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Law, Reason, and the Cosmic CityPolitical Philosophy in the Early Stoa$
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Katja Maria Vogt

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320091.001.0001

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Law and Reason

Law and Reason

(p.161) 4 Law and Reason
Law, Reason, and the Cosmic City

Katja Maria Vogt

Oxford University Press

It is argued that the two dominant ways of reconstructing the Stoic conception of law—as a set of rules (rules‐interpretation) or as identified with the perfect decision‐making of the sage (prescriptive reason—interpretation)—miss important aspects of the theory. There is not enough textual evidence to show that the Stoics conceived of universal or general rules; even those texts which, by apparently mentioning exceptions, seem to imply the existence of rules are more plausibly interpreted without this assumption. The prescriptive reason—interpretation correctly captures key ideas of the Stoics' theory, but misses the substantive side of their conception of the law. A third interpretation is proposed that draws in crucial ways on the Stoics' substantive conception of reason. What the law commands is a life based on an understanding of what is valuable for human beings; the law thus is substantive without breaking down into rules—it is substantive in the same way in which perfect reason, which knows everything that is relevant to wisdom, is substantive.

Keywords:   reason, law, common law, rules, preconceptions, appropriate action, substantive conception of reason, exceptions, circumstances, evaluative and normative concepts

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