Alternatively, if our Constitution is not evil and actually produces good results, then this proves that the lesser evil principle is not evil, should be used in politics and is a principle of Right Reason.
Let’s examine (as briefly as the heavy subject will allow) the origin and nature of the lesser evil principle from the Age of Reason and show why the Founders rightly used it in forming the Constitution and why people are morally bound to use it in all situations of life, not just in preferred situations.
I will show that human nature proves that decisions include a gradation of (real) good and (real) evil, and that man must prevent the greater evil with his decisions. This is not to say that human nature is evil, or that the Law of Nature is evil; rather, the decisions humans must make include gradations of good and evil. This is our state or condition of life.
I. Human nature is the origin of all natural law
Man has a nature—human nature—which is the origin of all Natural Law. Burlamaqui put it this way,
The idea of Right, and much more that of Natural Right, are undoubtedly relative to the nature of man. It is from this nature therefore, from the constitution and state of man, that we are to deduce the principles of this science. (Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, The Principles of Natural and Politic Law (1747), Part I, Chapter I, Section II.)
Natural law is thus defined as, rules of human conduct derived from the science of human nature. These rules account for the fact that human decisions involve a gradation of good and evil. In other words, not all decisions are purely good or purely evil. In fact, most of the time they are mixed, and man must make the best decisions so as to prevent the greater evils from happening.
II. Man’s nature requires him to seek his happiness
Rules of natural law have a purpose: man’s happiness. “[M]an in all his steps and actions proposes to himself a scope or end.” (Ibid., Part I, Chapter 5, Section III.) This “end” is his happiness. “[E]very thing he does is with a view of happiness…This is the ultimate end he proposes in all his actions.” (Ibid., Section IV.) What is happiness, according to these philosophers?
By Happiness we are to understand the internal satisfaction of the mind, arising from the possession of good; (Ibid., Chapter 2, Section 1.)
If happiness is “possession of good,” what is “good”?
Good[is] whatever is suitable or agreeable to man for his preservation, perfection, conveniency, or pleasure.(Ibid.)
Therefore, any rule that undermines or contradicts man’s natural end is not a rule conformable to natural law. In other words, “evil” is anything that does not help man achieve his preservation, protection, convenience or pleasure.
III. Seeking happiness applies to political happiness
These rules of human nature apply with equal force socially and politically as they do individually. The good of producing happiness is what drives people to create political society, and the Law of Nations is based on this truth.
In order to form a just idea of civil society, we must say, that is no more than natural society itself modified in such a manner, as to have a sovereign that commands, and on whose will whatever concerns the happiness of society.
Principles of human conduct that govern individuals similarly govern political decisions because happiness is the end of both human conditions. Therefore, natural law requires that man make decisions that help preserve the happiness, or good (as defined above) of society.
IV. To acquire happiness, man must seek truth
If man is to acquire happiness, he must seek truth relating to the rules of human nature. If one does not use right reason, he cannot find truth. This is a universal principle:
[H]uman understanding is naturally right, and has within itself a strength sufficient to arrive at knowledge of truth, and to distinguish it from error; especially in things wherein our respective duties are concerned, and which are requisite to form man for a virtuous, honourable, and quiet life. (Ibid.)
Seeking truth is an objective task, not subjective—thus, the science of natural law. In other words, the rules of human nature must be learned and applied. Otherwise, man will likely apply his inclinations to a given decision, and not reason. This is to err.
V. Seeking truth regarding politics requires one to apply science
Some people do not apply Right Reason correctly and thus conclude in error on many topics. So, man is required to “enlighten [his] conscience” (Ibid., Part II, Chapter 9, Section IV) and apply “those rules which nature alone prescribes to man, in order to conduct him safely to the end [of] true and solid happiness.” (Ibid., Part 1, Chapter 1, Section 1.)
The system of assemblage of these rules…is generally distinguished by the name of Natural Law. This science includes the most important principles of morality, jurisprudence, or politics…A just knowledge of the maxims we ought to follow in the course of life, is the principle object of wisdom. (Ibid.)
To apply this science, one must find and apply those principles that conform to man’s nature based on empirical and measurable evidence or on the probability of those evidences being true. Enlightenment philosophers called this measurable evidence demonstrative reasoning. In sum, natural (i.e. political) science is based on the ability to show the truth of the reason through demonstrable results, through absolutes and probabilities.
VI. Conscience requires using right reason
The principles derived from human nature create obligations on man to act or not act, depending on the circumstances. Philosophers describe this force of obligation as CONSCIENCE. However, the definition of this term is not how some people use it today. It is not passion, inclination, instinct or even religion.
Enlightenment philosophers defined conscience as “the result of perfect reasoning, or the consequences we infer from two express or tacit premises.” (Ibid.,Part II, Chapter 9, Section II.) Conscience thus requires man to formulate and use principles based on this nature; that is, Natural Science. Failure to do this is a conscience in error and shirking of duty.
VII. Right reason equates to God’s will for man
Adding more weight to principles derived from human nature, Enlightenment philosophers found that Demonstrative Reason of human nature equated to God’s design for man. Burlamaqui explains that there are three aspects of natural law which reveal principles: (1) instinct, (2) reason, and (3) God’s will: “[i]t is on all these foundations united, we ought to raise the edifice of natural law, or the system of morality.” (Ibid., Part I, Chapter 7, Section IV.) Simply put, God created human nature, and as such, the rules of human nature equate to God’s will.
[M]an being a creature of God, formed with design and wisdom, and endowed with sense and reason; the rule of human actions, or the true foundation of morality, is properly the will of the supreme Being, manifested and interpreted, either by moral sense or by reason.(Ibid.)
This is the “system of humanity” whereby man should act; meaning, "[t]o reason well on morality, we ought to take things as they are, without making abstractions; that is, we should attend to the nature and actual state of man, by uniting and combining all the circumstances that essential enter into the system of humanity.” (Part I, Chapter 7, Section XIV.)
While one may not like the fact that decisions include gradations of good and evil and that man must choose the lesser evil when forced between that and a greater evil, that fact is a reality of human nature, and as such, we must embrace and apply it.
VIII. System of Humanity consists of making decisions between good and evil
The system of humanity means making decisions of what is good and evil. Inherent in this system is the MIXTURE OF GOOD AND EVIL within the same act or concept. Burlamaqui explained it this way:
We should therefore make a distinction between real goods and evils, and those that are false and apparent…[S]ometimes there is a mixture of both, which does not obstruct our discerning what part it is that prevails, and whether the good or evil be predominant. (Ibid., Part 1, Chapter 6, Section II.)
That a decision contains a degree of evil does not make the decision immoral because human nature requires it, and God did not create man to choose the greater evil; that is absurd. Moreover, it does not mean that the person having to make that decision has no conscience or that the means justify the ends. Those concepts are irrelevant to the lesser evil principle.
IX. Good and evil have different qualities relative to man’s decision of choosing the lesser evil
Not only are some decisions mixed with good and evil, not all good and evil fall into the same species. There are different kinds of good and evil, the reality of which plays a part in man’s reasoning to decide which decisions are best.
Burlamaqui explained the nature of good and evil this way:
[G]oods and evils have not all the same nature; some are solid and durable, others transitory and inconstant…There are at present goods and evils…and future goods and evils, which are the objects of our hopes or fears.
There are particular goods and evils; which affect only some individuals; and others that are common and universal, of which all the members of the society partake. The good of the whole is the real good; that of one of the parts, opposite to the good of the whole, is only an apparent good, and consequently a real evil. (Ibid.)
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On this rule, when people make political decisions, they are making not personal decisions; rather, they are making decisions that affect the whole of society. Where the decision causes more evil than good, the decision is, as these philosophers state, the “real evil.” Thus, one cannot make a political decision without considering the effect it will have on all of society. For part two click below.
© 2014 Timothy N. Baldwin, JD - All Rights Reserved
Timothy Baldwin, born in 1979, is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana (and formerly Florida) and handles a variety of cases, including constitutional, criminal, and civil. Baldwin graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in English and Political Science. In 2004, Baldwin graduated from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, AL with a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree. From there, Baldwin became an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. For 2 1/2 years, Baldwin prosecuted criminal actions and tried nearly 60 jury trials. In 2006, Baldwin started his private law practice and has maintained it since.
Baldwin is a published author, public speaker and student of political philosophy. Baldwin is the author of Freedom For A Change, Romans 13-The True Meaning of Submission, and To Keep or Not To Keep: Why Christians Should Not Give Up Their Guns–all of which are available for purchase through libertydefenseleague.com. Baldwin has also authored hundreds of political articles relative to liberty in the United States of America. Baldwin has been the guest of scores of radio shows and public events and continues to exposit principles which the people in America will need to determine its direction for the future.
Web site: libertydefenseleague.com