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Natural Law and War – Focusing on the Law of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius

EungJong Kim 1

1충남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article aims to analyze the idea of Hugo Grotius. In the history of the natural law, he is considered as the father of the modern natural law, for he liberated the natural law from the shadow of the medieval theology. As the medieval natural law theorists thought the origin of the natural law to be the divine law, they didn’t apply the natural law to the American Indians and the Asians who were non-Christians. But the modern natural law of Hugo Grotius applied it to these kinds of people. Grotius inherited the traditional ‘just war’ theories, and extended them by the natural law theory. It was not the Christianity but the natural law that justified the frequent wars in the modern era. Focusing on this side, some scholars judge Grotius to be belligerent. This judgment is the result of stressing the “natural right” of the war described in the first part of the Law of War and Peace. The second part of this book is focused on the “natural law” of the war, which controls the natural rights and keeps strict guard over the unjust wars and the unjust means of war. The intention of Grotius being in the second part of the book, this article regards him not as a belligerent natural law theorist but as a pacifistic natural law theorist. Grotius sought to control the unjust wars by means of the natural law, but contrary to his intention, the natural law was used to justify the contemporary colonial wars. For the natural law didn’t have any legal power in the international affairs. Emmanuel Kant denounced him as “a sorry comforter” in his “Toward the eternal peace” in 1795. But it is undeniable that Kant who was enthusiastic about the French Revolutionary war and Napoleon was another sorry comforter. Even though the natural law failed to bring peace, the pacifistic intention of Hugo Grotius should not be neglected.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.