Montesquieu Seminar 1965 by Leo Strauss

By Leo Strauss

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The second chapter deals with the natural laws. The natural laws are only these simple things which are the basic inclinations of man which he shares with the brutes, not more. But the question—if this is of course normative, as all law is—[about] the rule regarding the law of nations, the question is, of course, how is this derived from the natural law as discussed in the preceding chapter? Well if we assume it’s a fundamental principle43 [is] self preservation, and this is of course universally true, of every human being, then this would follow.

The angels are tacitly dropped. Now there is one very simple thing: if you drop the angels altogether, the intelligence superior to men, you get this order: God, the material world (as the base of everything else), brutes, and men. Then it becomes ordered. So the disorder, considered, leads to the order. Now this is all I want to say about the first chapter. The chapter is unintelligible if one does not consider the fact that, in discussing the law in general, Montesquieu has to discuss the theological problem.

Mr. ”xvi LS: Yes. That is good. But the question is, if this is so, can natural law survive the state of nature, if they are so radically different? What would you say? Since natural law is relative to the state of nature, and since the state of nature is abolished by the establishment of society, does not the law of nature also fall down? Student: . . LS: Yes for example? Yes, Mr. Moulton. Mr. Moulton: I had a question about the laws of nature being exclusively the province of the state of nature.

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