Vanderbilt Law Review


Clarence Morris

First Page



This paper is about an important facet of the justice theories of four eighteenth century European philosophers. The earliest of the four, Hume, thought justice and law were purely human inventions. The next, Montesquieu, said that justice preceded laws because possible relations of justice existed before human ordinances were enacted, and that man, who lives peacefully in the state of nature, invents unjust exploitation after he enters a state of society. Then followed Rousseau who pronounced that contemporary governments had enchained freedom and subverted justice, and whenever a just government did come to power its excellence was doomed to fade. For the fourth, Kant, justice was part of human rationality achieved whenever and wherever pure practical reason freed men's wills. 'A fifth jurisprudential great, Bentham, whose life spanned the close of the century, lumped injustice with all other pains and had no theory of justice-as-such. His views, however, are closely allied in an important way to the earlier four and he too will come in for discussion.