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Vattel’s Natural Liberty of Conscience of Nations in a New Age of Belief and Faith

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Chapter Summary

Modern international law theory does not directly broach the issue of international legal personality, except formally to delimit the legal competences of so-called legal subjects through an international legal order. In Vattel's theory of sovereignty this could not be more obvious. He treats as virtually absolute the authority of the individual legal subject, the nation, to interpret its obligations as its conscience dictates. Vattel does not simply leave us with a doctrine of the virtually absolute discretion of the chief legal subject to determine the extent of its international obligations. He also clearly presents an anthropology of the nation as a legal subject, which says that there is built into every subject a desire to grow in power, and that such a growth is inevitably and automatically a threat to other powers.

Keywords: international law; Vattel



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