The Necessity of the Absolute or Absolute Necessity? On the First Attempts to Search for the Foundations of Natural Rights

Marcin Merkwa


The basic aim of the article is to prove the thesis that the modern understanding of natural rights is based on considerations initiated in the late Middle Ages, which, focused on the issue of the origin of individual rights, made it possible in the early modern period to connect the idea in question with the issue of the subject. The first part of the paper indicates that for the considerations concerning inalienable rights of the individual, the key issue was to determine their source. The author presents concepts which, to a greater or lesser extent, emphasised not only the role of God, but also the properties of the human being. In particular, attention was paid to the role of the subject in Ockham’s theory. These analyses made it possible, in the second part, to show Grotius’ work as the fullest expression of the late medieval tradition and to demonstrate that the modern conception of natural rights in its subjective character is based on those doctrines which emphasise the “natural necessity” of the existence of individual rights.


natural rights; Ockham’s theory; Grotius; inalienable rights of the individual



Copleston F., Historia filozofii, vol. 3: Od Ockhama do Suáreza, transl. H. Bednarek, S. Zalewski, Warszawa 2001.

Crowe M.B., The “Impious Hypothesis”: A Paradox in Hugo Grotius?, “Tijdschrift voor Filosofie” 1976, no. 3.

Dennet D., Odczarowanie. Religia jako zjawisko naturalne, transl. and introduction B. Stanosz, Warszawa 2008.

Dubel L., Koncepcja władzy prawodawczej Marsyliusza z Padwy, [in:] Konstytucyjny ustrój państwa. Księga jubileuszowa Profesora Wieslawa Skrzydły, eds. T. Bojarski, E. Gdulewicz, J. Szreniawski, Lublin 2000.

Freeman M., Prawa człowieka, transl. M. Fronia, Warszawa 2007.

Goyard-Fabre S., Metamorphosis of the Idea of Right in Thomas Hobbe’s Philosophy, [in:] Hobbes’s ‘Science of Natural Justice’, eds. C. Walton, P.J. Johnson, Dordrecht–Boston–Lancaster 1987.

Grocjusz H., Trzy księgi o prawie wojny i pokoju, transl. and introduction R. Bierzanek, Warszawa 1957.

Grotius H., Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty, transl. G.L. Williams, vol. 1, Oxford–London 1950.

Haakonssen K., Hugo Grotius and the History of Political Though, “Political Theory” 1985, vol. 13(2).

Hobbes T., Lewiatan, czyli materia, forma i władza państwa kościelnego i świeckiego, transl. C. Znamierowski, Warszawa 2009.

Jaskólski M., Organizm a mechanizm. Zmienność pojęcia natury i jej praw, [in:] 13 różnych esejów, Warszawa 2013.

Lisska A.J., Aquinas’s Theory of Natural Law: An Analytic Reconstruction, New York 2002.

Mäkinen V., The Franciscan Background of Early Modern Rights Discussion: Rights of Property and Subsistence, [in:] Moral Philosophy on the Threshold of Modernity, eds. J. Kraye, R. Saarinen, Dordrecht 2005.

Merkwa M., U źródeł idei praw człowieka. Kształtowanie prawnych i filozoficznych podstaw koncepcji praw człowieka, Lublin 2018.

Ockham W., A Letter to the Friars Minor and Others Writings, eds. A.S. McGrade, J. Kilcullen, Cambridge 2001.

Quillet J., Community, counsel and representation, [in:] The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought c. 350 – c. 1450, ed. J.H. Burns, New York 2008.

Shapiro I., The Evolution of Rights in Liberal Theory, New York 1986.

Tierney B., The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law 1150–1625, Cambridge 2001.

Tuck R., Natural Rights Theories: Their Origin and Development, Cambridge–New York–Oakleigh 2002.


Finnis J., Aquinas’ Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy, [in:] The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, [access: 30.12.2020].

Van Duffel S., Robinson J., Ockham’ Theory of Natural Rights, [access: 10.09.2021].

Data publikacji: 2021-12-17 19:45:31
Data złożenia artykułu: 2019-10-18 10:53:59


Total abstract view - 589
Downloads (from 2020-06-17) - PDF - 0 PDF (Język Polski) - 0



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Marcin Merkwa

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.