Hutcheson’s critique of Pufendorf was sweeping and far-reaching and must have been exhilarating for his students. Was it enough to say that human beings behave sociably simply because they fear the sovereign or the deity? Surely true and lasting sociability must have deeper roots in the principles of human nature than the selfish, prudential and always opportunistic instincts about which Pufendorf had written. And was it really true, as Pufendorf claimed, that the authority of our parents or masters or sovereigns was based on a series of contracts? Did this not represent a perilously narrow and selective view of human nature and the civilizing process? And, worse still, was it not a view of human nature that had been distorted at every level by grim theological assumptions about the corruption of human nature? In a so-called ‘scientific’ age, wasn’t there a need, as one of Pufendorf’s sharpest editors, Jean Barbyrac, put it, for a new science of morality, which placed the study of human nature and the principles of sociability on empirical foundations? Was it not time for an account of the principles on which political society and government were based that would suit the needs of a civilization which had moved far beyond the insecurities of a Pufendorfian world and was in the process of being transformed by commerce?

Phillipson, Nicholas (2010). Adam Smith (pp. 45-46). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


As with Hobbes, the seeds of a very conservative, authoritarian view of social life and the political order flower into a series of political ideas which are much less so.  What Hobbes and Pufendorf contribute to this mix then is their, well, naturalistic/materialistic (in the philosophical sense) notions of human nature.  Plus their ideas are quite bound to the context of their times (the wars of religion in Germany, etc. for Pufendorf and the English Civil War for Hobbes).

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