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Natural Law and Enlightenment in France and Scotland — A Comparative Perspective

  • Peter Schröder
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 186)

Abstract

One of the predominant theories in political and social philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can arguably be identified in the modern natural law tradition, which was inaugurated and shaped by the influential writings of Hugo Grotius and then further developed by scholars like Samuel Pufendorf, Christian Thomasius or later by Christian Wolff. Pufendorf and Thomasius themselves fostered this picture of a linear and purposeful development from Grotius to their own writings.1 The Scottish philosophers, unlike those of any other country, were deeply influenced by this continental — mainly Dutch and German — brand of thought. In particular the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the university of Glasgow proved to play one of the key-roles in incorporating the natural law tradition. Obviously one cannot consider the natural law tradition as one homogenous block, nor can or should one consider the Scottish or French enlightenment in such a manner. The main concern of this chapter is a comparison, which will contribute to the endeavour to establish the cosmopolitan nature of European intellectual discourse in social and political theory during the eighteenth century. The case of Samuel Pufendorf will be considered as starting point, since his work played a central role in many of the contemporary debates of the early eighteenth century.2 Although most of the different discourses later used some aspects of Pufendorf s theory, it was frequently exploited with near contradictory aims and purposes.

Keywords

Civil Society Human Nature Eighteenth Century Moral Philosophy Moral Sense 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • Peter Schröder

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