Law and Reason
Law and Reason
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.
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