Grotius and the Marginalization of Cosmopolitan Duties

In: Grotiana

This article expounds the role played by Hugo Grotius in marginalizing positive duties for the protection of vulnerable people beyond the sovereign state. In the sixteenth century, theorists writing within a range of traditions had posited solemn and demanding duties to assist and rescue vulnerable subjects of other rulers from tyranny and persecution. In the early seventeenth century, Grotius explicitly subordinated such duties to the duty to seek the preservation and advantage of one’s own state. He claimed that, while the care of the vulnerable subjects of others was praiseworthy, it was not obligatory. No state was bound to accept trouble or inconvenience for the sake of vulnerable outsiders. Grotius turns out to be less of an exemplar for present day notions of the Responsibility to Protect and other international duties of human protection than he is often said to be.

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