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States of WarEnlightenment Origins of the Political$
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David Bates

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231158053

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231158053.001.0001

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States of Reasoning

States of Reasoning

Modern Natural-Law Theory

Chapter:
(p.52) Chapter 2 States of Reasoning
Source:
States of War
Author(s):

David William Bates

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231158053.003.0002

This chapter draws on three exemplary seventeenth-century texts written in the natural-law tradition (by Grotius, Hobbes, and Pufendorf) to examine how these authors isolated the logical development of social and civil forms of organization, paying particularly close attention to their understanding of human bodies and human cognitive functioning. Both Grotius and Hobbes rely on very strict conceptions of the natural, rational human being. But on close inspection, their hugely influential accounts of political states and sovereign power are not, in fact, political at all. Only with the more complex portrait of human nature in Pufendorf do we begin to see how an independent concept of the political could ever emerge in an origin narrative that begins at the absolute beginning—in other words, with the individual human being alone in a pure state of nature. Thus, it is Pufendorf who exemplifies the shift to a whole new way of understanding the logic of human community, opening up the way to an Enlightenment conception of an autonomous political being.

Keywords:   modern natural law theory, seventeenth-century legal texts, Grotius, Hobbes, Pufendorf, human bodies, human cognitive function, political states, sovereign power, autonomous political being

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