Conrad Summenhart's theory of individual rights and its medieval background

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-92-5167-4
Title: Conrad Summenhart's theory of individual rights and its medieval background
Author: Varkemaa, Jussi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology, Department of Systematic Theology
Publisher: Jussi Varkemaa
Date: 2009-03-14
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-92-5167-4
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/21618
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This study focuses on the theory of individual rights that the German theologian Conrad Summenhart (1455-1502) explicated in his massive work Opus septipartitum de contractibus pro foro conscientiae et theologico. The central question to be studied is: How does Summenhart understand the concept of an individual right and its immediate implications? The basic premiss of this study is that in Opus septipartitum Summenhart composed a comprehensive theory of individual rights as a contribution to the on-going medieval discourse on rights. With this rationale, the first part of the study concentrates on earlier discussions on rights as the background for Summenhart s theory. Special attention is paid to language in which right was defined in terms of power . In the fourteenth century writers like Hervaeus Natalis and William Ockham maintained that right signifies power by which the right-holder can to use material things licitly. It will also be shown how the attempts to describe what is meant by the term right became more specified and cultivated. Gerson followed the implications that the term power had in natural philosophy and attributed rights to animals and other creatures. To secure right as a normative concept, Gerson utilized the ancient ius suum cuique-principle of justice and introduced a definition in which right was seen as derived from justice. The latter part of this study makes effort to reconstructing Summenhart s theory of individual rights in three sections. The first section clarifies Summenhart s discussion of the right of the individual or the concept of an individual right. Summenhart specified Gerson s description of right as power, taking further use of the language of natural philosophy. In this respect, Summenhart s theory managed to bring an end to a particular continuity of thought that was centered upon a view in which right was understood to signify power to licit action. Perhaps the most significant feature of Summenhart s discussion was the way he explicated the implication of liberty that was present in Gerson s language of rights. Summenhart assimilated libertas with the self-mastery or dominion that in the economic context of discussion took the form of (a moderate) self-ownership. Summenhart discussion also introduced two apparent extensions to Gerson s terminology. First, Summenhart classified right as relation, and second, he equated right with dominion. It is distinctive of Summenhart s view that he took action as the primary determinant of right: Everyone has as much rights or dominion in regard to a thing, as much actions it is licit for him to exercise in regard to the thing. The second section elaborates Summenhart s discussion of the species dominion, which delivered an answer to the question of what kind of rights exist, and clarified thereby the implications of the concept of an individual right. The central feature in Summenhart s discussion was his conscious effort to systematize Gerson s language by combining classifications of dominion into a coherent whole. In this respect, his treatement of the natural dominion is emblematic. Summenhart constructed the concept of natural dominion by making use of the concepts of foundation (founded on a natural gift) and law (according to the natural law). In defining natural dominion as dominion founded on a natural gift, Summenhart attributed natural dominion to animals and even to heavenly bodies. In discussing man s natural dominion, Summenhart pointed out that the natural dominion is not sufficiently identified by its foundation, but requires further specification, which Summenhart finds in the idea that natural dominion is appropriate to the subject according to the natural law. This characterization lead him to treat God s dominion as natural dominion. Partly, this was due to Summenhart s specific understanding of the natural law, which made reasonableness as the primary criterion for the natural dominion at the expense of any metaphysical considerations. The third section clarifies Summenhart s discussion of the property rights defined by the positive human law. By delivering an account on juridical property rights Summenhart connected his philosophical and theological theory on rights to the juridical language of his times, and demonstrated that his own language of rights was compatible with current juridical terminology. Summenhart prepared his discussion of property rights with an account of the justification for private property, which gave private property a direct and strong natural law-based justification. Summenhart s discussion of the four property rights usus, usufructus, proprietas, and possession aimed at delivering a detailed report of the usage of these concepts in juridical discourse. His discussion was characterized by extensive use of the juridical source texts, which was more direct and verbal the more his discussion became entangled with the details of juridical doctrine. At the same time he promoted his own language on rights, especially by applying the idea of right as relation. He also showed recognizable effort towards systematizing juridical language related to property rights.Tutkimus liittyy viimeaikoina yleistyneeseen tutkimusotteeseen, jossa pyritään valottamaan modernin yksilönoikeusajattelun syntyhistoriaa. Tutkimus on luonteeltaan aatehistoriallista perustutkimusta, joka auttaa ymmärtämään itsestäänselvinä pitämiemme ajattelumuotojen sidonnaisuutta historialliseen kontekstiin. Tutkimuksen keskuksessa on 1400-luvulla eläneen saksalaisen teologin Conrad Summenhartin (1455-1502) teoria yksilönoikeuksista. Keskeinen lähdeteos on Summenhartin kasuistista moraaliteologiaa edustava Opus septipartitum de contractibus pro foro conscientiae atque theologico (1500). Tutkimuksen ensimmäinen osa käsittelee Summenhartia edeltänyttä keskiaikaista keskustelua yksilönoikeuksista. Esitys ei ole pyri olemaan kattava keskiajan yksilönoikeuksien historia vaan Summenhartia edeltänyttä ajatteluperinnettä esitellään valikoivasti siinä määrin kuin se on olennaista Summenhartin oman kontribuution ymmärtämiseksi. Taustaoletuksena on, että Summenhart pyrki omalla teoriallaan osallistumaan myöhäisellä keskiajalla yksilönoikeuksista käytyyn keskusteluun. Tutkimuksen toinen osa rekonstruoi Summenhartin teorian yksilönoikeuksista. Teoria jakautuu kolmeen osioon, joista kaksi ensimmäistä ovat luonteeltaan filosofisia. Ensimmäisessä osiossa keskiöissä on yksilönoikeuden käsite. Pyrkimyksenä on selvittää Summenhartin vastaus kysymykseen: jos henkilöllä on jokin oikeus mitä hänellä itse asiassa on? Toisessa osassa tarkastellaan Summenhartin esittelemää yksilönoikeuksien luokittelua. Kysymys on siitä, millaisia yksilönoikeuksia on olemassa. Summenhart rakentaa oman teoriansa käyttäen hyväkseen ranskalaisen teologin Jean Gersonin (1363-1429) luomaa oikeuskäsitteistöä; Summenhartin työskentelyn punaisena lankana on Gersonin oikeuskielen systematisointi. Aatehistoriallisesti ehkä kiinnostavin ajattelumalli on Summenhartin näkemys vapaudesta ihmisellä olevana luonnollisena oikeutena. Summenhartin mukaan ihmisellä on luonnollinen oikeus tehdä mitä hän haluaa ellei sitä ole erikseen kielletty. Tällä tavoin ihmisen luonnollisille toimintakyvyille myönnetään prima facie oikeuden asema. Tämä ajatus sisältyi implisiittisenä Gersonilaiseen oikeusajatteluun, mutta idean eksplikaation suorittaa Summenhart. Teoriansa kolmannessa osioissa Summenhart tarkastelee juridisia esineoikeuksia. Summenhart kytkee filosofisen yksilönoikeusteorian aikansa juridiseen kieleen ja osoittaa näin, että hänen oma oikeuskielensä on yhteensopiva juridisen käsitteistön kanssa.
Subject: uskonnonfilosofia
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