Christian Wolff (1679–1754)

Knud Haakonssen

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599752
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law

Christian Wolff (1679–1754)

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This chapter notes that Christian Wolff was one of the most influential philosophers in the German-speaking world and had considerable influence also in the wider Enlightenment world. Wolff was the great systematizer of all areas of knowledge, moving from ‘logic’, or general theory of knowledge, through theoretical philosophy to practical philosophy. His original formulation of the system in German was revised and extended in Latin for the wider European audience. The chapter considers the Ius naturae, methodo scientifica pertractatum (1740–48), Jus gentium, methodo scientific pertractatum (1750), and Grundsätze des Natur- und Völckerrechts (1754). The core of Wolff’s theory is the strongly intellectualist account of perfection, happiness, moral freedom, and obligation to the law of nature that at one and the same time describes and prescribes the way to one’s natural goal.

Keywords: Enlightenment; Germany; theoretical philosophy; natural law; civil society; moral freedom; Wolff’s theory

Article.  1450 words. 

Subjects: Law ; History of Law ; International Law

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