New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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Writing as the recognizable modern idea of the state was being framed, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Samuel Pufendorf (1632-94) each took distinctive approaches to the problems of whether and how there could be any legal or moral norms between these states in their emerging forms. They differed in their views of obligation in the state of nature (where ex hypothesi there was no state), in the extent to which they regarded these sovereign states as analogous to individuals in the state of nature, and in the effects they attributed to commerce as a driver of sociability and of norm-structured interactions not dependent on an overarching state. This paper explores the differences between their views on these issues, differences which contributed to the development of the thought of later writers such as Emer de Vattel (1714-67), David Hume (1711-76), and Adam Smith (1723-90), and eventually in more attenuated ways to the different empirical legal methodologies of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and Georg Friedrich von Martens (1756-1821).

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