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Contemporary philosophers sometimes present the complex relationships that can exist between permission, precept and prohibition within a given structure of law in a language of symbolic logic or in illustrative diagrams. Other modern scholars have pointed out that early formulations of the basic ideas they employ can be found in writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including Leibnitz and Bentham and, especially, the German jurist Gottfried Achenwall. This article shows that the same structure of ideas was included centuries earlier in the work of Marsilius of Padua, and that his argument too can be presented as a modern 'deontic hexagon'. It concludes with a discussion of how Marsilius' engagement with the contemporary dispute over Franciscan poverty helped to shape his teaching in this area.

Keywords: Decretists; Deontic hexagon; Deontic logic; Franciscan poverty; Marsilius of Padua; indifferent acts; natural law; natural rights; permission and obligation; permissive law; precepts and prohibitions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Emeritus Professor, Cornell University, 450 McGraw Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-4601., Email:

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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