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This article tackles the issue of whether and how Hugo Grotius conceives of custom as a formal source of the law of nations. The main claim of it is that not only custom plays a fundamental role in Grotius’s thought, but that his reflections mark a fundamental turning point for the history of customary international law. A crucial role in this process of re-conceptualization is played by Grotius’s reading of Dio Chrysostom, whose oration On custom provides him with an integrated account of custom as a ‘normative practice’ based on rhetorical judgment (as opposed to the Scholastic interpretation of custom as reiteration of voluntary acts). Consequently, I argue that Dio Chrysostom’s text helps Grotius to transpose the question of the normative legitimacy of custom from a moral to an interpretative level. To conclude, I will show that Grotius adopts two different rhetorical strategies to prove the existence of customary norms of ius gentium.

In: Grotiana

Abstract

In this article, I will revert to the categories of ‘fitness’ and ‘sociability’ to ask whether a ‘Grotian moment for animal sociability’ can be conceptualized. Grotius claims that we share a core of fundamental laws with animals. Building upon a passage from Seneca’s De clementia, Grotius calls these laws ‘commune ius animantium’, i.e. the common law of living beings. These shared legal entitlements, based on a shared sense of innate fitness, show that a certain care of maintaining society (‘animal sociability’) is common to all living beings. However, as I will show, humans, as the only beings capable of speech and moral deliberation, remain the only translators and enforcers of this instinct into a language of rights. From this perspective, it can be argued that a ‘Grotian tradition’ of animal rights exists, as Grotius’s reliance on the ‘common law of living beings’ can be interpreted in a progressive manner. However, I will argue that animal sociability qualifies as a ‘non-Grotian moment’: sociability as owed to animals but only in a thin sense, as it requires human judgment to be enforced into strict right. Such a ‘non-Grotian moment’ reveals that the deeply anthropocentric structure of Grotius’ theory is incapable of triggering any paradigm shift, because animals lack the capacity for judgment that is so essential to be a legal person.

In: Grotiana

Hugo Grotius’s Philosophorum sententiae de fato et de eo quod in nostra est potestate (from hereafter: psf ) has, so far, received little scholarly attention, even though it provides us with an interesting insight into Grotius’s philosophical interests (and the intellectual debates that these interests were reacting to). This text, published posthumously in 1648 (Paris and Amsterdam) by Grotius’s wife, Maria van Reigensberg, contains translations of texts from various philosophers on the question of fate.

The aim of this article is to 1) place the debate on fate, in which Grotius was actively involved throughout all his life and career, in the wider context of the theological and philosophical debates on free will and divine foreknowledge; 2) acknowledge the importance played by Grotius’s psf , a gnomological collection of philosophical sources ranging from Pythagorean philosophers to early patristic authors all providing different, although converging arguments in favor of the existence of free will; and 3) suggest that debates on fate are distinctively linked by Grotius with those on the importance of law and punishment as a guarantee of order. This “legalistic” interpretation of fate ultimately allows Grotius to reconcile divine decrees with human liberty.

In: Grotiana

Abstract

This chapter traces an intellectual-historical narrative of the legal concept of peculium. Etymologically, the word peculium refers to ‘what shepherds possess as flock’, as showed by the Latin word for flock (pecu), which also originates the Latin word pecunia (money). Peculium is a Roman law concept, defined in the Corpus Iuris Civilis as ‘everything that cannot be described as dominium’, and is, thus, a prerogative of subaltern categories of society (enslaved people, shepherds, women, children).

In this chapter I will argue that peculium provides us with a unified legal framework to think about ‘otherness in the state of nature’, and to genealogically imagine how property rights can be originated. To do so, I will explore three different theorizations of the legal concept of peculium; Alberico Gentili’s interpretation of Virgil’s Eclogues, in which the question of whether shepherds are able to donate their peculium is addressed; Samuel Pufendorf’s genealogical argument about the pastoral origins of society; and finally, I will look at Giambattista Vico’s La Scienza Nuova, in which the Neapolitan philosopher reflects on the injustice of peculium and identifies it as the most fundamental drive behind the creation of the commonwealth, as the servants rebel against their masters to acquire full dominium.

In: The State of Nature: Histories of an Idea

Abstract

This chapter provides an outline of Emer de Vattel’s doctrine of the customary law of nations. Whereas the importance of custom in the doctrinal debates concerning contemporary international law has been widely acknowledged, an assessment of its fundamental role within Vattel’s account of the law of nations is still missing. I argue that its significance can be interpreted along two lines of inquiry. First of all, in light of Vattel’s critique of Wolff, according to which Vattel replaces the Wolffian perfectio as the basis of natural law with a ‘noble’, anti-Hobbesian, concept of self-interest. Custom is, consequently, conceived of as a peaceful means for states to pursue their own interests according to natural law and without necessarily conflicting with each other. Secondly, the concept of custom allows Vattel to mediate between natural law and the voluntary law of nations, by providing states with a flexible and dynamic source of obligation, mostly consisting in an overlap between the principles of natural law and the facts of international life.

Open Access
In: The Law of Nations and Natural Law 1625–1800

Abstract

This article provides new information on the publication history of the first edition of the text that, according to many scholars, laid the ground for the growth of international law: Hugo Grotius’s De iure belli ac pacis. Drawing on the preliminary findings of the Grotius Census Project at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), the following pages shed light on the first three states of the typescript, the sources that Grotius had access to in France while drafting the book, and the early circulation of the 1625 edition, published by Nicolas Buon in Paris. The goal of this publication is to disseminate updated information on the printing history of this key text in the history of legal and political thought, and to invite readers to come forward with more information about the location of the remaining copies of the text, in order to advance our understanding of the rise of international law around the world.

In: Grotiana