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Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment$
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Jon Parkin and Timothy Stanton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265406

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265406.001.0001

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Samuel Pufendorf and Religious Intolerance in the Early Enlightenment

Samuel Pufendorf and Religious Intolerance in the Early Enlightenment

(p.15) 2 Samuel Pufendorf and Religious Intolerance in the Early Enlightenment
Natural Law and Toleration in the Early Enlightenment

Thomas Ahnert

British Academy

This chapter examines the German jurist and philosopher Samuel Pufendorf as a theorist of religious intolerance. Usually, Pufendorf is associated with the defence of some degree of religious toleration. He was a strong critic of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV, and it is often argued that Pufendorf intended to deconfessionalize politics by using his natural law theory to separate secular affairs of state from theological controversies over revealed religion. At the same time, however, Pufendorf has seemed a very inconsistent advocate of religious toleration, one who, on occasion, was willing to endorse religious intolerance. The chapter shows that Pufendorf's views are not as inconsistent as they might appear to be. He did not intend to deconfessionalize politics. He was not a principled defender of religious toleration. And the importance of his theory of natural law for his ideas on religious toleration is actually very limited.

Keywords:   natural law, religious intolerance, toleration, deconfessionalization, Samuel Pufendorf, Germany, Enlightenment

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