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John Schaeffer
Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL 60115-2828)
Vico on Natural Law: Sensus Communis, Rhetoric, and Religion

My project will show how Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) provides a new model of natural law. Vico's concept of natural law 1) historicizes human nature itself, showing that human rationality is a product of long historical development, while received ideas of natural law assume that human nature and human reason are universal and historical constants; 2) is based on a plausible social contract, itself based on force, that established inequality in human society which human beings try to remedy with political speech, while the received natural law tradition posits a fictional social contract based on the free assent of all parties; 3) provides a model of development from religion to secularity rather than assumes that religion and secularity are absolute and mutually exclusive; 4) historicizes natural law rather than seeing it as a trans-cultural, trans-historical moral absolute.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Philosophy, General

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2010 – 7/31/2011