Modern History Sourcebook:
The Persian Letters, No. 13, 1721
Letter 83: If there is a God, my dear Rhedi, he must necessarily
be just; for if he were not, he would be the worst and most imperfect
being of all.
Justice is a relation of suitability, which actually exists between
two things. This relationship is always the same, by whatever
being it is perceived, whether by God, or by an angel, or finally
by a man.
It is true that men do not see these relationships all the time.
Often, indeed, when they do see them they turn away from them,
and what they best see is always their self-interest. Justice
raises its voice, but has difficulty in making itself heard amongst
the tumult of the passions.
Men are capable of unjust actions because it is in their interest
to do them, and they prefer their own satisfaction to that of
others. They always act with reference to themselves -- no one
is gratuitously wicked; there must be a determinant reason, and
this reason is always a reason of self-interest.
But it is not possible that God should ever do anything unjust.
Once it is assumed that he perceives what is just, he must necessarily
act in accordance with it, for since he has no need of anything,
and is sufficient to himself, he would be the wickedest of all
beings if he were wicked without self-interest.
Consequently, even if there were no God, we should nonetheless
still love justice, that is to say, make an effort to resemble
this being of whom we have so exalted a conception, and who if
he existed would be just necessarily. Even if we were free of
the constraints of religion, we ought not to be free of those
imposed by equity.
It is this, Rhedi, which has led me to think that justice is
eternal, and does not depend on human conventions. Even if it
were to depend on them, this truth would be a terrible once, and
we should have to conceal it from ourselves.
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997