The necessary starting point of an individualistic ethics is the affirmation of the autonomy and independence of each individual, and the school of modern natural law made this consideration of man possible by resorting, at first, to the fiction of the status naturae; in effect, the iusnaturalists qualified the real situation of men in society, with its inevitable inequalities and restrictions on freedom, as a status adventicius, that is, as an artificial situation that is distinct from, and opposed to, the original state or constitution of man.
In this way, the «natural» state of man, as opposed to social bonds, limitations and constrictions, can only be a state of individual freedom in which there should not be, in principle, any limitation to the individual’s will; logically, the first condition to make this vision of man possible is its consideration extra societatem, affirming that this is what truly responds to the nature of man or to the demands of a scientific method. This is how Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten expressed himself, who wrote that «In considering the condition of man we can abstract from all the determinations that come from a concrete society, or we can consider him in them.
Since, from the beginning of the School of Natural Law, the concept of the individual, represented by the term homo, was used methodically, deliberately, to designate an indeterminate arbitrary, the nature of man appeared, first of all, as constructed primarily by the indeterminacy of the arbitrary, in which freedom was made to consist of. This way of understanding the «natural» constitution of man pervades the whole of the fifteenth century and, in the middle of the century, Baumgarten stated this thesis with precision, indicating that «in the state of nature no one could be forced to obey, that is to say, no one was subject to it».
The common nature of all functions as a sufficient reason for equality, since, supposing the same reason, that is, the same nature, the same rights must follow; but the freedom that follows from equality of rights – Darjes continues – does not stop at an absolute consideration of man, in the abstract, or in the state of nature, but also operates when we consider men in their hypothetical or social states.
Consequently, the individual is free, whether we consider him in the status naturae or in social life. This generic freedom of the individual, which is not circumscribed to a particular possibility of doing, was considered as an ius commune, that is, as a universal and generic right possessed by each subject, and which consists in the right to determine our actions according to our will.
In this way, freedom tends to expand, and the iusnaturalists, driven by their own dynamics, maintained – even in this pre-Kantian phase – that what is constitutive of man as such, that is, what nature ultimately is, is nothing more than the freedom of the individual, even the fundamental right, and comes to be considered as the essential and determining constituent of the nature of man; the indeterminacy of the arbitrary thus occupies the throne of the whole iusnaturalist system, and every possible legal order can only be thought of insofar as it protects and makes possible this freedom of the individual.
I invite everyone to read Matias’ post with the topic of the day.