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October 22, 2008


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Thanks, Al, for touting Stone's fantastic Nimmer lecture. I listened to it as a podcast from the University of Chicago, and I was absolutely riveted.

In fact, it wasn't just the Founders who were interested in removing religion as a justificatory tenent for the particular details of socio-political association. This concern was fundamental to the entire natural rights project in the seventeenth century. The work of Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf is steeped with a substantive and aspirational goal of distinguishing natural law from divine law. From Grotius' "heretical hypothesis" -- in which he hypothetically posited that the natural law would exist and would require the protection of natural rights even if God did not exist -- to Pufendorf's "separation thesis" -- in which he explicit distinguished natural law from divine law along 6 axes of analysis -- the general theme of natural rights philosophy was to remove religion as an animating normative claim in political discourse. They succeeded in shifting the political discourse to reason and natural rights, with only a meta-ethical foundation in God as a deistic Creator of "man," and thus was born the Founders' vision of America.

Great stuff, and I think Stone does an admirable job at situating the Founders in their intellectual and historical context.

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