Making Use of the Testimonies: Suárez and Grotius on Natural Law

In: Grotiana
Sydney Penner Senior Lecturer of Philosophy, Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky, USA,

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Thanks to Barbeyrac, Pufendorf and others, there is a long-familiar picture of Grotius as offering a groundbreaking account of natural law. By now there is also a familiar observation that there is no agreement what makes Grotius’s account innovative. Sometimes this leads to skepticism about how innovative Grotius’s account of natural law really is. Some scholars suggest that Grotius’s account of natural law resembles Suárez’s account. But others continue to argue that Barbeyrac is right to see Grotius as breaking the ice of previous philosophy and laying the groundwork for a distinctively modern moral philosophy. I plan to contribute to the debate by arguing that, properly understood, Grotius’s position is similar to Suárez’s on a range of fundamental questions, and, furthermore, that seeing Grotius as making a radical break with the past violates his own self-conception.

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