Pierre-Marie Morel

At the Roots of Contractualism. The Epicurean Conception of Justice, Between Nature and Convention

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Keywords: Epicureanism; Justice; Nature; Convention; Contract.

The Epicurean concept of Nature, while used in several ways by the Epicureans themselves, must be regarded as a technical term. Indeed, its apparently equivocal meaning reveals its richness. The particular case of what is just (in human laws and political institutions) usefully sheds light on this: what is «by nature» is not only what exists at the very beginning without any modification due to human activities, but also what is in accordance with what is useful to a naturally existing structure. Now, the notion (or preconception) of what is useful to a community is the criterion according to which good statesmen work out social rules and contracts. Consequently, there is no contradiction between naturalism and contractualism, nature and convention.

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