James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair, on Legal Normativity

Jaffro, L. (2020). James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair, on Legal Normativity. In A. Broadie (ed.), Scottish Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 140-157. https://www.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198769842.003.0009

The chapter concentrates on Stair’s understanding of laws, whether human-made or divine. Scots law is a particular application of a rational legislation, which ultimately rests upon God’s perfections. However, positive law cannot be entirely derived from natural law, mainly because of the Fall and also for pragmatic reasons. One important aspect of Stair’s contribution to legal and moral philosophy is his distinction between conventional and obediential obligations (from the will of God only), and his account of the principle of ‘engagement’ at work in conventional obligations. Also, Stair’s view that a promise is binding per se, without acceptance by the promisee, deserves attention.