a1 The Johns Hopkins University
The ‘modern’ natural law philosophers of the seventeenth century believed that conflict was an unavoidable concomitant of human intercourse, rooted in our nature. They understood the normative laws of nature as serving the purpose of setting the limits within which conflict is compatible with lasting social cooperation, thus showing, in effect, how warfare can be turned into competition. The natural lawyers were interested primarily in legal and political problems, not in ethics. But in order to provide reasoned approaches to immediate practical issues, they had to move to a level of abstract theorizing at which philosophical claims about morality were unavoidable. Natural law theory with its understanding of the central underlying problem of human sociability dominated seventeenth-century practical philosophy, and the solutions its various proponents offered generated many of the central concerns of what we know as moral philosophy.