Error of belief or reasoning as a cause of crime
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There are three ways in which "defect in reasoning" or "error" lead men to violate the laws.
From defect in reasoning (that is to say, from error), men are prone to violate the laws three ways. First, by presumption of false principles: as when men, from having observed how in all places and in all ages unjust actions have been authorised by the force and victories of those who have committed them; and that, potent men breaking through the cobweb laws of their country, the weaker sort and those that have failed in their enterprises have been esteemed the only criminals; have thereupon taken for principles and grounds of their reasoning that justice is but a vain word: that whatsoever a man can get by his own industry and hazard is his own: that the practice of all nations cannot be unjust: that examples of former times are good arguments of doing the like again; and many more of that kind: which being granted, no act in itself can be a crime, but must be made so, not by the law, but by the success of them that commit it; and the same fact be virtuous or vicious fortune pleaseth; so that what Marius makes a crime, Sylla shall make meritorious, and Caesar (the same laws standing) turn again into a crime, to the perpetual disturbance of the peace of the Commonwealth.
Secondly, by false teachers that either misinterpret the law of nature, making it thereby repugnant to the law civil, or by teaching for laws such doctrines of their own, or traditions of former times, as are inconsistent with the duty of a subject.
Thirdly, by erroneous inferences from true principles; which happens commonly to men that are hasty and precipitate in concluding and resolving what to do; such as are they that have both a great opinion of their own understanding and believe that things of this nature require not time and study, but only common experience and a good natural wit, whereof no man thinks himself unprovided: whereas the knowledge of right and wrong, which is no less difficult, there is no man will pretend to without great and long study. And of those defects in reasoning, there is none that can excuse, though some of them may extenuate, a crime in any man that pretendeth to the administration of his own private business; much less in them that undertake a public charge, because they pretend to the reason upon the want whereof they would ground their excuse.
Hobbes, Lev XXVII 10-12
Reliance on "craft" to commit crime involves "great and false opinion" of the criminal’s wisdom; they often deceive themselves that they will not be caught.
And that such as have a great and false opinion of their own wisdom take upon them to reprehend the actions and call in question the authority of them that govern, and so to unsettle the laws with their public discourse, as that nothing shall be a crime but what their own designs require should be so. It happeneth also to the same men to be prone to all such crimes as consist in craft, and in deceiving of their neighbours; because they think their designs are too subtle to be perceived. These I say are effects of a false presumption of their own wisdom. For of them that are the first movers in the disturbance of Commonwealth (which can never happen without a civil war), very few are left alive long enough to see their new designs established: so that the benefit of their crimes redoundeth to posterity and such as would least have wished it: which argues they were not so wise as they thought they were. And those that deceive upon hope of not being observed do commonly deceive themselves, the darkness in which they believe they lie hidden being nothing else but their own blindness, and are no wiser than children that think all hid by hiding their own eyes.
Hobbes, Lev XXVII 16