Nature in Progress – Tocqueville and the Transformation of Natural Law
Słowa kluczoweAlexis de Tocqueville, Hugo Grotius, Hayden White, natural law, idea of progress
Hayden White famously claimed that Tocqueville’s emplotment of history was „tragic” by genre, and his ideological implications were „radical”. The aim of this paper is to argue that this interpretation is correct, but that our arguments will be based on a subject entirely ignored by White: Tocqueville’s meagre scarce remarks on nature and natural law. According to their commonsensical definition, natural laws must „stem from God, nature, or reason”, but this relationship in Tocqueville is highly problematic. As I intend to prove, Tocqueville probably did acknowledge the existence of natural laws, and even intended to describe their resulting obligations (as in the case of what virtuous deeds are, or what humanity is etc.), but the way he defined nature herself suggests that the precise content of such obligations cannot be settled easily. Hence, according to our claim, a disturbing tension can be observed between the way Tocqueville attempted to describe certain natural laws, and the way he defined natural laws in general. Furthermore, this tension is analogous with the aforementioned friction between the author’s personal convictions and his scientific conclusions.
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Prawa autorskie (c) 2021 Ádám Smrcz
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