Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili
Chapter 4: The Origins of Consensual Positivism – Pufendorf, Wolff and Vattel
Alexander Orakhelashvili 4.1 THE RELEVANCE OF PUFENDORF, WOLFF AND VATTEL This chapter will focus on three major thinkers to whose scholarly contribution consensual positivism as a doctrine owes its existence: Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694), Christian Wolff (1679–1754) and Emer de Vattel (1714–1767). It was the discourse led by these authors, in the context of which the crucial relevance of the consensual imperative for international law became obvious, much as not all of them can be described as consensual positivists proper. It is intended here to focus on principal points of analysis these authors made in relation to nature, sources and operation of international law; to demonstrate the influence of these authors on the current state of the international legal system and try to delimit, in relation to their doctrines, the doctrinal postulation of particular legal principles from the discernment of the actual state and essence of international law. Pufendorf, Wolff and Vattel conducted their scholarly analysis in the context where Hugo Grotius had already made his major contributions to the scholarship of international law. As explained, Grotius secularised natural law by divorcing it from moral theology and placing it on a secular basis.1 Pufendorf, it is said, was to Grotius what the system-raiser is to the inventor.2 It is also suggested that Vattel was arguably the first man to join in a single system the concepts of natural society of nations and of nations at full liberty. This is where the difference between Wolff and Vattel lies. As...
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