Global justice and regional metaphysics: On the critical history of the law of nature and nations

Early modern natural law and the law of nations has been criticised for the Eurocentric character of its conception of law and justice, which has been in turn linked to its role in providing an ideological justification for European imperialism and colonialism. In questioning this account, the present chapter begins by noting that this historical critique presumes that a non-Eurocentric conception of law and justice was in principle available to the early moderns, which they culpably ignored for ideological reasons. If such a non-Eurocentric conception was not available, though, then we will have to acknowledge that the early modern law of nature and nations was actually far more profoundly Eurocentric than even its most strident postcolonial critics have grasped. If the early modern law of nature and nations turns out to be wholly within the horizon of European cultures and designed to address fundamentally European political and religious problems, then its colonial uses might turn out to be both less central and less culpable than is presumed by postcolonial critique. These are the revisionist questions that the chapter explores
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