What is your biggest habit

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About the habit and the awkwardness of changing familiar laws.

[32] The one who, in my opinion, has seen the power of habit very correctly, who first has the narrative1 invented; a farmer's wife had picked up and petted a calf the hour it was born, and since she continued with these caresses every day, she had come to one by the habit of still carrying the same animal in her arms no matter how big ox it had grown up.

Because it is truly a fierce and cunning schoolmaster, this habit! Quite unnoticed, she sits down on the foot of rule with us; but if, with the help of time, it has made this gentle and unnoticed beginning, it gradually shows us a defiant and tyrannical face, against which we do not even retain the freedom to open our eyes. At every opportunity we see them overwhelm the rules of nature. Usus efficacissimus rerum omnium magister.2 This still leads one to believe in the cave of Plato in his republic and makes it understandable to me how the doctors so often, according to their rule, can set aside the reasons of their art and how that king, with their help, was able to arrange his stomach in such a way that he could could finally feed on the poison, and how the girl Albertus talks about could get used to living on spiders. And how one found in the new Indian world, under very different areas of the sky, [33] great peoples, which they served for food, which gathered and canned such as grasshoppers, ants, lizards and bats, and that one in case of great price increases Toad was sold for six Reichstaler. They are cooked there and served with all kinds of broths. Other peoples have been met for whom our meat dishes were poisonous and deadly. Consuetudinis magna vis est. Pernoctant venatores in nive; in montibus uri se patiuntur; pugiles caestibus contusi ne ingemiscunt quidem.3

These wondrous examples lose their wondrousness when we heed how we are ordinarily and how habit dulls our senses. We must not go on a journey first to find out what is being said about the people near the cataracts of the Nile and to convince ourselves of what the philosophers think of the harmony of the spheres. The bodies of these circles, which are firm, dense and smooth, by touching and rubbing each other as they pass, cannot fail to arouse an admirable harmony, according to the rhythm of which the twists and turns of the stars in their dance follow; but the hearing of the creatures of this earth is deafened by the uninterrupted duration of this sound, like the Egyptians by the cataracts, and they cannot hear anything of it, however strong it may be. The blacksmiths, carpenters, tin bludgeons and coopers couldn't stand the noise they make if it was yelling as hard to them as it was to us.

My olfactory pad serves my nose; but if I have carried it in my bosom for only three days in a row, it only serves the noses of my companions. This here is even stranger, that in spite of the long intervening times [34] and great gaps, the habit can propagate and maintain its impressions on our senses; as experienced by those who live near the peal of a bell. I have my apartment in a tower with a big bell in it that rings in prayer every time the sun rises and sets. My tower itself collapses from the noise, and for the first few days it seemed unbearable to me. It wasn't long before I became so used to hearing it without paying attention and often not even being woken up by it. Plato reprimanded this to a child who was playing with nuts. This answered: You are grumbling with me about a little something. Habit, replied Plato, is no small matter.

I find that our greatest vices already fold their wrinkles in our tenderest childhood, and that our chief education rests in the hands of the nurses. It is a pastime for mothers to watch a child turn the neck of a puppy or frolic about to beat or torment a dog or a cat; and many a father is so stupid as to regard it as a sign of a warlike soul when his son abuses a peasant or a lackey who is not allowed to defend himself, and as a fine mind when he outwits his playmates with malice and intrigue. These, however, are the real seeds and roots of cruelty, tyranny, and unfaithfulness; they perch, grow merrily in the air, and thrive immensely under the hands of habit.

It is a dangerous position to excuse such shameful tendencies with the weakness of childish old age or with its recklessness. First of all, it is nature that speaks; whose voice at this age sounds all the more pure and intimate, the more refined and untrained it is. Second, the hideousness of cheating does not lie in the ratio of a thaler to a pin; it lies in the cheating itself. I consider it more correct to conclude as follows [35]: Why shouldn't he cheat on thalers when he even cheats on needles? as, as they do: he only cheats with needles, with thalers he will probably beware of it! Children must be carefully taught that vices hate themselves for their own sake, and their ugliness must be made clear to them, so that they may flee from them, not only in business alone, but especially abhor those in their hearts; that they themselves hate the thought of whatever larva they may undertake.

I know very well that, because in my boyhood I kept on going my straight path and did not enjoy using whistles or tricks in my childish games (as one must indeed notice that children's games are not games, but in themselves the most serious occupations for children); There is still no easy pastime in which I do not go to work, without thought and out of a purely natural inclination, with sincerity and full reluctance to cunning. I play my cards with just as much consideration for mere tokens and calculate as keenly as if I were playing for gold pieces; Even if it doesn't matter to my wife and children whether I win or lose, I am as specific as when it really matters. It is consistently enough in my own eyes to beware of the evil arts. No stranger can keep me under such close scrutiny. There are also no others for whom I have greater respect.

The other day I had a little man in my house, born in Nantes, who was born without arms, who trained his feet in such a way that his hands are supposed to do him, that they really forget half of their natural activities to have. Otherwise he calls them his hands; he uses them to handle scissors and knives, he loads a pistol and shoots it. He threads a needle, sews [36] and writes; he takes off his hat, combs his hair, plays cards and dice, and shakes them in the cup with as much skill as any player. He took the money I gave him with one foot, as we do in our hands. I remember another who, even as a child, when his hands were missing, carried a sword and a halberd between his chin and neck, threw them into the air and caught them again, threw a dagger and cracked the whip like the best Carter in the empire. But one discovers the effect of habits far better in the strange impressions which they make on our soul, where it does not have to overcome so much resistance. What can it not do about our judgment and our faith! I suppose there is an opinion that is strange enough - I am not speaking of the gross deceptions with which great nations and very clever men have been made drunk (for, since this part is beyond the limits of our human reason, it is to be excused If one gets lost here, insofar as one has not been extraordinarily enlightened in it by divine assistance), but only from other opinions - there are probably some that would have been strange enough not to be considered a law everywhere, where it was intended to establish and propagate as truth? And therefore the old declamation is very fair: Non pudet physicum, id est, speculatorem venatoremque naturae, ab animis consuetudine imbutis quaerere testimonium veritatis.4

I am convinced that there is no such senseless cricket in human imagination that does not go publicly here or there and that is to a certain extent approved and approved by our reason. There are [37] nations where one turns one's back to the one one wishes to greet and never looks at the one whom one wishes to honor. There are others where, when the king spits out, the lady at his court, who is most favored, holds up her hand to him; and yet another nation, where the noblest who surround him bend to the ground to catch in canvas what he lets fall, digested. I ask for space here to switch on a story!

A French nobility, famous for his witty excuses, kept blowing his fist, a habit that is incompatible with our customs. When he tried to justify himself against me one day, he asked me what a privilege this filthy sputum had, that we kept a clean piece of canvas ready to catch it and then wrapped it up and carefully kept it in our pockets. That ought to arouse more disgust in a person than to look at him being thrown where there is room for it, as we do with all other impurities. I felt that he spoke nothing less than unreasonable, and that it was only habit that made me overlook the strange in use, which we immediately find so most abhorrent when it is told about foreign countries. The miracles and miraculous events consist in the ignorance in which we find ourselves about nature and not in nature itself. Whatever we always have in front of our eyes lulls our judgment. The indecent nations are as much astonished at us as we are at them, and with just as much just as anybody would admit if, after having gone through the examples from abroad, he now also examines the natives and confronts one another impartially would understand.

Human reason is a coloring liquor which is mixed in roughly equal proportions with all our opinions and customs, of what kind they may be. [38] Infinite in matter, infinite in deviation. I'll pick up the thread again. - There are peoples where no one speaks to the king, except for his wife and children, except through a mouthpiece. A nation where virgins display their parts in public, while married women carefully cover and hide them. This also includes the other custom related to it, whereby chastity is only valued in the marital status, because virgins are allowed to abandon themselves to anyone, and when they are fertilized, they are allowed to abort the fruit by appropriate means as they please. And elsewhere, if the one who takes a wife is a merchant, all merchants are invited to the wedding in order to recognize the bride in front of the bridegroom, and the bride wins all the more honor and prestige because of her duration and ability, all the more so larger the number of guests. If the bridegroom is an officer, the guests are taken from his comrades. Likewise, if it is one of the nobility and so on from now on. Except if it is a peasant or someone else from the lower class; for in this case the work rests with the landlord. In all of this, conjugal fidelity in the marital status is strongly recommended among this people.

We know of countries where youths are kept on the litter, yes of marriages between man and man. Of countries where women go to war as well as their husbands and have their rank, not only in battle but also as commanders; in which one wears rings not only in the nose, in the lips, in the cheeks, on the toes, but golden bracelets of heavy weight through the breasts and loins; where you wipe your fingers on your hips, on certain hairy parts and on the soles of your feet while eating. With others, the children do not inherit, but the brothers and cousins; and elsewhere only the cousins, except in the succession of the prince; by others, too, where, in order to maintain the community of goods that has been introduced with them, [39] certain high-ranking persons are appointed to supervise all agriculture and the fruits of the land for each one Need to distribute. Where one mourns the death of the children and celebrates the death of the old men more badly. Where ten or twelve of them sleep in one bed with their wives. Where the women who lose their husbands in a violent death are allowed to marry again, but the others are not. Where the condition of women is regarded as so miserable that the little maids who are born among them are killed and the women who are needed are bought from the neighboring nations. Where the men can divorce their wives without giving a cause, but the women not at all, whatever the cause they might have. Where, according to the law, men can sell their wives if they are sterile.

Countries where they boil the corpses of the deceased and then pound it until there is a kind of broth that they mix and drink with their wine. Where the most desirable burial is to be eaten by dogs: as elsewhere by birds. Where it is believed that the souls of the deceased live in complete freedom, in pleasant areas, provided with all desirable conveniences, and that it is these that make the echo that we hear. Where they fight in the water and swim safely with their arrows. Where, as a sign of subservience, one must hunch one's shoulders, lower one's head and pull one's shoes off when one enters the king's apartment. Peoples who cut off the nose and lips of the circumcised who guard their priestesses so that they cannot be loved, and where the priests gouge out their eyes to see spirits and to be able to ask the oracles.

Nations where everyone can make a god out of anything he likes. The hunter from a lion or from a fox; the fisherman from certain fish, [40] and idols from every action and passion of man. The sun, moon and earth are the most distinguished gods. Where the formula of the oath is to touch the earth and look at the sun; where you eat meat and fish raw and uncooked. Where the most sacred oath consists in pronouncing the name of a deceased who has a good reputation in the country and touching his grave with the hand.

Where the New Year's present, which the king sends each time to his princes and grandees of the empire, consists of fire, on the arrival of which all old fires must be extinguished and all the people around are kept to fetch it for themselves, on penalty of the crime of the offended majesty.

Where, when the king wants to devote himself entirely to devotion and lay down the scepter, as is often the case, his first heir to the throne is forced to do the same and the throne, according to the law, falls to the third heir. Where to change the imperial constitution as the circumstances seem to require. Where to depose the king when it seems good; where elders are appointed in his place to lead the state ruler and sometimes even leave it in the hands of the congregation. Where men and women are circumcised and also baptized. Where a soldier who has made it so far in one or more battles to present the king with seven enemy heads is raised to the nobility. Where one lives under the opinion of the moral dignity of the soul so unsociable and so rare that one considers it mortal. Where women give birth without complaint or fear.

Where the woman wears copper boots on both legs and is bound by the duty of greatness of soul, if a louse bites, to bite such again, and must not be able to contend to marry before she offers her virginity to her king, if he requests it to have.

Where you greet by touching the earth with your finger [41] and then stretching it out again towards the sky. Where men carry loads on their heads but women carry them on their shoulders. Where the women stand, but the men crouch to ease the bladders.Where, as a token of friendship, you give some of your own blood and smoke the one like a god whom you want to honor. Where marriage is forbidden not only up to the fourth degree, but also up to all further degrees of kinship. Where the children are left with their breasts for four years, often twelve, and where they consider it fatal to hold the child in their breasts for the entire first day. Where the fathers have the office to chastise the sons and the mothers alone the daughters, and the punishment consists in smoking the wanton by the legs. Where to circumcise the feminine gender. Where one eats all kinds of herbs with no difference other than discarding only those which seem to smell bad. Where everything is open, where in the houses, no matter how magnificent they are, there are neither windows nor doors, nor cupboards or the like that can be locked; and where the thieves are punished twice as elsewhere. Where they kill lice with their teeth, like dogs and monkeys, and consider it cruel to break them with their thumbs. Where one does not trim one's hair or nails for a lifetime, and elsewhere, where one only cuts the nails on the right and, out of state, lets those on the left grow.

Where the main hair is taken care of on the right side of the body, for best growth, and on the other side under the cutter. Where, in neighboring provinces, these here let the main hair grow in front, those let the back grow and shear the opposite side. Where fathers lend their children and husbands their wives to their guests for use in return for payment. Where you can make your own mother fertile with all honors and where fathers mate with their daughters and sons. Where they lend their children to each other at festive gatherings [42] and show no regard for relatives.

Here one lives on human flesh, there it is a child's duty to kill one's father at a certain age. Elsewhere, the fathers decree about their unborn children, which ones should be raised and preserved and which ones should be abandoned or killed. With other peoples the old husbands lend their wives to the youth for use, and with still others such without sin are common to all. In fact, in some provinces they wear as many tassels as a decoration on the hem of their skirts as so many men have enjoyed their favor.

Hasn't custom also introduced a public, mere women's regiment? Has not such given them arms in their hands? Didn't they build armies and fight battles? And does it not teach the coarsest, mean heap through its mere arrangement, what all philosophy cannot impress on the wisest of minds? For we know of whole nations where death is not just despised but celebrated; where the children of seven years of age allowed themselves to be pinned to death without moving an expression. Where wealth was in such contempt that the poorest citizen of the city would not have reached out to pick up a purse of gold. We know of countries which were very rich in all kinds of food, where the most common and tastiest food consisted of bare bread, caraway seeds, and water. Did she not do the miracle in Chio, that seven hundred years passed there without anyone knowing that a woman or a girl had made a mistake against her honor! In short, I believe she can and does anything. And so, as I have been told, Pindar rightly calls her the queen and ruler of the world.

Whoever was found beating his father was responsible by saying that it was a habit in his family [43]; so his father beat his grandfather and his grandfather beat his great-grandfather; the one there, pointing to his son, will hit me too when he reaches my age. And the father, who dragged his son into the street and kicked him, ordered him to stop at a corner, because he didn't do it any further with his father! Here would be the limit of the hereditary mistreatment which the children in their families used to perpetrate on their fathers. Aristotle says that women tear their heads out of habit as well as because of illness, and chew on their nails, and eat chalk, coal and earth; and it is more out of habit than natural instinct that man makes himself man.

The laws of conscience, which according to our legend lie in nature, arise from habit. Every man who in his heart worships the opinions and morals which are approved around him and which go in swing cannot withdraw from them without his conscience punishing him, nor behave according to them without his applause would exist. In ancient times, when the Cretans wanted to curse someone, they asked the gods to let them fall into a bad habit. But the most noble effect of its power is to submit and control us in such a way that we scarcely retain the ability to tear ourselves away from it and to gain the freedom to think about its ordinances and to make sensible considerations. In truth, because we suck them in with our mother's milk from birth and the face of the world appears to our gaze as we first open our eyes: it seems as if we were born to walk in this yoke. And the general imagination that we see around us and which was already at work in the seed from which we were generated cannot seem to us otherwise than natural and unifying. Hence it happens that everything that does not fit into the joints of habit does not seem to be compatible with reason either; although, God knows, this belief is often very reasonable.

If everyone who hears a moral saying, as we who study ourselves have learned to do, immediately inquired from which side it actually hit him: everyone would find that this is not both a nicely rounded maxim, but rather a lash of the whip that falls on the lazy stupidity of his judgment. But the doctrines of truth and its warnings are taken to be addressed to the people and not to ourselves at all; and instead of applying them to their own mores, everyone just keeps them in mind, and that is just as stupid as it is useless and in vain. But let's go back to the power of habit.

The peoples, accustomed to the freedom to rule themselves, consider any other form of government to be monstrous and contrary to nature. But such peoples, who are used to the monarchical government, do exactly the same. And whatever auspicious occasions fortune and circumstances may give them, even when they have with great difficulty got rid of a despot, they have nothing more important on their mind than to put someone on the throne with just as great difficulty because of them cannot choose to hate the violence of despotism. It is the power of habit that makes everyone happy to stay in the place where they were born. The savages of Scotland care little about southern France, and the Scythians did not care about Thessaly.

Darius asked some Greeks: How much would they accept the habit of the Indians to eat their deceased fathers? For this was the custom there, according to the opinion that they could not give such a burial more honorable than in their own entrails. The Greeks replied: At no cost in the world would they do that. But when he tried to persuade the Indians that they would like to abandon their [45] custom and instead accept the Greek one, which consisted of burning the corpses of their fathers, it aroused an even greater horror among them. So it goes with everything! All the more so since daily habit hides the true point of view of things from us.

Nil adeo magnum, nec tam mirabile quicquam

Principio, quod non minuant mirarian omnes


When I was once supposed to introduce the observation of certain customs which stood far and wide around us in full respect and yet, as is usually the case, did not want to proceed with the mere force of laws or examples, I researched very diligently for their first origin and found them in this research on grounds so weak that they almost disgusted me; me, who should be praising them to others. It is this recipe that gives Plato the confidence to banish the unnatural and hopeless love of boys, which he considers universal and dominant in his time. Namely, to scream them by public opinion. The poets, and whoever else could, should make terrible stories about it. A recipe with which the loveliest daughters no longer stimulate their fathers, nor the most beautifully grown youngsters, their sisters to love. Even the fables of Thyest, Oedip and Makareus, he believes, besides enjoying the verse, have impressed this useful belief on the flexible brains of children. Indeed, chaste modesty is a fine virtue, the useful influence of which on morals is sufficiently recognized. But to deal with and praise such things according to their natural constitution is just as difficult as it is [46] easy to keep them going through established habits, laws and admonitions. The first and general root causes are difficult to develop. Our teachers also go over it very quietly and hardly dare to touch it, and they throw themselves all the more reliably into well-known habits; then they inflate themselves with their easy victory. Those who do not go out from this shallow bottom of the origin, and those who want to go into greater depth, are still worse off and submit to imaginary opinions. For example Chrysippus, who in so many passages in his writings expressed how little emphasis he placed on blood-disgraceful intermingling, regardless of circumstances.

Anyone who wants to break away from this powerful prejudice of habit will come across some things that are accepted with an unquestionable resolution and yet have no other support than the gray beard and frown of the habit that accompanies them. But if he has torn off this larva by tracing everything back to truth and reason, then his judgment will be turned upside down and yet find it much more certain and firm. For example, in that situation I would ask him what could be more strange than seeing that a people is compelled to allow themselves to be judged by laws that they do not even understand; which in all its domestic dealings, marriages, bequests, wills, purchases and sales is bound by regulations that it cannot know because they have neither been drafted nor published in its national language, and which it is therefore compelled to buy for money not to sin against it, to be made known and to be explained. Not according to the astute opinion of Isocrates, who advised his king to give his subjects free trade and commerce and to make them as profitable as possible; on the other hand to put heavy burdens on their disputes and make them burdensome, but according to an incomprehensible opinion, [47] to make reason itself a marketable commodity and the laws to articles on the price competitor. I am very grateful to the luck which, as our historians say, aroused a gas-cognitive nobleman from my area to become the first to oppose Charlemagne when he tried to give us the Roman laws written in Latin.

Is there anything wilder than a nation in which, according to well-established custom, the office of judge is bought and the judgments are paid for with hard cash, and where it is legal that justice be denied to those who are unable to pay them? And that this trade is so prestigious that it creates a fourth order in the state of the people who handle the trials, in order to join them to the old three of the church, the nobility and the people? And that this order, because it is set on the application of the laws and exercises the highest power over property and life, constitutes a different class of nobility? From which it follows that there are two kinds of laws, laws of honor and laws of justice, which contradict each other in various things. The former condemn the failure to detect an accused lie just as severely as these condemn revenge for an accused lie. According to the laws of honor and arms, whoever takes an insult loses his nobility and his positions of honor; and according to civil law, whoever takes revenge on it is subject to life and limb punishment.6 Anyone who turns to the law and desires satisfaction for an insult inflicted on his honor insults himself, and whoever ignores this and takes the satisfaction from himself will be punished and chastised by the laws! And that of these two so different classes, which nonetheless come together in a single head, one has the mandate of peace, the other of war? That of the one the gain, the other the honor, that learning, this the virtue, the other the words, these the deeds, the former the justice, the latter the bravery, the former the reason, the latter the violence, the latter the long coat, the latter have the short uniform for their part? In consideration of more indifferent things than clothing, for example - whoever wants to trace such back to their true purpose: which is the comfortable covering of the body, on what their original dainty and propriety depends, they may, in my opinion, be as strangely thought out and invented his, I refer him to our square hats, among other things; on this long train of folded velvet, which, along with other strange ornaments, flutters on the heads of our ladies; and on the vain, useless bulge of a limb that we cannot even name with honor and with which we nevertheless pride ourselves in public societies. These considerations, however, do not prevent any intelligent person from following the common custom; On the contrary, it seems to me that any deviation from the established fashion betrays more haughty and foolish adornment than a healthy understanding, and that the wise man must withdraw his soul in himself from the crowd in order to preserve its freedom and ability over all To judge things impartially; but that, with a view to the external, he must follow the introduced fashions and forms without further ado. What does public society concern our way of thinking? For the rest, however, we are guilty of devoting our actions, our efforts, our wealth and our way of life to your service and, according to the general opinion, as the good and great Socrates suggested, to save his life if he disobeyed the authorities would - although a very unjust and godless authority. Because that is the rule of all rules and the main law of all laws, that everyone should submit to those that apply in the country where he is.

Νόμοις ἕπεσϑαι τοῖσιν ἐγχωρίοις καλόν.7

Let's put another barrel on. It is extremely doubtful whether there will be such great and pure gain in changing any introduced law, be it whatever it may be, as a disadvantage arising from its change: all the more since a state constitution is like a one A building that has been put together from different pieces and is so closely connected that it is impossible to move one without feeling the whole. The legislature of Thurien decreed that anyone who wanted an old law abolished or a new one introduced should present himself to the people with the rope around his neck, so that if his new law were not approved by everyone, he would be on the spot would be strangled. And the Lacedaemonian legislator devoted his life to obtaining a firm promise from his fellow citizens that they would not violate any of his ordinances. The Ephorus, who so relentlessly cut away the two musical intervals that Phrinys wanted to add to the old modum, did not care whether the modulation would be more melodious or the chords more coherent; it was enough for him to dismiss it as a change in the old, familiar scale; it is also what the old rusty sword of justice at Marseilles hinted at.

I have an aversion to innovation, whatever form it appears; and I think that I am not wrong after experiencing such harmful consequences. The one who has depressed us for so many years did not do everything by itself. But one can claim with pretense that it happened to have produced and brought about all the evils and disadvantages which previously happened without and against it; may she pinch her nose for it:

Hay, patior telis vulnera facta meis!8

Those who upset a state are usually the first to be overturned. The fruit of confusion is seldom the reward of whoever instigated it; it stirs and muddies the water for other fishermen. The context and the fabric of this monarchy, and this great building, which was so visibly shattered and dissolved by the innovations in its old years, can give the calamity as much opening and entrance as one would like; it will nevertheless be found more difficult to lower the majesty from its height to the middle than to bring it down from the middle to the ground. But the more harmful the inventors are, the more disgraceful are the imitators, in that they embark on examples whose disadvantage and abomination they have felt and punished. And, if there is a certain degree of honor even in creating mischief, these last must leave the first to the fame of invention and heartiness in the first car. All kinds of new indulgence easily and amusingly draw from this first inexhaustible source the images and patterns for disrupting our state constitution.

One reads in our own laws, which are made to steer this first evil, the method and the excuse of all kinds of hopeless ventures, and we are concerned with it, as Thucydides says of civil wars: to gloss over public ailments, to prove they are given new, gentle-sounding names, and their true names are softened and pasted up; nevertheless one wants to reform our conscience and our faith; honesta oratio est.9 Sure, but the best excuse for any innovation is dangerous.

Adeo nihil motum ex antiquo, probabile est.10

It also seems to me, to say it bluntly, that a good deal of self-love and not a little self-conceit is necessary to consider one's own opinion important enough to introduce such at the risk of public peace and, on the other hand, the manifold, inevitable evils and these deep ones To regard corruption of morals for nothing, which lead to civil wars, and therefore to regard one's views as more important than the reversal of the state constitution in such important matters.

Doesn't that mean going the wrong way when one brings about so many certain and well-known vices in order to dispute errors which are not even admitted and which can be talked about? Is there a worse kind of vice than that which goes against our own knowledge and conscience?

The Senate of Rome dared to give the people who disagreed with it about the service of religion the following excuse for cash: Ad Deos id magis quam ad se pertinere; ipsos visuros ne sacra sua polluantur11; just as the oracle answered the Delphi, who feared the invasion of the Persians in the Median War. They asked the god how they treated the sacred treasures of his temple, whether they should hide them or take them away. He replied to them that they should leave everything untouched and take care of themselves. He will know how to protect his property.

The Christian religion bears all the marks of great justice and utility. The clearest of these, however, is the explicit recommendation of obedience to all secular authorities and compliance with all civil laws. What an admirable example of this has divine wisdom given us, [52] which, in order to establish the salvation of the human race and to lead the glorious victory over sin and death, did not permit any violent reversal of kingdoms and governments, but rather their guidance and direction has made such a great and wholesome work subject to the blindness and injustice of our habits and usages; the blood of many a chosen darling made it flow, admitting that a number of years would flow before the priceless fruit would ripen. The business of the one who follows the customs and laws of his country is very different from the business of the one who dares to master and change them. The former uses simplicity, obedience, and example as an excuse, and in what he does, misfortune may take place, but malice never. Quis est enim, quem non moveat clarissimis monumentis testata consignataque antiquitas?12 In addition, what Isocrates said, that too little is closer to moderation than too much. This other one walks a much more bumpy path. Because whoever presumes to choose and change it reaches for the prestige of the judge's office and has to prove that he recognizes the flaws of what he wants to suppress, as well as the better in what he introduces.

This everyday observation has kept me steady on my bench and has even put a bridle on the boldness of my youth; so that I did not squeeze my shoulders with such a heavy burden as to answer for such an important science and to dare to do something in it that I would not dare to do with a sound mind in that which is much lighter, what I was raised to do and in which Bold judgment has no adverse consequences. It seems to me audacious to try to submit publicly introduced and rooted [53] habits and constitutions to the fluctuating imagination of a single person. A restricted reason can only have a restricted jurisdiction: just as no one is ruler over his own kind and may presume to judge divine laws, which are not even allowed in civil laws, although the latter with all this, that human reason does a lot contributes more, but always decisive judges over their judges: and the most extreme arrogance only dares to explain them and determine their application, but not to evade them or to change them. If Divine Providence has at times gone beyond the rules to which it was necessarily bound by its laws, it was not done to absolve us of them. These are dispositions of their unfathomable advice that we should not imitate but admire; they are extraordinary examples of a special and unique admission! It is a kind of miracle which the hand of God exposes to us to prove its omnipotence, which extends beyond our institutions and powers, and which would be wickedness and folly to seek to imitate; which we do not want to follow, but want to ponder with astonishment. They are acts of deity, not humanity. Cotta is very sensible about this: Quum de religione agitur, Tib. Coruncanium, P. Scipionem, P. Scaevolam, pontifices maximos, non Zenonem aut Cleanthem aut Chrysippum sequor.13

God may know how many in our present dispute where a hundred articles, very important and difficult to decide, are to be removed and introduced, how many may be found who can boast of the causes and causes of one party and the other To have carefully considered and researched. [54]

It is a bunch, if it were a bunch that is just not particularly capable of worrying us. But the other crowd, what does it begin? What kind of banner does it stand out under? With her medicine it is just as with other weak, badly placed laxatives: the rotten juices that she was supposed to get out of our body, she stirred up, tightened and fermented and got stuck in the body itself. It was too weak to be evacuated and nevertheless weakened us, so that we cannot get rid of it ourselves and have nothing more of its effect than long, painful stomach anger. The thing is that happiness, which always asserts its reputation over our cleverness, sometimes puts us in such urgent necessity that it inevitably renders it inevitable that the laws must allow some latitude; and that if one resists an overwhelming innovation that wants to impose itself upon us by force, one must proceed precisely and cautiously in all respects and absolutely against those who have power in their hands and who are permitted to do everything that their project can promote ; who have no laws or regulations but to pursue their advantage. It would be a dangerous duty and a great inequality.

Aditum nocendi perfido praestat fides.14

All the more so since the ordinary constitution of a state, in its health, does not take any precautions against such extraordinary accidents. It presupposes a body that holds on to its most distinguished members and functions, and a general agreement of obedience and obedience. The lawful gait is cold, deliberate, and measured, and is incompatible with the exuberant gait of licentiousness. It is known how the two great men, Octavius ​​and Cato, are still reproached for preferring to let their party run the utmost danger in the civil wars against Sulla and Caesar than to save them at the expense of the law and want to suffer change in the state constitution.

Because in truth, in this greatest need, where there is almost nothing left to save, it would have been wiser to bow your head and avoid the prank a little than to run against the impossibility, not wanting to give in and rather give rise to violence give everything under your feet. And would it also be better to let the laws want what they can because they can't do what they want. So did the one who commanded them to sleep twenty-four hours; and the one who deleted one day from the calendar for the time and the other also who made the month of June May 2nd.

Even the Lacedaemonians, those so strict guardians of the ordinances of their country, when the law forbidding the same man twice to be elected admiral stood in their way, and on the other hand their situation made it essential that Lysander be Once again occupied this position, they made a certain Arachus admiral, but made Lysander supervisor of the sea.

One of their envoys advised the Athenians (who was supposed to bring about a change in certain ordinances), Pericles, who, as an excuse for their refusal, gave advice to the Athenians with the same dexterity. he should then only turn it around, because that is not forbidden. Plutarch praises the Philopoemen for having been born to rule and not only able to rule according to the laws, but also when the need of the community requires it to rule the laws himself.


1 It can be found in Stobaeus, serm., Who calls Favorinus. Also with Quintilian, Petronius and Erasmus.

2 Pliny, Nat. hist. XXVI, c. 2: Daily practice is best in all things teachers do.

3 Cicero, Tusc. disp. II, 17: Great is the power of habit. Hunters camp in the deep snow for the night and let the sun roast their faces on the mountains during the day. The athlete doesn’t pull a face when the opponent’s silence straps hit him.

4 Cicero, De nat. deor. I, 30: Is the physicist, that is, a man who explores nature and pursues its trail, is he not ashamed to seek witnesses among people who judge according to habit about truths that concern such? - Instead of quaerere, the original says petere.

5 Lucrez II, 1027: Nothing is so great at the beginning, so wonderful that it should not diminish everyone's admiration over time.

6 Who doesn't think of our circumstances here!

7 Excerpta ex tragoed. graec. Hug. Grotio interpr. 1626. p. 937: It is praiseworthy that everyone should obey the laws of the land.

8 Ovid, Epist. Phyllid. 48: Oh, I suffer from wounds that I inflicted on myself!

9 Terenz, Andr. I, 1, 114: The words are probably.

10 Livy XXXIV, 54: No violent change in the old promises anything better.

11 Livy X.6: Let it be more the business of the gods than theirs. These would prevent their temples from being desecrated.

12 Cicero. De divin. I, 40: Where would the man be who are not touched by the magnificent monuments which ancient times testified and sealed?

13 Cicero, De nat. deor. III, 2: In matters relating to religion, I follow the chief priests, not the heads of philosophical schools.

14 Seneca, Oedipus III, 686: The true believer builds secret temples and workshops for deceit.