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Montesquieu: Cultural Relativist and Proto-Positivist?
Montesquieu: Cultural Relativist and Proto-Positivist?
Introduction

In the year of Montesquieu’s death (1754), Jean-Jacques Rousseau published his Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes [Discourse on the origin and foundations of inequality among men] in response to a competition question posed by the Académie de Dijon – ‘what is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorised by natural law?’. In his Preface, Rousseau contended that he could not readily answer in respect of the idea of ‘natural law’ but, instead, by reference to what could be said to be ‘natural’ in human behaviour. This reference, in turn, demanded observation of human behaviour rather than the positing of a pre-political state of nature as a concept of political philosophy. Rousseau necessarily began with a discussion of ...

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