Pufendorf, Samuel, Baron von

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Pufendorf, Samuel, Baron von

Samuel Pufendorf, Baron von (zä´mōōĕl bärôn´ fən pōō´fəndôrf), 1632–94, German jurist and historian. He is especially noted as an early theorist of international law. Educated in the works of Thomas Hobbes and Hugo Grotius, Pufendorf maintained that the law of nations is a branch of natural law, and that to treat it as positive law (i.e., law decreed by humans) is erroneous. His conception of natural law was based on the notion of humans as social animals, and he argued that each individual had the right to equality and freedom. The natural relations of nations (as of men) are peaceable, and war is justified only to punish an infraction of international law after attempts at pacific redress have failed. He supported the right of the state power over any ecclesiastical claim for secular authority, and his work on this subject became the foundation of church and state relations in 18th-century Germany. These views are developed in his Elementa jurisprudentiae universalis [elements of universal jurisprudence] (1661), De jure naturae et gentium [on the law of nature and of nations] (1672), and in De habitu religionis Christianae ad vitam civilem [of the power of the Christian religion in relation to the life of a citizen] (1687). His chief historical work was De statu imperii Germanici [on the condition of the German Empire] (1667), in which he described Germany as a monstrous aggregate lacking a strong imperial power. Pufendorf taught jurisprudence at the universities of Heidelberg (1661–68) and Lund, in Sweden (1668–77). In his later years, he served as royal historiographer at Stockholm and Berlin.

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