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From Sensory Order to Legal Order: Property and Freedom of Contract in the Jurisprudence of David Hume

ICER Working Paper No. 15/2012

31 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2012  

Suri Ratnapala

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: November 2012

Abstract

David Hume’s theory of law and justice is a central element of his moral philosophy. Hume’s theory of the mind leads to a theory of undesigned social order based on fundamental laws of justice that arise insensibly through experience. The need to secure private property and its free exchange by the performance of promises is the original cause of the emergence of the rules of justice. Hume argues that the moral duty of obedience to authority arises from the need to maintain the rules of justice and that a ruler who violates or fails to uphold justice forfeits the right of allegiance. This paper analyses Hume’s theory and argues that it is epistemologically superior to natural rights theory and provides a powerful justification of property rights and contractual freedom that remains valid today.

Suggested Citation

Ratnapala, Suri, From Sensory Order to Legal Order: Property and Freedom of Contract in the Jurisprudence of David Hume (November 2012). ICER Working Paper No. 15/2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2190769 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2190769

Suri Ratnapala (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

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