Law of nature

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

LAW OF NATURE. The law of nature is that which God, the sovereign of the universe, has prescribed to all men, not by any formal promulgation, but by the internal dictate of reason alone. It is discovered by a just consideration of the agreeableness or disagreeableness of human actions to the nature of man; and it comprehends all the duties which we owe either to the Supreme Being, to ourselves, or to our neighbors; as reverence to God, self-defence, temperance, honor to our parents, benevolence to all, a strict adherence to our engagements, gratitude, and the like. Erskine's Pr. of L. of Scot. B. 1, t. 1, s. 1. See Ayl. Pand. tit. 2, p. 5; Cicer. de Leg. lib. 1.
     2. The primitive laws of nature may be reduced to six, namely: 1. Comparative sagacity, or reason. 2. Self-love. 3. The attraction of the sexes to each other. 4. The tenderness of parents towards their children. 5. The religious sentiment. 6. Sociability.
     3.-1. When man is properly organized, he is able to discover moral good from moral evil; and the study of man proves that man is not only an intelligent, but a free being, and he is therefore responsible for his actions. The judgment we form of our good actions, produces happiness; on the contrary the judgment we form of our bad actions produces unhappiness.
     4.-2. Every animated being is impelled by nature to his own preservation, to defend his life and body from injuries, to shun what may be hurtful, and to provide all things requisite to his existence. Hence the duty to watch over his own preservation. Suicide and duelling are therefore contrary to this law; and a man cannot mutilate himself, nor renounce his liberty.
     5.-3. The attraction of the sexes has been provided for the preservation of the human race, and this law condemns celibacy. The end of marriage proves that polygamy, (q.v.) and polyendry, (q.v.) are contrary to the law of nature. Hence it follows that the husband and wife have a mutual and exclusive right over each other.
     6.-4. Man from his birth is wholly unable to provide for the least of his necessities; but the love of his parents supplies for this weakness. This is one of the most powerful laws of nature. The principal duties it imposes on the parents, are to bestow on the child all the care its weakness requires, to provide for its necessary food and clothing, to instruct it, to provide for its wants, and to use coercive means for its good, when requisite.
     7.-5. The religious sentiment which leads us naturally towards the Supreme Being, is one of the attributes which belong to humanity alone; and its importance gives it the rank of the moral law of nature. From this sentiment arise all the sects and different forms of worship among men.
     8.-6. The need which man feels to live in society, is one of the primitive laws of nature, whence flow our duties and rights; and the existence of society depends upon the condition that the rights of all shall be respected. On this law are based the assistance, succors and good offices which men owe to each other, they being unable to provide each every thing for himself.

References in classic literature ?
He did not know, he who wore his heart on his sleeve, he who observed only the good old law of Nature in the world, he who allowed his passions to follow their inclinations, and in whom the lake of great emotions was always dry, so freely did he let it off each day by fresh drains,--he did not know with what fury the sea of human passions ferments and boils when all egress is denied to it, how it accumulates, how it swells, how it overflows, how it hollows out the heart; how it breaks in inward sobs, and dull convulsions, until it has rent its dikes and burst its bed.
One thing only is clear, that the appearance of all these grades and sub-divisions of men must follow with unfailing regularity some law of nature.
Now, it seems to be a law of nature that we must show our true selves at some time, and as the Scot must do it at home, and squeeze a day into an hour, what follows is that there he is self-revealing in the superlative degree, the feelings so long dammed up overflow, and thus a Scotch family are probably better acquainted with each other, and more ignorant of the life outside their circle, than any other family in the world.
For, since the conjunction of male and female is founded upon the great law of nature, in order to propagate and continue the species, the Lilliputians will needs have it, that men and women are joined together, like other animals, by the motives of concupiscence; and that their tenderness towards their young proceeds from the like natural principle: for which reason they will never allow that a child is under any obligation to his father for begetting him, or to his mother for bringing him into the world; which, considering the miseries of human life, was neither a benefit in itself, nor intended so by his parents, whose thoughts, in their love encounters, were otherwise employed.
The first question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature's God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.
Our action is overmastered and characterized above our will by the law of nature.
I admired other authors more; I loved them more, but when it came to a question of trying to do something in fiction I was compelled, as by a law of nature, to do it at least partially in his way.
The first law of nature compels them to cling tenaciously to life--to fight for it; but it does not teach them to fear death.
In the first place, I have collected so large a body of facts, showing, in accordance with the almost universal belief of breeders, that with animals and plants a cross between different varieties, or between individuals of the same variety but of another strain, gives vigour and fertility to the offspring; and on the other hand, that close interbreeding diminishes vigour and fertility; that these facts alone incline me to believe that it is a general law of nature (utterly ignorant though we be of the meaning of the law) that no organic being self-fertilises itself for an eternity of generations; but that a cross with another individual is occasionally--perhaps at very long intervals--indispensable.
It is a curious law of Nature that the most undeserving brothers always have the best sisters.
It is a law of nature, apparently, that the people in this world who have nothing to do can not support the sight of an uninterrupted occupation in the hands of their neighbors.
When the law of the land is weak, it is right the law of nature should be strong.