De Monarchia By Dante Alighieri Book II: Chapter VI: He Who Purposes Right Proceeds According To Right.

WEYDEN, Rogier van der Pierre Bladelin 
Triptych (detail) 

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Lk


He who purposes Right proceeds according to Right.

1. We have then demonstrated two things: one, that whoever purposes the good of the commonwealth purposes the end of Right; the other, that the Roman people in subduing the world purposed the public good. We may now further our argument in this wise: Whoever has in view the end of Right proceeds according to Right; the Roman people in subjecting the world to itself had in view the end of Right, as we plainly proved in the chapter above;1 therefore the Roman people in subjecting the world to itself acted with Right, and consequently appropriated with Right the dignity of Empire.

2. That this conclusion may be reached by all manifest premises, it must be reached by the one that affirms that whoever purposes the end of Right proceeds according to Right. For clearness in this matter, notice that everything exists because of some end, otherwise it would be useless, which we have said before is not possible.2 And just as every object exists for its proper end, so every end has its proper object whereof it is the end. Hence it cannot be that any two objects, in as far as they are two, each expressing its individuality, should have in view the same end, for the same untenable conclusion would follow that one or the other exists in vain. Since, as we have proved, there is a certain end of Right, to postulate that end is to postulate the Right, seeing it is the proper and intrinsic effect of Right. And since, as is clear by construction and destruction,3 in any sequence an antecedent is impossible without its consequent (as “man” without “animal”), so it is impossible to attain a good condition of one’s members without health; and so it is impossible to seek the end of Right without Right as a means, for each thing has toward its end the relation of consequent to antecedent. Wherefore it is very obvious that he who has in view the end of Right must proceed by the right means. Nor is that objection valid which is generally drawn from the Philosopher’s words concerning “good counsel.” He says indeed, “There is a kind of false syllogism in which a true conclusion may be drawn by means of a false middle.”4 Now if a true conclusion is sometimes reached through false premises, it is by accident, because the true conclusion is conveyed in the words of the inference. Of itself the true never follows from the false, though symbols of truth may follow from symbols of falsehood.5 And so it is in actions. Should a thief aid a poor man with stolen goods, he yet could not be said to be giving alms; rather is his action one which would have the form6 of alms had it been performed with the man’s own substance. Likewise with the end of Right. For if anything calling itself the end of Right be reached other than by means of Right, it would be the end of Right, that is, the common good, only as the offering made from ill-gotten gains is an alms. Since in this proposition we are considering the existent, not the apparent ends of Right, the objection is invalid. The point we are seeking is therefore established.

[1. ] See chapter 5.

[2. ]De Mon. 1. 3, note 3.

[3. ] “Construendo et destruendo.” The first of these logical terms designates a refutation which proceeds from the antecedent to the consequent; the second, one that proceeds from the consequent to the antecedent.

[4. ]Eth. 6. 9. 5. For “good counsel” Dante uses the word “eubalia,” i. e. εὐβουλία.

[5. ] “Signa tamen veri bene sequuntur ex signis, quae sunt signa falsi.” “Signa” I take to mean “words;” Dante would say that words may be ambiguous, but not the ideas that they stand for.

[6. ] No line in the De Mon. shows better the change in usage that has been undergone by this word “form,” and how, from meaning the vitalizing, internal principle of a thing, it has come to be the symbol of externality.

Conv. 4. 27. 7 makes use of the thief again for demonstrative purposes.

Par. 5. 33: “Thou art desiring to make a good work of a bad gain.”


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