Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online


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  1. Does the law of nature prescribe continence?

  1. Yes: because a moderate use of the most lively of pleasures is not only useful, but indispensable, to the support of strength and health: and because a simple calculation proves that, for some minutes of privation, you increase the number of your days, both in vigor of body and of mind.

  1. How does it forbid libertinism?

  1. By the numerous evils which result from it to the physical and the moral existence. He who carries it to an excess enervates and pines away; he can no longer attend to study or labor; he contracts idle and expensive habits, which destroy his means of existence, his public consideration, and his credit; his intrigues occasion continual embarrassment, cares, quarrels and lawsuits, without mentioning the grievous deep-rooted distempers, and the loss of his strength by an inward and slow poison; the stupid dullness of his mind, by the exhaustion of the nervous system; and, in fine, a premature and infirm old age.

  1. Does the law of nature look on that absolute chastity so recommended in monastical institutions, as a virtue?

  1. No: for that chastity is of no use either to the society that witnesses, or the individual who practises it; it is even prejudicial to both. First, it injures society by depriving it of population, which is one of its principal sources of wealth and power; and as bachelors confine all their views and affections to the term of their lives, they have in general an egotism unfavorable to the interests of society.

In the second place, it injures the individuals who practise it, because it deprives them of a number of affections and relations which are the springs of most domestic and social virtues; and besides, it often happens, from circumstances of age, regimen, or temperament, that absolute continence injures the constitution and causes severe diseases, because it is contrary to the physical laws on which nature has founded the system of the reproduction of beings; and they who recommend so strongly chastity, even supposing them to be sincere, are in contradiction with their own doctrine, which consecrates the law of nature by the well known commandment: increase and multiply.

  1. Why is chastity considered a greater virtue in women than in men?

  1. Because a want of chastity in women is attended with inconveniences much more serious and dangerous for them and for society; for, without taking into account the pains and diseases they have in common with men, they are further exposed to all the disadvantages and perils that precede, attend, and follow child- birth. When pregnant contrary to law, they become an object of public scandal and contempt, and spend the remainder of their lives in bitterness and misery. Moreover, all the expense of maintaining and educating their fatherless children falls on them: which expense impoverishes them, and is every way prejudicial to their physical and moral existence. In this situation, deprived of the freshness and health that constitute their charm, carrying with them an extraneous and expensive burden, they are less prized by men, they find no solid establishment, they fall into poverty, misery, and wretchedness, and thus drag on in sorrow their unhappy existence.

  1. Does the law of nature extend so far as the scruples of desires and thoughts.

  1. Yes; because, in the physical laws of the human body, thoughts and desires inflame the senses, and soon provoke to action: now, by another law of nature in the organization of our body, those actions become mechanical wants which recur at certain periods of days or of weeks, so that, at such a time, the want is renewed of such an action and such a secretion; if this action and this secretion be injurious to health, the habitude of them becomes destructive of life itself. Thus thoughts and desires have a true and natural importance.

  1. Should modesty be considered as a virtue?

  1. Yes; because modesty, inasmuch as it is a shame of certain actions, maintains the soul and body in all those habits useful to good order, and to self-preservation. The modest woman is esteemed, courted, and established, with advantages of fortune which ensure her existence, and render it agreeable to her, while the immodest and prostitute are despised, repulsed, and abandoned to misery and infamy.

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