Conscience and Reason: The Natural Law Theory of Jean Barbeyrac

by Tim Hochstrasser
Citation
Title:
Conscience and Reason: The Natural Law Theory of Jean Barbeyrac
Author:
Tim Hochstrasser
Year: 
1993
Publication: 
The Historical Journal
Volume: 
36
Issue: 
2
Start Page: 
289
End Page: 
308
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
Select license: 
Select License
DOI: 
PMID: 
ISSN: 
Abstract:

The Historical Journal, 36, 2 (1993)~pp. 289-308 Copyright O 1993 Cambridge University Press
CONSCIENCE AND REASON: THE
NATURAL LAW THEORY OF JEAN
BARBEYRAC*

TIM HOCHSTRASSER

Downing College, Cambridge

ABsT R ACT. Jean Barbeyrac is best known as the leading eighteenth-century translator in French ofthe major writings on natural law by Pufendorf Grotius and Cumberland. This article attempts to expound and assess Barbeyrac's independent contribution to the natural law tradition as it may be recovered both from these editions of the works of others and also from other writings. It is argued that Barbeyrac's intellectual context in the Huguenot diaspora and his distinctive reading of Locke, Bayle, and Pufendorf led him to develop an original equation ofthe authority of conscience with the authority of reason. The rationalist natural law theory he developed inevitably identified the role assigned to God within it and the scope of resistance to legal civil authorig as central issues for debate which remained problematic for Barbeyrac throughout his career. These important ethical subjects remained unresolved in the general development of natural jurisprudence in the early eighteenth century, as exemplified in Barbeyrac's attempt to refute Leibniz's telling critique of Pufendorf

Jean Barbeyrac was born at BCziers in 1674, and brought up in Lausanne as a Huguenot of the diaspora. After a period of study in Frankfurt an der Oder he combined a career as a teacher at the Huguenot gymnasium in Berlin until 1710 with private scholarship. The publication of his French edition of Pufendorf's De Iure Naturae et Gentium (1706) and its epitome the De O8cio Hominis et Ciuis (I 707) brought him international renown in the republic of letters, and resulted in an invitation from the College of Lausanne to become their first professor of natural law and history -a post he filled from I 710 to 171 7. In that year he moved to the Dutch university of Groningen where he remained until his death in I 744. During this final period he consolidated his reputation with translations and annotations of the major works of Grotius and Cumberland.'

* I wish to record my gratitude to James Moore for discussing Barbeyrac with me: my indebtedness to his article 'Natural law and the Pyrrhonian controversy', in Philosophy and science in the Scottish Enlightenment, ed. P. Jones (Edinburgh, 1988), pp. 2-38, will be apparent.

The main biographical source for Barbeyrac is P. Meylan, Jean Barbeyrac (1674-1744) et les dPbuts de l'enseignement du droit duns l'ancienne AcadPmie de Lausanne (Lausanne, 1937). This draws on Barbeyrac's own memoir first published in German in a series of lives of famous jurists: E. L. Rathlef (ed.), Geschichte Jetztlebender Gelehrten (Zelle, 1740)~ pp. 1-65 Additional information on Barbeyrac's years in Berlin is found in S. Othmer, Berlin und die Verbreztung des Naturrechts in Europa. Kultur und sozialgeschichtliche Studien zu Jean Barbeyracs ~ufendorf-~bersetzun~en

und einer Analyse seiner Leserschaft (Berlin, 1970). However, the best coverage of Barbeyrac's immediate intellectual

*9" TIM HOCHSTRASSER

Although the pre-eminence of Pufendorf amongst writers on natural law ensured many early eighteenth-century editions for student use, it was the translations by Barbeyrac that were recognized to be outstanding in scholarship and crucial to the diffusion of German protestant natural law theory throughout Europe: insofar as Barbeyrac has retained a reputation into the present century it has crystallized around his role as interpreter and annotator of Pufendorf. While this epitaph is both true and deserved, it is also incomplete. It will be argued here that Barbeyrac provided an original contribution in his own right to the development of eighteenth-century natural-law theory that cannot be fully extrapolated from his edition of Pufendorf: a full understanding of the nature of Barbeyrac's contribution and of why he believed Pufendorf's works offered the best contemporary introduction to the study of law and ethics is to be recovered not only from his other works of annotation and translation in the natural law tradition, but also from neglected books that he published under his own name. Above all he must be securely sited within the context of Huguenot theology after the diaspora, in which he was educated and within whose paradoxes he remained trapped.

Specifically, it will be argued that the ethical and theological dispute arising between Bayle's Pyrrhonism and Le Clerc's Arminianism was just as important as Barbeyrac's education in modern natural law in determining his views on ethics and law. From his religious background he derived a concept of self- sufficient human conscience which could be considered coterminous with the self-sufficient power of human reason that he claimed as central to natural jurisprudence. In making the link between the authority of conscience and authority attributable to reason, his reading of Lockean moral theory as popularized by Jean Le Clerc was fundamental. The texts of Pufendorf also deserve attention as the best current articulations in manual form of this particular definition of the secular and religious duties of the truly rational man. But two major issues remained unresolved in Barbeyrac's theory: the role assigned to God and the question of how widely rights of resistance to properly constituted authority should run. The extent to which these difficulties vitiate his natural law theory is revealed in the failure of Barbeyrac's attempt to refute these very points as formulated by Leibniz in his penetrating critique of Pufendorf's De Oficio et Hornini~.~

context is provided in A. Dufour, Le Mariage duns l'e'cole romande du droit nature1 au xviiie sil.cle (Geneva, 1976), pp. 1-35. Although this work focuses on Barbeyrac's contribution to private as opposed to public law, it emphasizes the degree to which the principle of free examination of a text in a rational light was developed within the framework of attempts to dismantle the Consemus Helveticus (1674). Quotations from Barbeyrac are left in the original French except where there is a recognised English translation: for instance all references to Barbeyrac's edition of Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae et Gentium (hereafter referred to as De Jure Naturae) are drawn from the fifth edition of Basil Kennett's English translation (I 749).

For Leibniz's Opinion on theprinciples ofPufendof(~ 706) see G. W. Leibniz, Political writings, ed.

P. Riley (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 64-75.

Pufendorf was an attractive figure to the Huguenots of the Refuge in Berlin because his systematic account of a man-centred natural law that took human sociability as its first principle seemed to offer a plausible political theory to explain their predicament. After the Edict of Fontainebleau had reasserted France's position as a confessional state, Huguenot apologists tried to maintain that their historical experience had shown that a society was held together more by underlying principles of human sociability than by religious loyalties, and that therefore coexistence of religions did not affect the secular integrity of the state. In the words of Labrousse, 'I1 apparaissait rCtrospectivement que 1'Edit de Nantes avait postulC implicitement une sociabilitk plus fondamentale que les affiliations religieuses qui distinguaient les Fran~ais les uns des autres, sociabilitk qui permettait entre eux une coexistence pacifique. '3 Pufendorf's De Oscio was particularly useful here as an account of how such a society, premised on a basic principle of sociability, had historically emerged, and would now function.

For writers of the diaspora in the 1690s there were two important areas of ideological concern: the creation of a systematic, secular account of the emergence and conduct of civil societies, and the justification of religious toleration as a fundamental principle in all sovereign states. These two issues were, of course, related: for if it could be shown that the foundations of social life did not lie in uniform and unitary religious practice, there could be no reasonable grounds for opposing a generous measure of toleration towards all groups, with the exception of those who had undertaken an oath of allegiance to an external sovereign authority. Thus the Huguenot claim that religious dissidence and perfect loyalty to the state could be satisfactorily combined would be vindicated. Since in the early days of the Refuge there was a real hope that a return to France might be possible within the lifetime of the first generation of refugees, it was vital that all possible publicity should be given to this argument, and support sought from all possible sources of intellectual authority. The natural law tradition was one of these. Indicative of this initiative is the preface which Jean Le Clerc wrote for his first review periodical, the Bibliothdque Universelle et Historique, where he summarizes the central intellectual issues of the time through the eyes of a member of the Reformed Church: 'I1 n'y a rien, dont on parle plus aujourd'hui, que de la TolCrance & des principes de la SocittC Civile. '4

However, as time passed, the false optimism faded and it became clear that there was no prospect of return. As a result, political attitudes began to harden, and the traditional consensus that had reconciled claims of divine right monarchy with religious toleration disappeared. This process was more immediately noticeable among Huguenot writers exiled in countries neigh-

E. Labrousse, 'Une foi, une loi, un roi?' La re'vocation de I'Edit de Nantes (Paris & Geneva, 1985),

p. 218.

J. Le Clerc, 'Avertissement', Biblioth2que Universelle et Historique, XIX (1690), unnumbered.

TIM HOCHSTRASSER

bouring France, which were victims of French aggression in the war of the League of Augsburg. Moreover, the change was accelerated by the rapid application to the Huguenot cause of the resistance theories generated in polemics in defence of William of Orange's successful invasion of EnglandS5 In contrast, the Huguenots of the Berlin Refuge were physically and intellectually distant from these concerns. Under a benignly tolerant monarchy and in flourishing economic circumstances they were rapidly becoming socially assimilated to a system where Pufendorf's combination of a secular natural law with a monolithic ecclesiology did not represent a practical conflict of loyalties. Other notable Huguenots in Berlin such as Etienne Chauvin, Antoine Teissier, and Charles Ancillon therefore saw no need to question the compatibility of modern natural law with their ecclesiastical position; but to Barbeyrac, whose intellectual contacts ranged far beyond Berlin, this was not a~ceptable.~

The loss of all their religious institutions had led Reformed theologians to lay even greater stress on the inner mind of the individual as the real seat of religious faith. This shift of emphasis carried with it the attendant claim that all religious persecution was not only unjust, but inefficacious as well, since no persecutor, royal or ecclesiastical, could reach la pointe de I'cime. While never going so far as the strict contractarianism of the Monarchomachs, Reformed theologians of the 1690s sanctioned a general right of resistance in the face of religious persecution and denied that any sovereign possessed the right to impose a single uniform religion on his people. Amongst Huguenot intellectuals in the Low Countries, Jurieu's endorsement of resistance was representative, and Bayle's defence of traditional acquiescence exceptional.' Yet even Bayle began from very large claims for the human conscience, which make his denial of the right to defend the beliefs of that conscience seem highly paradoxical.' It is indicative of the change in intellectual context that the work of the natural law tradition received scant attention from these writers. For Jurieu and others such as Prosper Marchand and Jean Rousset de Missy in the early eighteenth century, the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos of Plessis-Mornay offered more rewarding material than either Grotius or Pufendorf.' Indeed, where the authority of Grotius is invoked, his words are twisted quite out of their original context to support notions of popular sovereignty that he only ever endorsed in cases where the established authority had disintegrated.''

' For a succinct summary of these developments see M. Yardeni, 'French calvinist political thought, 1534-1715', International Calvinism 1541-1715, ed M. Prestwich {Oxford, 1985), pp. 33 1-6.

For an analysis of intellectual trends in the Berlin Refuge see Othmer, Berlin und die Verbreitung, PP. 42-54.' For the debate between Bayle and Jurieu see E. Labrousse, 'The political ideas of the Huguenot diaspora', in Church, state and society under the Bourbon kings of France, ed. R. M. Golden {Lawrence, Kan., 1982),pp. 222-83.

P. Bayle, Commentairephilosophiquesur lesparoles de JJsus-Christ ' Confrain-les Bentrer ' (Rotterdam,

1686),11, ch. x (translated in E. Labrousse, Bayle (Oxford, 1983),p. 35). !I See M. Jacob, The radical Enlightenment (London, 1981),pp. 226-8. lo See, for example, P.Jurieu, Lettrespastorales: XVII (thirdyear) (Rotterdam, 1689).

Whatever their particular provisions for civil society, all of these writers decisively differ from the natural law theorists in their identification of the human conscience as the starting point for all their arguments, whether theological or political. It is the conscience which is the seat of the moral understanding as much as the location of narrowly religious perception: for conscience is the capacity to exercise reflective judgement on the conformity of all one's actions to one's ideas of a law. This premiss, of course, diverged from the moral epistemology of Pufendorfjust as much as the political theory developed from it challenged his account of the proper relations between church and state, which gave the state the upper hand. For instead of positing an individual amidst a threatening state of nature agreeing to a common set of moral definitions within a social framework, Huguenot political theory presupposed societies grounded on stable principles of social coexistence which could always safely concede a residual right to the individual to carve out his own path, and to determine the kind of law to which he wished his actions to conform.ll

Thus we see that, for Barbeyrac, the role of conscience cuts across the familiar natural jurisprudential account of obligation. This is clear from his note on Pufendorf's heading, ' What a Subject ought to do in this case ifthreatened with Violence on account of his Christian Profession, is not our Business to determine,' where he asserts a full right of resistance:

As it cannot be prov'd, neither by the Principles of the Law of Nature, nor by the Holy Scripture, that Sovereigns are vested with a Power to hinder any one from serving God in a peaceable Manner, according to the Dictates of his Conscience, it follows from thence, that the People have as natural and as unquestionable a Right to defend their Religion by Force of Arms, ... as they have to defend, their Lives, their Estates, and Liberties against the Attempts of a Tyrant. This Right is even more allowable than any other, in as much as it regards the greatest of all Interests, and the strongest of all Obligations, or rather, that which is the Foundation and Source of all others; I mean, the indispensable Necessity that obliges every Man to follow the Light of his own Conscience.12

Barbeyrac's main source on the authority of conscience is Locke's Letter on Toleration, which he summarizes'with approval in an extended footnote to the text of Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae. This note singles out particularly those sections of the Letter which suggest that persecution is ineffective because the seat of religious belief in the conscience cannot be constrained by force: 'And such is the Nature of the Understanding, that it cannot be compell'd to the Belief of anything by Outward Force, Confiscation of Estate, Imprisonment, Torments, nothing of that Nature can have any such efficacy to make Men change the inward Judgement that they have fram'd of things. '13 Barbeyrac

l1 For a detailed account of Pufendorf's moral epistemology see T.J.Hochstrasser, Natural law theory: its historiography and development in the French and German Enlightenment, c. 167e1780

(unpublished PhD. dissertation, Cambridge, ~ggo),pp. 22-116. l2 S. Pufendorf, The law ofnature and ofnations, ed. J. Barbeyrac, trans. B. Kennett (London, 1749,5th edn), book ~II,ch. 8, svi, p. 719,note 2. l3 Ibid. book ~II,ch. 4, §xi, p. 665, note 2.

*94 TIM HOCHSTRASSER also eagerly embraces the broad definition of property offered at the start of the work, where Locke assimilates liberty of conscience to more concrete forms of private ownership: 'Mr Locke means by the word Property, not only the Right which one has to his Goods and Possessions, but even with respect to his Actions, his Liberty, his Life, his Body; and, in a word, all sorts of Right.'14 But Barbeyrac's interest in Locke goes beyond his arguments on toleration to encompass his moral epistemology; for, in addition, he conflates the large epistemological role he himself assigns to conscience with Locke's account of how we gain certain knowledge in moral matters. Near the beginning of the historical preface that he provides for Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae, called An historical and critical account of the science of morality, Barbeyrac supports Locke's contention that certainty resides in the ability men have to make an unambiguous comparison of their actions with clear concepts of a law in their own minds:

It is no Part of the Business in Morality to know the real Essence of Substances;which is what has been hitherto attempted without Success, and in all probability will never be brought about; as a great Philosopher of this Age has made appear: All that is requir'd here, is only to examine and compare with Care and Diligence certain Relations, which we conceive between human Actions and a certain Rule.''

And in almost the first note added to Barbeyrac's edition of Pufendorf's De Oficio this ability to relate moral actions to a standard in the mind is defined as the role of the conscience:

L'Auteur devoit dtfinit la Conscience. C'est une omission considtrable. Disons, pour y supplier, que la CONSCIENCE est le jugement que chacun porte de ses propres actions, compartes avec les idtes qu'il a d'une certaine Rtgle, nommt LOI; en sorte qu'il conclut en lui-m&me que les prtmitres sont ou ne sont pas conformts aux dernitres.16

Barbeyrac thus combines his description of the role of conscience in religious experience with Locke's account of how humans have certain moral knowledge to produce an autonomous faculty of reasoning which is the touchstone of the mental world of the common man as much as of the philosopher. A definition of the power of reason results that is both broader than that of Pufendorf, for whom the role of reason was restricted to the capacity each man has to perceive the self-interested rationale of social coexistence, and also much larger than was allowed for by other writers in the Huguenot tradition, especially Bayle. Barbeyrac's attempts to rebut Bayle's Pyrrhonism were a vital complement to his major work of making the natural law writers accessible to a wider audience; but his own characteristic rationalist views on ethics are best articulated in polemics against a stance that threatened the integrity of a rationalist approach to both theology and ethics.

l4 J.Barbeyrac, An historical and critical account of the science of morality (London, I 749), p. 4. (Preface to ibid.), hereafter referred to as Science ofmorality. l5 Ibid.

l6 Pufendorf, Les devoirs de l'homme, ed. Barbeyrac (2 vols., Amsterdam, I 735, edn), I, 4, note I.

Bayle had argued that the knowledge available through reason was neither sufficiently ample nor consistent to withstand sceptical criticism, and that therefore only the truths of revealed religion could be accepted as the basis of human moral behaviour. Since these truths were few, the upshot of Bayle's sceptical approach was a relapse into fideism in religion and quietism in politics. Religious worship was to be directed towards an essentially mysterious and arbitrary deity; political loyalty was due to an absolute monarch for, despite its drawbacks, such government could fairly guarantee civil peace and order which, religious values apart, are to be preferred to liberty, since they are necessary preconditions to that liberty. Against the natural law school, Bayle argued that firstly, we had no knowledge, and thus no moral knowledge, of which we could be demonstrably certain; and secondly, against the rational theologians, he contended that a rationalist interpretation of scripture was grounded falsely on Cartesian self-knowledge as a criterion of truth. Barbeyrac believed that he could offer an account of natural law that could successfully rebuff this scepticism, and that the work of Locke on the one hand, and Jean Le Clerc on the other, overturned both of these two last objections. By offering a synthesis of modern rational moral philosophy and modern natural law he hoped to demonstrate the falsehood both of Bayle's moral epistemology and the practical political theory developed from it.''

Early on in his career Barbeyrac identified Bayle as his chief opponent: in a letter to Le Clerc written in the year of the publication of his edition of the De Jure Naturae, he spoke of his target as 'les derniers Ouvrages de M. Bayle, plus dangereux, k mon avis, que les Livres de Hobbes et Spinoza'.18 And also in I 706 he wrote to his friend in London, Bayle's biographer, Pierre Desmaizeaux, to reassure him that a middle course could be identified between mere dogmatism and the Pyrrhonism of Bayle.lg Moreover, in a note added to the De Jure Naturae Barbeyrac made it clear that he believed Bayle to have mistaken evidence of political misbehaviour and misapplication of political principles for the absence of political certainties as such:

But whatever that famous Philosopher says, who, according to his Custom pretends to gather from thence some arguments for Scepticism, yet if he would seriously examine true Politicks, he would find that most of its Principles and Maxims have a Certainty in them, which comes very near a Demonstration; and as to those things which look like Problems, their obscurity proceeds rather from the difficulty of Application,

l7 See Moore, 'Natural law and Pyrrhonian controversy', pp. 2~4

for a detailed account of how Barbeyrac came to isolate Pyrrhonism as the leading feature of Bayle's philosophy. It should perhaps be stressed that, although Bayle was generally unsympathetic towards modern natural law theory, he had a high regard for Grotius, and especially for his argument that some moral imperatives could be identified intuitionally by reason alone: see E. Labrousse, Pierre Bayle (2 vols., The Hague, 1963-g), n, 268ff.

l8 Barbeyrac to Le Clerc, 10Apr. 1706: Universiteits-Bibliotheek Amsterdam MS RK C3.

l9 Barbeyrac to Desmaizeaux, 22 Dec. 1706: British Library Additional MSS 4281, fos. 20-1.
2 g6 TIM HOCHSTRASSER

Ignorance of some Circumstances, or Want of Attention, than any absolute Impossibility to establish any Rule of Certainty concerning them.20

Bayle's epistemological scepticism represented a kind of 'false modesty ... sinking under the Weight of the smallest Difficulties,' because of its initial premiss that 'whatever is a certain Truth, must be adequately known by us; and removed from all manner ~fdifficulty'.~~

He was apparently not prepared to accept the less exacting assumption which Barbeyrac adopted as axiomatic, that 'our Faculties are precisely adapted to our present state and Occasions here; and consequently circumscribed within their proper bounds'.22 Yet Bayle's apparently harmless false modesty led to alarming political conclusions, since, 'some would not so zealously espouse the pernicious Opinion, which puts the Prince above the Law, if they were not intoxicated with the Doctrine of Pyrrhoni~m'.~~

It was therefore essential for the epistemology underlying this doctrine to be decisively controverted if the contrary opinion was to be upheld that, 'the Sovereign, whatever lofty Title he is adorned with, has no more Power than is necessary for the Publick Good; and that every one ought to be left at full Liberty to follow what Religion he thinks best'.24 Barbeyrac tried to provide this counterpoise in his presentation and interpretation of Locke's ideas on moral certainty in the opening sections of the Science of morality.

If we take conscience as our starting point, and assume moral thought to be a matter of the comparison of individual actions with a rule known to the mind, then moral ideas can be regarded as demonstrably certain because they do not rely for their truth on the existence of any reality external to the mind itself. Moral ideas are mixed modes, or combinations of simple ideas made entirely within the mind without the intervention of sense experience; therefore they are free of the cognitive scepticism alleged by Bayle:

The Negligence or Perverseness of Mankind, cannot be excused if their Discourses in Morality be not much more clear, than those in natural Philosophy: since they are about Ideas in the Mind, which are none of them false or disproportionate; they having no external Beings for ArchegFes which they are referr'd to, and must correspond with. It is far easier for men to frame in their Minds an Idea, which shall be the standard to which they give the Name Justice, with which Pattern so made, all Actions that agree shall pass under that Denomination, than having seen Aristides, to frame an Idea, which shall in all things be exactly like him, who is as he is, let Men make what Idea they like ofhim. For the one, they need but know the Combination ofldeas, that are put together within their own Minds; for the other, they must enquire into the whole Nature, and abstruse hidden Constitution, and various Qualities of a Thing existing without them.25

20 Pufendorf, The law ofnature and ofnations, book I, ch. 2, Siv, p. 16, note 3. Barbeyrac, Science ofmoraliQ, p. 10. 22 Ibid. p. 9. 23 G. Noodt, The power of the sovereign and the right of liberty of conscience, ed. J. Barbeyrac, trans.

J. Savage (London, 1708), Editor's preface, p. xviii. These tracts, which are essentially paraphrases of Locke's Letter on toleration, were edited immediately after completion of the edition of the De Jure Naturae. Ibid. p. xvii.

25 Barbeyrac, Science of morality, p. 4 (citing Locke's Essay, book 111, ch. I I, 5 17).

The ordinary experiences of adult social life are sufficient to provide all men with correct and adequate information from which they can deduce the principles of natural law.26 There is therefore no reason to agree with Bayle that 'poor Reason . . . is an uncertain, fluttering, and supple tool.. .that wherever it finds two ways, it stands stock for even if an acknowledged moral precept is flouted in practice, its certainty and truth remain unaffected; it would not have attained the status of a moral concept unless it had originally been abstracted from the actual experience of human life, and remained a standard against which men can judge and compare their own conduct:

The Truth and Certainty of moral Discourses abstracts from the Lives of Men, and the Existence of those Virtues in the World, whereof they treat: Nor are Tulb's Offices less true, because there is no body in the World that exactly practises his Rules, and lives up to that Pattern of a virtuous Man, which he has given us, and which existed no where, when he writ but in Idea. If it be true in Speculation, i.e. in Idea, that Murther deserves Death, it will also be true in reality of any Action that exists conformable to that Idea of M~rther.'~

There is, therefore, no need to insist, as Pufendorf had done, that moral thought is a matter of imposition of meaning on the world by individual men or by a society.29 It is more a matter of the recognition of simple truths of human experience by which men choose to regulate and guide their actions. Barbeyrac makes his position clear in his explanation of how human beings arrive at a concept of duty by combining the self-evidently true ideas of reciprocal goodness and obedience to the Creator:

When I say, for Example, we should render Good for Good and not Evil for Good; or, that Men ought to obey the Will of GOD their Creator; there is in these two Propositions so real and evident an Agreement, that any Man, who gives the least Attention, will readily own the Truth of what they contain, without in the least reflecting on the Advantages which arise from their Practice. We are convinced, at first Sight, that if we once act contrary to these Maxims, we offend against our Reason, & become liable to Self-Reproach. From hence alone arises the Idea of Duty, and the rational End of its Ob~ervation.~"

Barbeyrac sought to emphasize the ease by which human beings came to moral conclusions upon which they could agree, and it is a matter of relative unimportance to him whether man's reason works wholly unaided in the task of identifying the simple ideas which it combines to form moral concepts. He concedes that the consistency of human reason may owe something to God: 'Where God, or any other Law-maker, hath defined any moral Names, there they have made the Essence of that Species to which that Name be10ng.s.'~~ But in general he is more concerned to show that the number of moral

26 Ibid. p. 2.
'' Ibid. p. g (citing Bayle's Dictionnuire historique et critique, p. 1565, col. I).

Ibid. pp. 4-5 (citing Essay, book IV,ch. 4, $8). 29 See Pufendorf, The law ofnature and nations, book I, ch. I, $4, pp. 3-4. 30 Ibid. book 11, ch. 3, $x,p. 126, note 2. 31 Barbeyrac, Science ofmorality, p. 5 (citing Essay, book IV,ch. 4, $ 10).

298 TIM HOCHSTRASSER concepts essential to right conduct by any individual is small, and certainly not beyond the unassisted scope of reason to identify, even if in fact there is assistance from divine revelation :

It is false to say, that Precepts of Morality are of so vast an Extent, as to make us despair of ever seeing the end of them; those that concern the most necessary and considerable Things, may be reduc'd to a certain Number: It is true, that the Circumstances of Time, Place, and Persons, create therein some Diversity; but that signifies little, for we have even in those Cases general Maxims which are sufficient to direct our Judgements therein.32

By adopting this account of moral epistemology Barbeyrac moved much closer to the natural law theory of Richard Cumberland and away from Pufendorf: Cumberland had shared Barbeyrac's relaxed view of the process by which moral norms are set up; he believed similarly that brief acquaintance with the nature of things led speedily and inevitably to the conclusion that individuals should promote the common good. A stable moral order need not require imposition by a superior. Indeed society was essentially self-regulating so long as the insight of reason was not blurred by the intervention of the passions. In normal circumstances it was possible to see men and God as members of a common community of rational beings capable of generating sufficient moral concepts through the exercise of reason to regulate ordinary beha~iour.~~

Barbeyrac maintained that Cumberland had demonstrated this well in the Preliminary discourse to the De Legibus and in his edition of I 743 cites a quotation from Cicero's De Legibus which he believes summarizes Cumberland's argument, as well as showing its continuity with Stoic ideas of reason :

Il n'y a rien de meilleur que la Raison; @ que cette Raison, lors qu'elle est parvenue h sa maturiti @ sa perfection, s'abpelle Sagesse: Que n'y aient rien de meilleur que la Raison, qui se trouve en DIEU, aussi bien que dans les Hommes; la preiniire Sociiti que les Hommes ont, est avec DIEU, h cause de cette communauti de Droite Raison, $0; natt une Loi, qui leur est commune; de sorte que I'Univers est comme un grand Corps d'Etat, composides Dieux @ des Hommes ...VoilB des idCes, qui, dCtkchtes de ce qu'il y avoit de mauvais dans les principes de la Philosophie Stoi'cienne, d'oh elles sont prises, ont beaucoup de rapport avec ceux de notre Auteur.34

The concept of a communauti de Droite Raison seems to bear a relation to Leibniz's notion of the community of natural justice.35 But these similarities are superficial. While the sources for that account were Platonic, the sources for Barbeyrac and Cumberland are manifestly Stoic. The consequence of this difference is the creation of a theory which has a more seductively human concept of reason behind it, and a nugatory role for God. In the Science of

32 Ibid. (Barbeyrac's paraphrase of a passage from Seneca, Epistolae No. 94).

33 For Cumberland see K. Haakonssen, 'The character and obligation of natural law according to Richard Cumberland', in Unsocial sociability- natural law and the eighteenth century discourse on politics and society, eds. I. Hont & H. E. Bodeker (London, forthcoming).

34 R. Cumberland, Traitiphilosophique des lois naturelles, ed. J. Barbeyrac (Amsterdam, 1743), pp. I 1-12, note I (citing Cicero, De Legibus, I, 7). 35 For an account ofleibniz's community of naturaljustice, see Hochstrasser, Natural law theory, pp. 70-4,

NATURAL LAW AND JEAN BARBEYRAC

299 morality Barbeyrac explicitly praises the Stoics and Cicero for having produced the most sophisticated and complete account of human moral obligations before Grotius, an account that is distinguished for deriving its conclusions entirely from human, as opposed to divine reason:

There was never any Sect of Philosophers, who so well understood and so strongly press'd those indispensable Duties of Humanity, which most Men, precisely considered as such, owe to one another ... It may be truly affirm'd, that of all the Philosophers of Antiquity, they are the Men, who have gone the farthest into the Particulars of Morality; and have best apply'd its general Precepts to the several States of Life; and the different Exigencies of humane affair^.^^

Although God is a member of the community of rational beings, his membership seems more honorary than active, since all morality can be devised by man without the necessity for his intervention or approval: 'L'ExpCrience ne nous mCne pas plus loin ici, qu'a nous convaincre de la facilitC avec laquelle les Hommes ou approuvent ou dCcouvrent d'eux-mCmes les VCritez Fondamentales de la Religion & de la Morale.'37 Yet without either a clear repudiation of the relevance of God or a detailed exposition of the congruence of divine positive law with human moral practice, the position of God in Barbeyrac's theory remains seriously underdefined. He fails to appreciate that in the act of finding replies to Bayle's criticisms in arguments from Locke and the Stoics, he effectively excluded any concept of an interventionist God: his natural law theory places absolute confidence in the unassisted capacities of human reason while still vaguely including God as the guarantor of moral order. Pierre Rttat has argued that this incoherence is characteristic of early eighteenth-century attempts to come to terms with Bayle's attacks on the self-sufficiency of reason: for guarantees to the existence and integrity of morality are sought simultaneously both in the idea of God and in nature itself, and revelation and reason cannot long be harmoni~ed.~~

Bayle had not only alleged that man could have no certain moral knowledge, but also had argued that the moral principles propounded by human reason were not conformable to the morality of the Gospel. Therefore he concluded it was better to preserve and trust in the mysterious and incomplete moral perceptions of revelation than risk undermining religion itself through reliance on reason. This was the justification he offered for his opposition to the rational theology of the Arminian Jean Le Clerc, whose Ars Critica of 1697, was both the most famous guide to, and leading example of, rationalist techniques for the interpretation of Scripture. To Bayle, Le Clerc and his followers are Socinians, who approached the bible with a crude combination of common sense and philological Le Clerc, on the other

36 Barbeyrac, Science of morality, pp. 71-2, 73.
37 Cumberland, Traite'philosophique, pp. 8-9, note I.
38 P. RCtat, Le Dictionnaire de Bayle et la lutte philosophique au XVIIP sihcle (Paris, 1g74), p. 42.
39 P. Bayle, Oeuvres diuerses uolumes supple'mentaires: choix d'articles tire's du dictionnaire historique et

critique, ed. E. Labrousse (5 vols., Hildesheim & New York, 1g8r), Article: SOCIN (Faustus), 11, 1065/237.

30° TIM HOCHSTRASSER

hand, regarded Bayle's continual attempts to demonstrate the inadequacy of reason in the realm of theology as either an obscurantist revival of manicheanism or a pose where, in Popkins words, 'his point was not the destruction of reason for the sake of religion, but rather the reverse -the destruction of religion for the sake of reason'.40

The theological tradition that Grotius and Le Clerc represented contended that the modern theologian's task was similar to that of the editor of any secular text surviving Ckom the ancient world. Such an editor was required to be scrupulously aware of the historical relativism of the text with which he was concerned, and what riled Bayle was this insistence that the present commentator would always hold the solution to the difficulty by virtue of his superior knowledge of the historical circumstances of a work's production.41 Such a claim contained an implicit denial that there could be any residual mystery or unfathomably divine content within sacred scripture -a denial that was all the more insidious for being concealed, even if unwittingly, behind the modest public goal of demonstrating the perfect conformity of the truths of faith and reason.42

Yet the rational theologians believed with equal sincerity that the study of theology could only defend itself against Pyrrhonism by making use of the most modern techniques in both philosophy and textual criticism. For Barbeyrac, writing in a review of L'Examen de Pyrrhonisme by Jean De Crousaz, it was an unavoidable fact that argument from recognized authority had now been succeeded by 'la uoie de I'Examen' in all disciplines that claimed to offer a scientific understanding of their material.43 Unless a theologian accommodated himself to these developments, he risked yielding up his position to the sceptics who were now able to 'dupper les Simples, dont le nombre parmi tout ordre de gens, est plus grand que l'on ne pen~e'.~~

It was no sufficient protection of true religion to fall back on revelation; for the recent history of disputes within christianity showed that appeals to revelation could be exploited to deceive the generality in pursuit of narrow sectarian and political ends: 'On est venu a emprunter des armes de la RCvtlation meme, & a jetter ainsi de la poudre aux yeux du Vulgaire, pendant qu'on sappoit effectivement les fondemens de toute Religi~n.'~~

For Barbeyrac, Bayle's approach was not merely wrong, but perverse to the extent of appearing sinister and hypocritical:

I1 [i.e. Bayle] s'attache sur tout a rnettre en opposition avec la Raison, la Morale de 1'Evangile; quoi que, dts qu'on reconnoit la Divinitt de 1'Ecriture Sainte, on ne puisse

40 R. H. Popkin, The high road to Pyrrhonism (San Diego, 1980)~ pp. 31-2. Bayle's most detailed critique of Le Clerc is R+onse aux questions Bun provincial (Rotterdam, I 703).

41 See, for example, J. Tillotson, Sermons sur diuerses matiires importantes, ed. J. Barbeyrac (2 vols., Amsterdam, 17181, 11, Preyace du Traducteur, xx. Locke introduced Barbeyrac to these sermons as a way of improving Barbeyrac's English. He was so impressed by them as examples of rational theology that he later prepared a French edition (see Preyace du Traducteur, passim).

42 P. Bayle, Eclaircissements sur certaines choses r@andues dans ce Dictionnaire (Rotterdam, 1701). Third clarification, iv (translated in Labrousse, Bayle, pp. 43-4).

43 J.Barbeyrac, 'Article IV: Examen du Pyrrhonisme', Bibliotht?que raisonne'e des ouurages des s~auans de I'Europe, x (1733), 7 I. 44 Ibid. 45 Ibid.

que regarder ses PrCceptes Moraux comme parfaitement conformts aux LumiCres Naturelles ...I1 prend B la lettre des expressions visiblement figurCes, & choisit to0jours le sens le plus outrt dont lui paroissent susceptibles des expressions, que les RCgles de la bonne Critique & de 1'EquitC ramtnent aisCment aux principes de la Rai~on.~~

Barbeyrac's most extended attempt to refute Bayle's position and demonstrate the conformity of gospel morality with the theories of moral philosophers occurs in the third chapter of his treatise on gaming, Traite'du Jeu, which appeared in 1709 when the morality of gaming was under general discussion in the Low Countries. This instance offered an opportunity for the juxtaposition and evaluation of general ideas of rational and revealed truth. Although the work is somewhat disorganized, this chapter, which bears the title 'Si le Jeu est contraire a l'esFrit de PEvangile?', offers a precise case study of the match between the moral teachings of sacred scripture and the conclusions of reason. Barbeyrac's argument divides into two sections, the first a direct response to Bayle's statement of the incompatibility between gaming and christianity, and then a confrontation with Bayle's wider argument employing the general principles that he had used to refute him in the detailed example.

Barbeyrac starts from his familiar thesis that all necessary moral and religious truths are within everyone's grasp, and that christianity is indeed premised on this assumption. Yet Bayle's argument would aim to undercut this assumption since his condemnation of gaming would make an essential part of christianity a kind of asceticism which is beyond the powers of all except a few wise men to achieve. But such a view would be quite contrary to the inclusive nature of religious belief and is equally against the teaching of the gospel, on whose correct interpretation Bayle himself lays such inordinate emphasis:

Dans cette supposition, il a CchappC au plus Disputeur de nos jours de soQtenir, ou d'avancer du moins comme une conjecture difficile a rCfuter, que JESUS CHRIST n'a point propost sa Religion comme une chose qui p0t convenir B toutes sortes de personnes, mais seulement B un petit nombre de Sages: Ctrange imagination, oh l'on ne seroit jamais tombt, si l'on avoit 10 le Nouveau Testament avec tant soit peu d'attention & avec un esprit dt~inttresst.~~

Next, Barbeyrac shows that a study of ancient philosophy reveals that in most important repects pagan writers distinguished virtue from vice in much the same way as writers in the christian tradition have done. This in itself shows that moral truth is available to the human mind irrespective of sociological or religious context: 'En effet, il n'y a presque point de Vertu qui n'ait ttt loute par quelque Auteur Paien ni de Vice que quelcun d'entr'eux n'ait blamt: preuve incontestable de la conformitt des prtmitres & de l'incompatibilitt des derniers avec les Lumitres de la Nat~re.'~~

Thiscorrelation of rational and revealed truth is even recognised by early christian

46 Ibid. XI,69 (a second review in successive volumes).

47 J.Barbeyrac, Traite' du Jeu, oh ?on examine lesprincipales questions de droit nature1 et du morale qui ont du rapport h cette Matiire (2 vols., Amsterdam, 1737, 2nd edn), I, 39. 48 Ibid. p. 42.

302 TIM HOCHSTRASSER writers such as St Paul, who regards the practice of christian virtue as 'un culte raisonnable', since the duties prescribed by the gospel are founded on 'les maximes invariables de la Rai~on'.~' So confident were the early Fathers that men were capable of moral self- determination, that they only provided very general moral precepts and left the detail of moral decisions to individuals. They themselves perceived no possible conflict between reason and revealed religion for it was 'la CoutGme des Ecrivains Sacrez . . .qu'ils ont supposC dans les Esprits des Hommes certaines idCes, lesquelles, quoi qu'imparfaites, ne laissent pas d'etre ~tritables'.~~

If there had been concern over this issue then they would have left a systematic moral science instead of merely correcting instances of what they considered to be inappropriate customary practices.

Their basic premiss was that they were addressing a rationally ordered world: '11s supposent par tout, qu'ils parlent a des Hommes, & a des Hommes qui ont le pouvoir & la volontC de faire usage de leur Raison; sans quoi toutes les exhortations du monde sont in~tiles'.~~

If this was the attitude of the Patristic period, then there is no good reason for Bayle to take up a different stance in the later seventeenth century: if an action is in conformity with reason and is not explicitly condemned in the bible then it should be regarded as innocent. This is the status that should be accorded to gaming; for it can neither be shown to be at variance with natural law, nor in explicit contravention of scripture.

Barbeyrac now moves on to attack Bayle's broader defence of fideism. He selects as his text a passage from Bayle's famous review of Maimbourg's Histoire du Calvinisrne, which he regards as the origin of all of Bayle's attempts to demonstrate an irreconcilable breach between faith and reason. In this passage Bayle suggests that reason encourages us to suppose that all the motives that underlie all human actions are evil, and that therefore it is rational never to trust anyone. But this position, of course, contradicts the scriptural laws of charity whereby we are instructed to put the best possible interpretation on people's actions. Since we are bound as christians to follow what is scripturally ordained, the only way of resolving the contradiction is to reject the advice and authority of reason as a whole and seek refuge in undiluted fidei~m.~~

Barbeyrac's response to this argument is the empirical one of conceding the truth of the general principle that it is rational to suppose all human motives to be base, while firmly denying that this metaphysical truth offers either any practical implications as to how we should react to the actions of others, or any theoretical implications as to the relative merits of faith and reason. He refuses to budge from his fundamental Lockean premiss that the source of moral and religious knowledge is to be found in the capacity of the human mind to combine simple ideas whose truth it finds indubitable into more complex

48 Ibid. 50 Ibid. Ibid. p. 43.
52 Barbeyrac refers to P. Bayle, JVouuelles de la re'publique des lettres (Amsterdam, 1685),Letter XII,

$12.

relations. Every man thus has the ability to assess the particular merits or demerits of the actions of others as he encounters them; and it is therefore simply an error in logic to carry over metaphysical pessimism about human motives into the assessment of instances where, on the contrary, reason dictates (just as it did in the case of gaming) that an action be interpreted as good unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.53

Reason possesses the capacity to attach a correct moral meaning to all events which are the result of evident will because it is of the nature of reason to be able to penetrate 'des causes particulitres et dCterminCe~'.~~

But it is a manifest error to argue that reason is deficient in being unable to penetrate human motives. Motivation is assessed by God alone, and was never the province of moral judgement which must pronounce on external actions alone. Barbeyrac concludes his argument by recalling to Bayle's attention St Paul's advice to the Corinthians on the correct ambit for human moral judgement: 'Ne jugez point AVANT LE TEMPS, jusqu'i ce que le Seigneur soit venu, qui manifestera ce qui est cache dans les ttnkbres, & qui fera connoitre les desseins des coeurs; & alors chacun recevra de DIEU la louange qui lui fera

Ironically, Barbeyrac makes his point through the very kind of strict interpretation of scripture that Bayle repeatedly recommends.

If the full extent of human moral concepts is available to each man's conscience, then the question remains why Barbeyrac should think it essential that handbooks to natural law such as Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae and De Ojicio, should be made available to a wider public. Here the answer lies in the need for education in morality to combat the distracting effects of the passions on reason. Although the serious study of morality is not beyond the reach of the simplest human mind, it is more often than not impeded by 'the Impressions of Example, and received Customs; the Prevalency of Fashions, and the Torrent of Opinions in Vogue, with the early Prejudices of Ed~cation'.~~ there is an obligation on those who make a

Therefore professional study of morality as a science to provide a corrective education in the nature and historical development of that moral science, and this alone provides the justification for the composition of the Science ofrnorali~.~~

In this work Locke and Le Clerc are extensively used as supporting authorities to testify to the need for provision of moral education to all men if the full potential of human reason is to be a~hieved.~' Barbeyrac relies

53 Barbeyrac, Iraite' du Jeu, I, 77, 79. 54 Ibid. p. 81.

55 Ibid. p. 83 (I Corinthians, IV, 5-6). 56 Barbeyrac, Science of morality, p. I 3.

57 Ibid. p. 14.

We know that Barbeyrac began the composition of his Science of morality in 1703 after his translation and notes to Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae had been sent to the compositor in Amsterdam (Meylan, Barbeyrac, pp. 6e1). Although he persistently complained of the difficulties he had in Berlin in obtaining copies of recent publications, nevertheless many of the sources on which he relies were published in and around this time, notably Pierre Coste's translation of
3O4 TIM HOCHSTRASSER

particularly on an essay that appeared in the second volume of Le Clerc's Parrhasiana, and which bore the title, Pensies sur la nkessiti & sur la maniire LFitudier, pour les personnes qui ne font pas profession de Lettres. This was an unoriginal work of synthesis consisting of a series of miscellaneous reflections on the responsibilities of citizenship, drawn largely from Locke and the civic republican tradition. Barbeyrac incorporated into his own argument Le Clerc's belief that each of us has the capacity to form moral, political, and theological notions adequate to his station in life, and to receive instruction in correct political belief on those basic political questions that indubitably affect us

Le Clerc insists in Parrhasiana that the best way of providing this education is to introduce as many people as possible to the works of Grotius and Pufendorf, which provide in short compass all that anyone would need to know concerning the common principles of political life. Barbeyrac proceeds to use this passage in concert with a similar extract from Locke's Some Thoughts concerning Education as the two so-called sufiages with which he wishes to justify his new edition of the De Jure Nat~rae.~~

The works of the natural law tradition thus admirably combined a conviction of the ultimate perfectibility of human reasoning and a specific and detailed guide as to how this was to be achieved. These qualities satisfied the requirements for educational manuals which Barbeyrac expressed elsewhere:

Pour persuader, il faut donner des idCes justes & nettes des choses dont on traite, les prouver par de bonnes Raisons, & proposer convenablement les Principes & les Preuves . . .on se trompe fort de s'imaginer que les Hommes soient communCment plus disposez B se paier de mauvaises Raisons, que de bonnes.'jl

Thus Barbeyrac's Science of morality offers a succinct refutation of Pyrrhonism (with assistance from the arguments of Locke and Le Clerc) together with a long historical account of ethical thought, theological and secular, from the earliest times up until the publication of Pufendorf's De Jure Naturae. This latter feature places the work in the category of Histories of morality or Histories of natural law that were fairly common amongst pedagogic literature at protestant universities in the early eighteenth century. They derived ultimately from a work produced by Pufendorf as part of his defence of his De Jure

Locke's Essay in I 700 and Le Clerc's two volumes of occasional essays, Parrhasiana in 1699 and 1701. He was in correspondence with both Locke and Le Clerc during the time of the composition of this History of morality: letters to Locke (26 July 1704, Bodleian Library MS Locke c. 3, f. 14) and to Le Clerc (10 Apr. 1706, Universiteits-Bibliotheek, Amsterdam, MS RK Cg) contain expressions of thanks for advice received at the time of the composition of the Science of morality.

59 J. Le Clerc, Parrhasiana (2 vols., Amsterdam, 1699, I~OI), II, 91-2.

60 Barbeyrac, Science of morality, pp. 83-4, quoting ibid. pp. I 17-18. The citation from Locke uses material in 5 185 of Some thoughts concerning education. In his letter to Locke of 6 Jan. I 703 (Bod. Lib. MS, Locke c. 3, fos. 142-3) he explains that this endorsement was an important stimulus to him in taking up the project in the first place: 'Mais je travaille prtsentement a une Traduction, dont je fonde la plus grande partie du succts sur l'approbation avantageuse que vous avts donnt

h. l'original dans votre Trait6 de 1'Education' (fo. 143). Tillotson, Sermons, 11, xii-xiii.

Nat~rae.~~But Barbeyrac's work is more individual, because its polemical purpose in refuting Pyrrhonism produces a somewhat idiosyncratic reading of the history.

It is a striking feature of the opening sections that Barbeyrac has collapsed all variants of scepticism into their Bayleian form. Even the very different renaissance scepticism of Montaigne and Charron is reproached in the same robust Lockean terms that had been imposed on Bayle.63 For as Barbeyrac makes clear to Desmaizeaux, Bayle's Dictionav had repeated the arguments of these precursors of late seventeenth-century scepticism, and therefore they had to be refuted as well in order to prevent Bayle's positive endorsement from having adverse consequences for moral education.64 While the sections devoted to secular philosophy generally offer a detailed and uncontentious doxographical summary of Greek and Roman moral philosophy, even here Barbeyrac's virtually obsessive concern to score points against Bayle reasserts itself. For instance, Plato's contribution is highly esteemed by Barbeyrac largely because he can be quoted in defence of the cognitive powers of individual human reason against those who make unjustifiable attacks on it.65 Moreover, Barbeyrac cannot resist the temptation to carry on his argument with Bayle within summaries of Greek sects with which Bayle's thought had only the most tenuous links. Bayle appears, for example, as a Cynic as well as a Pyrrhonist.66

Only in the final section of the Science of morality does the discussion part company from Bayle, when Barbeyrac outlines the main stages of the seventeenth-century achievement in natural law, the period when moral science was 'raised again from the Dead'.67 The discussion of Grotius, Selden, and Hobbes is transferred almost without change from Pufendorf's original, and serves to provide the immediate context for Barbeyrac's own edition and a restatement of his conviction that the works of this tradition are those best suited to provide manuals in ethics and politics.

The Science of morality is best seen as akin to the projects of the various journalists and publicists who comprised the republic of letters at this time, and whose ethos was well described by Le Clerc himself when he introduced the first number of his Bibliothique Choisie with the words, 'This work is not for the ignorant nor for the "savants", it is for those who do not have the time to read everything they would like to. It is also for young people just getting a taste for study.'68 But from the first reviewers onwards it was taken to be a much

" See S. Pufendorf, 'De origine et progressu disciplinae juris naturalis', in Specimen Controversiarum circa Ius Naturale ipsi nuper motarum (Uppsala, 1678). For a full list of these Histories of morality and a survey of examples in both French and German see Hochstrasser, Natural law theory, pp. 1-2, 58-66, 20616, 223-38, 260-6, 282-99.

"Barbeyrac, Science of morality, p. 12.

64 Barbeyrac to Desmaizeaux, 22 Dec. I 706: BL Add. MSS 4281, fo. 21.

65 A large extract from the Phaedo is used to back up this point: see Barbeyrac, Science of morality,

P. 6581. 6"bid. p. 58. " Ibid. p. 78.

J. Le Clerc, Prgace, Biblioth2que Choisie, I (1701) (translated in S. A. Golden, Le Clerc (New York, 1972), P. 41).
30~ TIM HOCHSTRASSER

more substantial work eclipsing other student texts; and it even became

commonplace to value the Science of morality more highly than the work which

it prefaced.69

In the fifth edition of the De Oficio in I 718 Barbeyrac added an appendix entitled Jugement gun Anonyme, sur l'original de cet abrege': auec des Rgexions du Traducteur, qui seruiront i! eclaircir quelques princ$es de l'auteur. This excursus largely translated and also sought to rebuff Leibniz's Opinion of the Princ$les of Pufendorf which had been drawn to Barbeyrac's attention two years earlier by his friend J.A. T~rrettini.~'

Bearing in mind the unambiguous endorsement of the powers of reason in the Science of morality and other works, it is most surprising that his defence of Pufendorf's position is so contradictory. Instead of sweeping aside Leibniz's objections to modern natural law theory with a declaration of the omnicompetence of human reason in moral matters, Barbeyrac concedes Leibniz's judgement that a natural law which takes man as its starting point must finish by deriving obligation from the will of a superior, and the will of God in particular:

Je conclus, que les maximes m@me de la Raison, n'ont rien d'obligatoire.. .La question est maintenant de voir, d'oh vient alors l'obligation? si c'est de la VolontC de DIEU, ou de quelque autre chose qui soit en lui.. .Car du moment que l'on a une juste idee de Dieu, on ne peut que reconnaitre le droit qu'il a de mettre telles bornes que bon lui semble aux Facultez qu'il nous a donnees . . .On trouve d'ailleurs dans sa Volonti tout ce qu'il faut pour fonder l'obligation, puis que c'est la Volonte du Maitre de tous les Hommes, & une VolontC toujoQrs d'accord avec toutes les perfections de la Nature Divine. Pourquoi donc chercher quelque autre principe, que celui-18, qui est 8 la portee de tout le monde, & qui suit si naturellement de la relation entre le Cre'ateur & la Cre'ature."

This section of the argument puzzled Martin Hubner, a later natural law theorist, who did not understand why Barbeyrac had to endorse any part of Leibniz's view: 'Le principe que celui-l& [i.e. Barbeyrac] lui donne pour premier fondement sent trop l'autoritC, se trouve insuffisant & trahit le Civiliste. '72 To Hubner, writing in I 758, there was a substantial and perceptible difference between external constraint and moral obligation, which consisted in the difference between sheer force and 'une restriction de la libertC naturelle produite par les motifs que la Raison nous fait ~onnoitre'.~~

Reviewers of Barbeyrac's editions of Pufendorfwho clearly emphasize the value of the books as textbooks that transcended social barriers include, J.Bernard, 'Les Devoirs de l'Homme et du Citoyen', 3ournal des Sgavaw, LIX (I 716), I 10, and J. Le Clerc, 'Article XI : Le Droit de la nature et des gens', Bibliothlque Choisie, rx (1706), 398. General support is also found in unlikely places:

e.g. F.-M. [Arouet] de Voltaire, Oeuvres complites, ed. L. Moland (52 vols., Paris, 1879)~ xxw, 505. (Lettre sur les Franqais a S. A. Mgr, le Prince de **** sur Rabelais et sur d'autres auteurs accusCs d'avoir ma1 parlt de la religion Chrttienne, I 767.)

70 Rathlef (ed.), Geschichte Jet~tlebender Gelehrten, p. 28.
71 Pufendorf, Les devoirs de l'homme, 11, Appendix r, 417-18.
72 M. Hiibner, Essai sur PHistoire du Droit Nature1 (2 vols., London, 1758)~ p. 345.
73 Ibid. p. 347.

3O7 And of course elsewhere in his writings Barbeyrac had made the same distinction. Barbeyrac's inconsistency on this occasion may perhaps be explained by suggesting that Leibniz's unambiguous exposure of the consequences of assuming natural law to be a secular science brought him up against at least two unresolved elements of this theory. One of these was undoubtedly the unresolved position of God in the moral world, which remained remarkably unstable in the moral theory of all early Enlightenment thinkers, and not just those associated with natural jurisprudence. Secondly, Barbeyrac never seems to have wanted to grant the radical political consequences inherent in his concept of human rational self-sufficiency: for, if all men had the capacity to arrive at full and adequate moral concepts for themselves, then it followed that, irrespective of his position in the social order, a man was entitled to take any political action which his political perceptions suggested to him. However, Barbeyrac's conservative practical politics resisted this extrapolation fiercely, and may explain why he was compelled in the face of Leibniz's logic to seek refuge inconsistently behind the authority of a superior to compel obedience: 'When we speak of a Tyrant that may lawfully be dethroned by the People, we do not mean by the People the vile Populace, or Rabble of the Country, nor the Cabal of a small Number of factious Persons; but the greater and more judicious Part of the Subjects of all Ranks in the Kingd~m.'~~

Itwas apparently the Huguenot bourgeoisie who composed the group of morally self- sufficient people, the 'more judicious part'.

This political conservatism in the face of a theory which contained radical implications unsurprisingly rebounded on Barbeyrac in the form of accusations of confused thinking and servile concessions to ab~olutism.~~

However, as we have seen, Barbeyrac's confusion was not theoretically necessary, even if it was, perhaps, biographically inevitable. The power of Leibniz's critique lay precisely in its relentless exposure of the consequences of placing man at the centre of the moral reasoning process. These were consequences that only a few bold spirits, such as Christian Thomasius, could face: in the early years of the eighteenth century editors of Pufendorf tended either to blur the issues or return to a version of Leibniz's common community of justice between God and men.

The latter course was adopted, for instance, by Gershom Carmichael in his edition of the De Oficio, published in 1724.Carmichael had, like Barbeyrac, read Leibniz's assessment of Pufendorf; but unlike him he adjusted his interpretation to accommodate it. Barbeyrac had sought in his discussion of Leibniz to combine divine voluntarism with continued support for Pufendorf's separation of natural law from moral theology. By abandoning this separation Carmichael was not compelled to fall back on the punitive authority of God but was able to rely on the eternal truths vested in the mind of a beneficent

74 Pufendorf, The law of nature and ofnations, book vrr, ch. 8, six, p. 720, note 4.

75 See esp. J.J. Rousseau, The social contract, ed. M. Cranston (Harrnondsworth, 1968), book 11, ch. 2, pp. 71-2.

30~ TIM HOCHSTRASSER God : 'I have taken particular care that the obligations imposed by the law of nature be deduced from the existence, the perfection and the providence of the deity: so that the manifest bond between moral knowledge and natural theology might be clearly exhibited.'76 As Moore and Silverthorne have shown, Carmichael thus returns to the scholastic philosophy of aspiration, desiring unity with the divine essence (Beatitudo)in this life and in the life to come.77 But this stance is as much a repetition of the positive doctrines of Leibniz as it is a self-conscious return to the middle ages, and is indicative of the way in which his particular synthesis of pre-seventeenth-century natural law theory persisted as a powerful alternative to the modern theories of natural law until well into the eighteenth century.78 Ultimately Bayle was correct in supposing that the attempt to create a secular science of morality had had the effect of destabilising existing moral epistemology rather than creating new certainties :

Were reason in agreement with itself, then it would indeed be regrettable that we find it so difficult to reconcile it with some of our articles of faith. But that is not the case. Reason is like a runner who doesn't know that the race is over, or, like Penelope, constantly undoing what it creates ...It is better suited to pulling things down than to building them up, and better at discovering what things are not than what they are."

76 S. Pufendorf, De Oficio Hominis et Civzs iuxta Legem Naturalem, ed. G. Carmichael (Edinburgh, 1724), Greeting to the Reader, p. xvi (translated in J. Moore & M. Silverthorne, 'Gershom Carmichael and the natural jurisprudence tradition in eighteenth century Scotland', in I. Hont & M. Ignatieff (eds.), Wealth and virtue, the shaping ofpolitical economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1983), p. 77,

77 G. Carmichael, Synopsis Theologiae Naturalis (Edinburgh, 1729)) p. 7 (translated in ibid. p. 80).

78 For the continuing relevance of Leibniz to ethical discussion in early eighteenth-century Germany esp, for Wolff and his followers see Hochstrasser, Natural law theory, pp. 222-66.

79 P. Bayle, R+onse aux questions d'unprovincial, 11, cxxxvii (translated in Labrousse, Bayle, p. 61).

Comments
  • Recommend Us