Who is Hugo Grotius?

Who is Hugo Grotius?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

He is a famous Dutch thinker who lived between 1583 and 1645 and became famous for his natural law teaching.

Just as Descartes is important in terms of epistemology and modern thought, Grotius is as important in the field of law.

What Descartes did in the field of knowledge, Grotius did in the field of law. In other words, just as Descartes, the founder of modern philosophy, set out from the subject by rescuing knowledge from theological-scholastic basis through doubt, Grotius also put forward the law as an independent and objective institution against the will of God.

In the field of law, Grotius, who is as important as Descartes’ epistemology and modern thought, did in the field of law what Descartes did in the field of knowledge. In other words, just as Descartes, the founder of modern philosophy, set out from the subject by rescuing knowledge from theological-scholastic infestation through doubt, Grotius also put forward the law as an independent and objective institution against the will of God.

The most important principle put forward by Hugo Grotius and still in force in the field of International Law today is the principle of “freedom of the high seas”.

Natural law needs real power, state power, in order to realize itself; therefore, the state is obliged to protect the law that precedes it and is the reason for its existence; The state is the guardian and guarantor of the law. According to him, contrary to Machiavelli, it is not the state that creates the law, but the law that creates the state.

It was also the aim of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) to refute moral skepticism, which was the most important reason for the emergence of the understanding of natural law. In his work, On the Basic Concepts of “Natural Law” in the Ethics of War and the Religious Elements in These Conceptions and the Law of Peace, he put forward views on eliminating the overexisting moral skepticism in international relations and tried to present a moral framework for achieving international peace. Grotius, like his predecessors, adopted the definition of natural law as a set of rules that can be discovered by using reason. However, in his understanding, it seems that the priority of the good over the right has passed from the priority of the right to the good. Grotius’ most important contribution to this field is his transformation of natural law into the theory of human rights. Therefore, his teaching is based on individual human rights. As a matter of fact, he saw the field of morality as a collection of individual rights and stated that law could be understood as a theory of such rights. Thus, according to Grotius, a right is a moral quality of a person. Because this ‘moral quality’ makes moral actions possible, it can be understood as a kind of moral strength or moral capacity. The morally qualified individual is free, independent, and has moral meaning. These views have two important consequences in terms of the individual-society relationship. For one, morality is understood not as obligations of a human and social nature, but as individual, voluntary acts and independent acts.

The other, the separation and difference of individuals becomes morally meaningful. In our opinion, there is another contribution that is as important as the above-mentioned contribution of Grotius to the understanding of natural law. Grotius is not an atheist. However, he does not see belief in God as an ontic condition of natural law. In other words, the point reached by Grotius, even assuming that there is no God, is, in fact, the Old and Middle Ages, supported by the Aquians understanding that the law of nature was given to us by God, that this law is the law of our nature and is present in the capacity of thinking of the ‘correct’ mind. It is a result of the thoughts of the age. However, both Grotius’ secularism and individual rights theory fall short in providing people with an idea of ​​obligation. Why shouldn’t a person give up his obligations when he provides some advantages? In our opinion, the contribution of conservative commentators of Grotius can be used to overcome this difficulty. According to them, although man’s knowledge of natural law does not depend on God, his reasons for obeying natural law depend on God.

Hugo Grotius’ Conception of the State

Hugo Grotius’ Understanding of Law

Hugo Grotius’s Understanding of Political Philosophy

works

Pontifex Romanus, 1598, (“Pope of Rome”); Annales et historiae de rebus Belgicis, 1601, (“Research on Belgian Events and ‘Annals’); Adamus exul, 1601, (“Adam the Exile”); Marelibe-rum, 1609, (“The Free Sea”); De jure belli acpacis, 1625, (The Law of War and Peace, 1967); Historia Gotthorum, Vandalarum et Langobardorum, 1637, (“A History of the Goths, Vandals, and Langobards”).

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook