Monday, October 03, 2011

On the Duties of Everyman - to Everyman

This post is a continuation of the examination of Samuel Pufendorf's On the Duty of Man and Citizen (1682).  This post follows the previous section I've looked at On the Duties of Man - To God, On the Duties of Man - To Man plus the overview of why this is important in Three Realms of Law.  This work by Pufendorf is, itself, an overview of a multi-volume work he had generated and thought that a primer on that work, suitable for students, would be a vital part of a teaching curricula examining Natural Law.  I will continue to do the overview of his logic and keep my usual commentary in abeyance as much as possible so as to follow Pufendorf's line of reasoning so that the outline of it is plain to see.

Like previous posts I will summarize Pufendorf's work.  Unlike prior works I will bring in more of his own reasoning system so as to highlight his overview on the Duties we have and why they are important which will require some of my own verbiage and attempt to see if there is any insight I can pass on to you, as a reader.  For this I am sorry for any clumsiness on my part as an individual, and will attempt to use reason to guide me throughout.


The Duties of Everyman to Everyman is a critical juncture as it moves from the realm of individual obligations well understood and are placed wholly upon the individual, to those of Man to our society and other men in society.  In this realm of Duties there are two major areas to know:

First those duties bound to us by our Creator, which are called absolute duties.  These are the duties imposed upon man to bind us to other men.  This is a strong binding and is universal, thusly it is absolute.

Second are those duties imposed upon us by custom or otherwise taken up as part of tradition that is advantageous to the creation and maintenance of society.  These are called hypothetical duties as they vary from culture to culture, tradition to tradition.

One is constant over all mankind so that we can have societies amongst men.  The other is variable upon individual societies and custom.

The first of all absolute duties is our obligation not to harm other men.  This is, at once, the most far-reaching and simplest of all things as it requires the mere omission of harming others, which is to say not to act.  Self-restraint via the light of reason is to restrain our passions.  It is the most necessary duty of man to have society and is the essential and necessary part of forming all societies.  As Pufendorf states:

For I can live at peace with a man who does me no positive service, and with a man who does not exchange even the commonest of duties with me, provided he does me no harm. In fact, this is all we desire from mankind at large; it is only within a fairly small circle that we impart good things to each other.

Here, then, is not only the Hippocratic Oath, but our general oath to each other: first do no harm.  Our minimal requirement beyond that is essential, however, and it is encapsulated in the idea of 'leave me alone'.  This is the most obvious of doctrines that it should be self-evident, and yet we stray as men in this so often that we cause pain and suffering all under the banner of doing good and well to others.  That cannot be done for all of mankind nor even society as a whole, but only amongst a relatively small circle of virtuous people who freely partake of positive exchanges with each other.

The obverse of this coin is likewise obvious and should be self-evident:

By contrast, there is no way that I can leave at peace with a man who does me harm. For nature has implanted in each man such a tender love of himself and of what he is, that he cannot but repel every means one offer to do harm to either.

There is no space between the first quote and the second, they are of one paragraph, one thought, and yet both concepts are absolute upon mankind as a whole and upon us as men being individuals.  The restraint of doing harm has both positive aspects, when things are not done to others, and negatives, when things that are negative are done to others.  As day follows night, this is obvious to all and a necessary pre-requisite to maintain oneself and one's society, yet at every turn in history where there is suffering and pain, both of these are transgressed.

If we are inspired by later summations of the self-evident and unalienable rights that we are endowed with, then we must be able to identify what these actually are.  Other parts of my prior examinations have been recapitulations of Pufendorf's work, and yet that passive understanding, while strong, needs some active statement at this point by me.

This necessary Duty is not only upon those things that are endowed to us by Nature, which is to say life, body, limbs, chastity and liberty, but upon those things we get as members of society via human convention and institutions.  Thus all our negative liberties and rights, for to have a negative right one gets the negative liberty of its use, must be restrained, which is to say taking things from others via spoilage, robbery, pillage.  These are crimes across all societies as these negative activities and utilization of our negative liberties puts at peril the good works of others as a violence by killing, wounding, robbery, theft, fraud and any other thing done by us directly or indirectly as an exercise of our negative liberties.

When we, As a People, speak of those few things given to government to do they are, without exception, an exercise of negative liberties that would put us all at peril from each other if they had no oversight at all.  This is not a new concept but a tradition carried on by all societies because they are societies created from marriage and that most basic binding upon us from that simple start of not exercising our negative liberties upon another person who we cling to.  From that formulation of society understood at least as far back as Brackton, it is now put forward as a full and essential right with liberty that must restrain us in its use against others beyond that of marriage.  We are not at the focal point of later documents, but at a concentration and amplification point here with Pufendorf who follows in the tradition of Brackton and Grotius and will propel this doctrine forward as it is simple, basic, self-evident and part of what we must do as an unalienable right and it comes with an unalienable duty to others.

Those who do harm are to be held accountable for their actions and all punishment and restitution is to be sought from those who do such wrongs.  Without restitution to those that have been harmed, there would be no check upon the wicked and no ability of the wronged to make peace with himself or with that individual or individuals that have done him harm.  This is all harm not just to a person but their property which has been demonstrated previously as being the means by which we support ourselves and gather together those things we create or exchange to sustain us in this life within nature.  Without compensation for those things stolen or despoiled there is no way way to make whole that which has been broken.  Simple punishment is not enough as following loss due to the original harm are all part of the original harm, without exception, and are to be considered wholly a part of such harm.

Do note that since this is in the section of Duties of Everyman to Everyman that this is what we must uphold across all mankind so as to have society and to have punishment, recompense, restitution and reconciliation amongst men.  Single and simple punishment is not enough standing on its own.  Any thought of rehabilitation without restitution and reconciliation is empty and meaningless to those who have been harmed.  This is the concept of atonement, literally 'at onement' in which the individual who atones is recognized as doing so and that the individual will not transgress that boundary again.

This is true when one acts alone to harm others and when one acts with others to harm others, the cost and obligation is held by all either in part, if simply acting as a willing actor in such harm, or equally in whole if actively participating in such harm.  Partaking of the harm, itself, is the cause for punishment and for seeking restitution against those doing the causing.  Of those who do not partake in the causing of harm or doing of harm in any instance, there is no retribution, even when they express joy in the misery of others or seek to diminish the harm caused even if they wished for it before the act, so long as they did not partake of the act there is no cause for punishment.

Next is the concept called conspiracy (again the literal is 'to breathe together' which is to con-spire) in which several men act together to inflict loss or harm.  Those who conspire are the cause of the harm and any they pull in that are not understanding of the conspiracy are merely an instrument of it (although liable for any act that is criminal on its own).  It is those that are active in a conspiracy that are liable for its crimes so the act of any single individual in a conspiracy is attributable to all within it, and any act of the conspiracy itself are liable to all actors within it as individuals.  If only a single individual in a conspiracy is caught then that person is liable for the costs of all the damages of the entire conspiracy.  In any crime in which a number of individuals partake that is not a conspiracy, they are each liable for their own actions and damages they caused, not the entire group.  With that said if just one within an entire group that are not acting together is willing to pay the damages for all, then they may do so and the rest are not held for those costs.

Here we see that each man is a moral actor within society for his actions and when the utilization of negative liberties by a group that conspires against any individual, group or all of society, then they are seen as utilizing their negative liberties in concert and towards a given end that is not upheld by the law.  When one becomes a part of such a group then they are beholden for the ills perpetrated by the entire group.  That is what happens when you create a negative version of society against the rest of society: you lose the ability to say that you are an individual by your voluntary participation in such a group, just as in normal society.  Do note this is not some version of class or race based punishment, but punishment meted out only to those who voluntarily agree to exercise their negative rights and liberties against others.

In matters of restitution those who commit crimes with malice aforethought are as liable for repayment as those done in ignorance or negligence.  In cases where there cannot be oversight or in those where the chaos is so pervasive (as in war) that accidents happen because of such chaos, then restitution may be light.  That is also the case where the strictest of oversight is given and, due to no fault of any involved, damage is done.  The unforeseen is ever with us no matter how much care we take in events and the more chaotic the events the less care and oversight that is available to even trace culpability, not to speak of restitution.

The next action set pertains to slaves and their owners, with faults attributable to the owner.  While this is outdated for its original subject matter, it still pertains to autonomous devices and mechanisms that are set for a task and then either do so but with negative consequences, or fail to do so  and in going awry cause damages.  In these cases it is the owner of the device involved that is liable for the damages.  It is this simple concept that seems to have been lost in modern times, where we try to trace culpability to a manufacturer (who may, indeed, make a bad product) and not to the user who must exercise due diligence in the care and use of such objects and understand their faults and limitations.  Can a mere manufacturer be held liable for an item duly sold, therefore transferring ownership to another, with no fault being attached to the owner?  As individuals we have the ability and, indeed, obligation to understand what our machines and devices do, to have them checked over and to understand their problems much as the slave owner of prior times had.  Only if a manufacturer sells something with knowledge of faults of device before it is sold can they be under obligation for restitution due to presenting false evidence of its reliability and trustworthiness.   Due to the complexity of devices involved we also understand that even the manufacturer may not know of faults in their devices, and for that a much lower standard of restitution must be available if they demonstrate they have upheld all other manner of oversight for all known problems.  This derivative of slave ownership being now transferred to devices and machines thus creates the concept of 'quality control'.

As it is for slaves so it is for the animals we own and our culpability for their actions is one that goes along with that of slaves.  Likewise we are liable for restitution based on similar precepts.

We must understand that beyond liability for simple loss via negligence or lack of oversight, that restitution is as much as we may seek.  When there is no malice aforethought involved, simply making good a loss is the best that can be done on this Earth.

When malice is involved the higher standard of penitence is added to reparation, so that there is an attempt to be at one with those injured by admitting to the malice, restoring what balance can be made, and then seeking to never do such things again.

For the injured Pufendorf admonishes:

Anyone who refuses to be content with reparation and repentance, and insists in any case on seeking vengeance on his own account, is merely gratifying the bitterness of his own heart and destroying the peace among men for no good reason.  On this ground vengeance too is condemned by natural law, since its only aim is to give trouble to those who have done us harm, and to console our hearts with their pain.  It is the more appropriate that men forgive each other's offences, the more frequently they violate the laws of the supreme Deity and have themselves daily need of pardon.