Liberty and the Normative Force of the Law in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.

Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy 14:36-65 (2010)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The aim of this essay is explore what demands living in liberty places on citizens in Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws. In contrast to the ideas of liberty from many of the thinkers that were to follow him, Montesquieu’s notion of liberty requires that citizens subject themselves to the regulative relationships required by his normative conception of the law. For Montesquieu, living in liberty is not just a situation in which one avoids what the law forbids and is otherwise left ’free’ without interference and coercion. For Montesquieu, liberty is a positively elaborated ideal with normative demands and a set of “necessary relations” that citizens must form. The result is that a life of liberty is defined in a significant way by the laws that bind a citizen because liberty is not the freedom to construct different ways of life, but the freedom to live securely within a particular way of life. I highlight this overlooked feature of The Spirit of the Laws by mobilizing Aron, Althusser and Durkheim’s work on the law in Montesquieu to draw out the implications of Montesquieu’s notion of law for liberty.



External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Montesquieu on moderation, monarchy and reform.Andrea Radasanu - 2010 - History of Political Thought 31 (2):283-308.
Montesquieu: Critique of republicanism?Céline Spector - 2003 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 6 (1):38-53.
History and the human soul in Montesquieu.Sharon Krause - 2003 - History of Political Thought 24 (2):235-261.
The spirit of the laws.Charles Secondat Montesquiedeu - 1989 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Anne M. Cohler, Basia Carolyn Miller & Harold Samuel Stone.
A commentary and review of Montesquieu's spirit of laws: prepared for press from the original.Comte Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy - 1811 - Clark, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange. Edited by Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat Condorcedet, Helvétius & Thomas Jefferson.
Laws, passion, and the attractions of right action in Montesquieu.Sharon R. Krause - 2006 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (2):211-230.


Added to PP

610 (#19,804)

6 months
35 (#60,688)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Cory Wimberly
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws.Charles de Secondat Montesquieu & Thomas Nugent - 1989 - London: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Thomas Nugent & J. V. Prichard.
The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism.Todd May - 1994 - Pennsylvania State University Press.
Queering Freedom.Shannon Winnubst (ed.) - 2006 - Indiana University Press.
The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism.Todd May - 1994 - Pennsylvania State University Press.

View all 10 references / Add more references