The light of conscience: Jean Barbeyrac on moral, civil and religious authority

Bisset, Sophie (2012) The light of conscience: Jean Barbeyrac on moral, civil and religious authority. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Jean Barbeyrac (1674-1744) is best known for his annotated French translations of the
natural law treatises of Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf and Richard Cumberland and
has generally been understood through the prism of his interpretations of these.
However, not only was he in fact an independent natural law thinker, who drew
eclectically from a vast array of authors, synthesising their ideas to construct his own
distinct theory; he also wrote extensively on morals and politics in other genres, works
that have received very little attention and never been seen in their coherence with his
natural law ideas. This thesis considers Barbeyrac as a thinker in his own right, drawing
together all of his major and many of his minor works and situating them within a
number of the wider contexts Barbeyrac inhabited: namely, as a Huguenot refugié, a
member of the Republic of Letters and a professional academician.

Barbeyrac’s central concern was the relationship between moral, civil and religious
authority, and the core of his solution was a comprehensive concept of conscience that
unified and naturalised man’s moral and religious duties and served as the source of
authoritative moral judgement. The first three chapters of the dissertation focus on the
structure of his natural law theory, arguing that the attempt to establish conscience as a
comprehensive faculty of moral judgement caused intractable philosophical tensions,
reflected in his innovative but inchoate theory of permissive natural law. The final two
chapters extend this analysis beyond Barbeyrac’s natural law, arguing that despite his
efforts to balance the potentially competing demands that arise when the authority of
conscience comes into conflict with other sources of moral authority, namely
ecclesiastical and civil, Barbeyrac had to insist that, ultimately, individuals must uphold
the first and principal duty of natural law to follow the light of conscience.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > History
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
K Law > KZ Law of Nations > KZ1329 Early/Medieval development to ca. 1900. Ius Naturae et Gentium > KZ2260.B37 Barbeyrac, Jean, 1674-1744
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 13:09
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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