A Treatise of the Laws of Nature, originally titled De Legibus Naturae, first appeared in 1672 as a theoretical response to a range of issues that came together during the late 1660s. It conveyed a conviction that science might offer an effective means of demonstrating both the contents and the obligatory force of the law of nature. At a time when Hobbes’s work appeared to suggest that the application of science undermined rather than supported the idea of obligatory natural law, Cumberland’s De Legibus Naturae provided a scientific explanation of the natural necessity of altruism. Through his argument for a moral obligation to natural law, Cumberland made a critical intervention in the early debate over the role of natural jurisprudence at a moment when the natural law project was widely suspected of heterodoxy and incoherence. Liberty Fund publishes the first modern edition of A Treatise of the Laws of Nature, based on John Maxwell’s English translation of 1727. The edition includes Maxwell’s extensive notes and appendixes. It also provides, for the first time in English, manuscript additions by Cumberland and material from Barbeyrac’s 1744 French edition and John Towers’s edition of 1750. Richard Cumberland (1632–1718) was bishop of Peterborough. Jon Parkin is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, United Kingdom. Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History and Director of the Centre for Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.
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Liberty Fund Inc.
January 09, 2014
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