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Honor, History, and RelationshipEssays in Second-Personal Ethics II$
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Stephen Darwall

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199662609

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662609.001.0001

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Grotius at the Creation of Modern Moral Philosophy

Grotius at the Creation of Modern Moral Philosophy

(p.156) (p.157) 8 Grotius at the Creation of Modern Moral Philosophy
Honor, History, and Relationship

Stephen Darwall

Oxford University Press

It is widely believed that in the seventeenth-century ethical philosophy began to assume a self-consciously ‘modern’ form that Hugo Grotius was central in shaping. There is disagreement, however, about what was distinctively new or ‘modern’ in Grotius' thought. Terence Irwin has recently argued that Grotius should be interpreted as an ‘Aristotelian naturalist’ and that his ideas marked no significant departure from earlier orthodoxy. This chapter argues that there was indeed something importantly new in Grotius. Grotius identified a theoretically fundamental notion of universal ‘perfect rights’ that individuals have the authority or standing to demand of one another. He placed these at the heart of a complementary conception of morality, and maintained, moreover, that, in principle, anyone has the standing necessary to hold violators accountable. It follows that the conception of morality that Grotius bequeathed to the modern period is a fundamentally second-personal one.

Keywords:   Grotius, ancient, modern, morality, rights, accountability, demands, second-personal

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