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Adam Smith’s Unfinished Grotius Business, Grotius’s Novel Turn to Ancient Law, and the Genealogical Fallacy

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In this Reply, I argue that pace Knud Haakonssen it is dubious that Adam Smith managed to ‘blow up’ Hugo Grotius’s universalist system of natural jurisprudence. Rather, Smith emerges as a closet rationalist who put forward crypto-normative universalist claims himself and found that he could not in the end improve upon Grotius’s system. Grotius was not seen by Smith as a ‘casuist’ tout court. I try to give an explanation for the tensions introduced into Smith’s work by his incorporation of key aspects of Grotius’s theory of justice. Furthermore, I try to clarify in what regard Grotius should be seen as a novel and original thinker. Lastly, I argue in favor of according ideas and arguments their own weight, against a facile contextualism that is always in danger of falling prey to the genealogical fallacy.

Affiliations: 1: Alberico Gentili Senior Fellow, New York University School of Law Privatdozent, Universität Zürich


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