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Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence

Samuel Pufendorf

Publication Year: 2012

Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence was Pufendorf’s first work, published in 1660. Its appearance effectively inaugurated the modern natural-law movement in the German-speaking world. The work also established Pufendorf as a key figure and laid the foundations for his major works, which were to sweep across Europe and North America.

Elements of Universal Jurisprudence established Pufendorf’s political theory, which, when fully developed, became the most significant alternative to rights-based theories. Pufendorf rejected the concept of natural rights as liberties and the suggestion that political government is justified by its protection of such rights, arguing instead for a principled limit to the state’s role in human life. The Liberty Fund edition is based on the translation by William Abbott Oldfather prepared for the Classics of International Law series published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) was one of the most important figures in early-modern political thought. An exact contemporary of Locke and Spinoza, he transformed the natural law theories of Grotius and Hobbes, developed striking ideas of toleration and of the relationship between church and state, and wrote extensive political histories and analyses of the constitution of the German empire.

Thomas Behme is a member of the Institute for Philosophy at the Free University of Berlin.

William Abbott Oldfather (1880–1945) was Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvii

Pufendorf ’s earliest work, the Elementorum jurisprudentiae universalis libri II (Two Books on the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence ) marks the starting-point of his career as a lecturer on natural law and of the emergence of the modern natural-law tradition in Germany. Dedicated to Karl...

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A Note on the Text

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pp. xix-xx

During Pufendorf ’s lifetime seven editions of the Latin text appeared: The Hague 1660, Jena 1660, Zwickau 1668, Jena 1669, Cambridge 1672, Frankfurt and Jena 1680, and Frankfurt 1694. The only modern translation is the English byWilliam Abbott Oldfather based on the text of the Cambridge...


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pp. xxi-xxii

The Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence


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pp. 3-5

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pp. 7-12

The science of law and equity, which is not comprehended in the laws of any single state, but by virtue of which the duties of all men whatsoever toward one another are governed, has hitherto not been cultivated, to the extent that its necessity and dignity demanded, by those who have extolled...

Index of Definitions, Axioms, and Observations

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pp. 13-16

Book I

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pp. 17

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Definition 1

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pp. 19-23

1.We call voluntary actions those actions placed within the power of man, which depend upon the will, as upon a free cause, in such wise that, without its decision setting forth from the same man’s actions as elicited by previous cognition of the intellect, they would not come to pass; and...

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Definition 2

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pp. 24-25

1. In the next place, this object itself partakes of the designation of morality, and, considered in this respect, is itself also called moral. Concerning this in general it must be noted that its morality depends on imposition, that is, on the decision of free agents as such, and these free agents either of their...

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Definition 3

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pp. 26-38

1. Status is called a suppositive entity because it is made the basis, as it were, of positive moral affairs, so that on it they rest such moral existence as they have, and erect their actions and their effects. And thus it has a certain analogy with space, because space is likewise made the basis, as it...

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Definition 4

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pp. 39-42

1. This is the most general definition of a moral person. Otherwise, primarily among the jurisconsults, a person is said to be that which possesses a civil condition [caput ], that is, personal liberty; a signification by which slaves are listed under things. Now moral persons can be considered either...

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Definition 5

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pp. 43-85

1. The respect of pertinence, considered indeterminately and absolutely, as it is the formal reason for moral things, is either affirmative or negative. Affirmative respect extends to proprietorship and common ownership, whence moral things are called proper or common; negative respect is...

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Definition 6

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pp. 86

1. Titles have primarily a twofold distinction. Some mark directly the intensifying of the esteem of persons in communal life, or their peculiar qualities, and connote and suggest their status more clearly or more obscurely in proportion as that title is wont to be granted to one status or to...

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Definition 7

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pp. 87-90

1. Authority, as it here comes into consideration, is either perfect or imperfect. It is the former when he who interferes with its exercise violently and illegally does wrong (which happens when that authority does not depend upon his own will), and it is this authority which gives the injured...

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Definition 8

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pp. 91-93

1. In addition to those meanings by which the word right ( jus ) is used for law, and for a complex or system of homogeneous laws, as also for a judicial sentence, or the sentence of laws applied to deeds, for example, when we say that the praetor renders judgement ( jus ), or the jurisconsult answers...

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Definition 9

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pp. 94-97

1. Esteem of persons in communal life is either simple or intensive. The former is considered either outside of states or inside the same. Simple esteem of a man outside a state consists in this, that he is regarded as the kind of person with whom, as with a man who observes the law of nature, it...

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Definition 10

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pp. 98-102

1. The most natural foundation of worth in things is their ability to exhibit some use in communal life.1 Hence things which are utterly useless we are accustomed commonly to call worthless. Now the use of a certain thing is defined not merely from the circumstance that it truly helps to preserve or...

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Definition 11

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pp. 103-106

1. The principles of an action are either disposing principles, by which it is merely begun, or efficient and deciding principles, by which a human action is brought to act. Disposing principles are: (1) Moving principles, in part indirectly and...

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Definition 12

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pp. 107-201

1. With this definition agrees that common one of the jurisconsults in which they define obligation as a bond of right whereby we are bound by the necessity of furnishing something.1 For it places, as it were, a kind of...

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Definition 13

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pp. 202-228

1. At the outset, a law is to be accurately distinguished from those things which seem to be related to it in a certain way, and so are confused by some persons with it, I mean, a word of counsel, a pact, and a right.1 Now a law...

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Definition 14

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pp. 229-232

1. In man the power to act is twofold. One is the natural power to act, through which he is able by his natural strength to perform an action, or to neglect it, without considering whether it be right or not. Thus men are able in fact to do things forbidden by laws, and to neglect their precepts...

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Definition 15

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pp. 233-234

1. Affections are directly regarded in the actions themselves, just as the effects are regarded directly either in the objects, or in the agent himself. Now those affections are either denominative, or else determinative, or, in other words, estimative. The former are the qualities by which actions are...

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Definition 16

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pp. 235-238

1. The formal character of goodness and badness consists in a bearing, or in other words, a determinative relation to a directive norm which we call a law (by this we always understand here a law which necessitates, not permits, and, if it be a human law, one which is not repugnant to divine right)...

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Definition 17

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pp. 239-246

1. Justice can be considered in a twofold aspect, as it denotes either the person, or the action. On the basis of the former kind of justice, he alone deserves the designation just, who has maintained a constant and perpetual will to give each man what is due him;1 on the basis of the latter kind of...

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Definition 18

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pp. 247-265

1. Moral actions are estimated either absolutely and in themselves, or relatively and in comparison with one another. In an absolute estimate of a moral action, and especially of a good one, speaking precisely and quasigeometrically, there is no degree; but goodness itself consists, as it were, in...

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Definition 19

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p. 266-266

1. We are here considering primarily the effect of good and bad actions as such, and this is either formal or material; and again, the former is either internal or external. The internal effect of a good action is the approbation of conscience which follows, and gives itself sweet joy in the recollection...

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Definition 20

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pp. 267-268

1. The foundation and, as it were, the fountain head of merit, is the performance of a work not owed, or, in other words, to receiving which at our hands the other person, for whose sake the deed was done, had nojust claim. For, if I furnish the other person merely that which I am thoroughly bound...

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Definition 21

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pp. 269-279

1. In any misdeeds whatsoever, at all events those which terminate in another person, there are found two things, the defect itself, or the divergence from the norm of law according to execution or intention, and the damage done, directly or indirectly, to a second person thereby. It is our task here...

Book II

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pp. 281

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Axiom 1

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pp. 283-294

1. Nowthat we have thrown light, in our first book, according to the scheme of our plan, upon the definitions of matters contained in Universal Jurisprudence, the next step is, in this book, to look into the principles to which in juridical demonstrations one ultimately ascends. Therefore, in addition...

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Axiom 2

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pp. 295-297

1. That a man can conform his actions to a definite norm is due to the fact that he has received as his lot from nature such a mind as does not necessarily act always in one way, but may be turned to either side of a contradiction. But, that he is also bound to it, comes from the circumstance that, aside...

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Observation 1

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pp. 298-305

1. In man there are, as it were, two faculties of the intellect, which it exerts in the case of voluntary actions, the representative faculty, and the judicative. By the former the object is placed before the will as in a mirror, and there is displayed the character of the good which is in it. Since this faculty...

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Observation 2

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pp. 306-314

1. Since man was to be made by the Creator an animal to be governed by laws, he had to have a will as an internal moderator of his actions, to wit, in order that, when objects had been placed before him and recognized, he might move himself towards them from an intrinsic principle, without...

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Observation 3

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pp. 315-322

1. Man has this in common with all living things to whom it has been given to realize their own existence, that he loves himself most, is zealous to protect himself in every way, and strives to acquire the things which seem good to him, and to repel the evil. And commonly, indeed, this love of each man...

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Observation 4

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pp. 323-366

1. Although, when man comes into the light of day, his mind is found to be imbued with no knowledge of affairs, nevertheless, his intellect thus disposed God has so shaped that, after his powers have begun to exert themselves simultaneously with advancing years, from the inspection of natural...

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Observation 5

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pp. 367-398

1. Although all the precepts of the law of nature which flowfrom the second fundamental law tend to the cultivation of a peaceful society among men, without the infliction of injuries upon one another; nevertheless, many causes are found for those precepts not being directly sufficient to produce...

Bibliography of Works Cited in the Introduction and Notes

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pp. 399-406


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pp. 407-425

Publication Information

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pp. 426

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878537
E-ISBN-10: 1614878536
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865976207

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2012