Above all else, Lord Kames sought to excite interest in an historical view of the law.
The man of contradictions whose life story was intertwined with the conflicts in Athens between democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny.
More than twenty years ago, a young man of fine character visited me to describe what he had been learning, as a graduate student studying political philosophy, at one of this country’s better universities. He began with understandable enthusiasm (for he—a modest person—was rightly proud to be studying at a distinguished university) by telling me about what he thought was Thomas Hobbes’ new view of sovereignty, explaining that, according to Hobbes, laws are (can only be) the commands of the sovereign. Before he could proceed to describe Hobbes’ account of the individual’s fear of death leading to an original contract where the individual transfers authority and power to a sovereign so that the individual’s life may be better protected, I interrupted him with this question, “What did this view of sovereignty have to do with the Magna Carta?”
Steven Grosby is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Clemson University. His recent works include Nationalism: A Very Short Introduction (2005), Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient and Modern (2002) and the edition and translation of Hans Freyer, Theory of Objective Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture.