Burlamaqui and mankind

English: Engraved portrait of Jean-Jacques Bur...

English: Engraved portrait of Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (1694-1748), a Swiss jurist and philosopher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burlamaqui’s basic philosophy states that men bond through justice and kindness because these bonds make society stable, calm and prosperous. Furthermore, because these virtues are good, they must be imposed on mankind by God. Burlamaqui’s entire argument about society, mankind, and rights is based on God. He argues that God’s “wisdom is no less than His power” and that “reason teaches us that God is an essentially good Being” (Williams 94 – 95). He makes the assumption that God is infinitely powerful and wise, and, therefore, unable to do harm. Burlamaqui goes as far as to say that “nothing inclines Him to do so [cause harm]” (Williams 95).

The essential parts that constitute human nature are “compassion, gentleness, and efficient, generosity” and “all feelings and all acts of justice and kindness” (Williams 100). These virtues are duties that God has imposed on humanity because it was “necessary to His purpose” and “in accordance to His will” (Williams 100). For Burlamaqui, the appropriate (divinely intended) end or fulfillment of human nature is to “achieve the happy purpose” for which God has created it (Williams 98). In other words, to purpose of mankind on earth is to serve God’s purpose.

The most important assumption to Burlmaqui’s argument is that God is all powerful and all good. Burlamaqui views humans as creatures who are born perfect, thanks to God, but then made imperfect by their own choices that move them away from God. In particular, Burlamaqui uses this assumption to argue that it is mankind, and mankind alone, that is responsible for all cruelty and injustice that take place in the world.

Assuming that God is all powerful and all good, Burlamaqui argues that those men who move away from God must be weak and ignorant because they are not using reason to interpret God’s will for them appropriately. Using his reason, Burlamaqui interprets God’s will and states that sociability, or benevolent disposition towards fellow men, does indeed coincide with the will of God. In particular, he states that “the Creator has implanted” this love into us (Williams 98-99).

Burlamaqui argues that though God’s will, or divine law, imposes natural law that prescribes sociability, sociability is a mutual obligation. Burlamaqui argues that once the bonds of mutual obligation are broken “through malice or injustice,” people “cannot reasonably complain if those whom they offend cannot treat them as friends” (Williams 99-100). In other words, Burlamaqui’s argument states that men who move away from God break the bonds of sociability. Burlamaqui places these individuals outside of social order and no longer considers them creatures of the same species, faculties, or rank. Since these individuals are no longer people of the same rank with others within the society, Burlamaqui does not consider these people eligible for freedoms of property, life, freedom, or equality.

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