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(2012) Law, order and freedom, Dordrecht, Springer.

Antiquity and the middle ages

Cees Maris, Frans Jacobs

pp. 43-90

Chapter 2 traces the developments in philosophy from the pre-Socratic thinkers to the end of the Middle Ages, that is, from ca. 600 BC to ca. 1500 AD. It presents the philosophies of the pre-Socratics, the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoa, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham and Marsilius of Padua. In doing so, it sets out the worldview of the classical period and the Middle Ages, which presupposed a coherent unity and purpose in the universe. In the Greek-Roman period and in the Middle Ages people took for granted that behind the phenomenal world within which man leads his everyday life, a higher spiritual order is concealed. This spiritual world gives unity and meaning to empirical reality. Since the empirical world is viewed as an imperfect materialisation of the spiritual world, the latter serves as the standard by which to perfect the former. According to this idealistic worldview, the good is thus objectively present in (the higher sphere of) nature. This implies a broad, perfectionist concept of ethics, which commands man to align himself fully with an ideal of perfection. (Natural) Law, in this view, serves to enforce compliance with this perfectionist morality, and thus to ensure that man lives in accordance with his essential nature. Such a perfectionist ethics does not make provision for any individual freedom to arrange one's life according to one's own convictions. How one must live as man is after all objectively determined in nature, and is not left to individual choice. In this conception there is, therefore, no place for liberal freedom rights. The chapter furthermore shows the development towards the end of the Middle Ages which prepared the ground for the Modern Age, characterised by increasing fragmentation, individualisation and relativisation.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-1457-1_2

Full citation:

Maris, C. , Jacobs, F. (2012)., Antiquity and the middle ages, in C. Maris & F. Jacobs (eds.), Law, order and freedom, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 43-90.

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