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Barbeyrac's republication of and commentary on Leibniz' attack on Pufendorf's natural-law doctrine is often seen as symptomatic of the failure of all three early moderns to solve a particular moral-philosophical problem: that of the relationship between civil authority and morality. Making use of the first English translation of Barbeyrac's work, this article departs from the usual view by arguing that here we are confronted by three conflicting constructions of civil obligation, arising not from the common intellectual terrain of moral philosophy, but from divergent religious and political cultures. If this approach makes the three constructions less susceptible to theoretical reconciliation, then it opens them to a more revealing historical investigation, in terms of the particular religious and political circumstances in which they arose, and which they were designed to address. The result is that these early modern struggles over the nature of civil obligation confront us again as unfinished historical business.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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