Samuel von Pufendorf

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Samuel von Pufendorf, copper engraving by Pieter van Gunst after a painting by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl

S. von Pufendorf's signature:Samuel von Pufendorf signature.png
Samuel von Pufendorf: Introduction à l'histoire générale et politique de l'univers

Samuel Pufendorf , from 1694 Freiherr von Pufendorf (born January 8, 1632 in Dorfchemnitz ; † October 26, 1694 in Berlin ), was a German natural law philosopher , historian, and natural and international law teacher at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment . He is considered the founder of the doctrine of rational law .


Samuel Pufendorf was born as the fifth of eight children of the Lutheran pastor Esaias Elias Pufendörfer and his wife Margarete, daughter of the Dippoldiswald cloth cutter Thomas Hickmann, in Dorfchemnitz (near Stollberg / Erzgeb. ). His brothers were Jeremias Pufendorf and the diplomat Esaias von Pufendorf .

Pufendorf spent his childhood in Flöha , where his father had held the pastor's position since 1634. With the financial support of a friend of the family, he attended the Princely School in Grimma from 1645, like his two older brothers before . The focus of training was on grammar, logic, rhetoric and religion. Pufendorf also devoted himself to the study of Greek and Roman antiquity . In 1650 he graduated from school as Primus of the year.

In the same year, at the request of his late father, he began studying theology at the University of Leipzig . After a short time, however, he switched to law . The decisive factor was the rigid adherence of the theology professors to the bindingly fixed doctrines of the concord formula . In contrast, Pufendorf was more attached to the critical-constructive teachings of René Descartes and Galileo Galilei . In addition, he began studying natural philosophy , finance, economics and administration ( cameralistics ) as well as history and political science . In 1656 Pufendorf went to the University of Jena , where he was mainly influenced by Erhard Weigel . In Jena he devoted himself a. a. the works of René Descartes, Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes , which were to influence his later work. In 1658 Pufendorf finished his studies with the title of Magister .

Through the mediation of his brother Esaias, Pufendorf got a position as tutor with the Swedish envoy Peter Julius Coyet in Copenhagen . He left Saxony, which he never entered again. Soon after arriving in Copenhagen, he was imprisoned for eight months in the Swedish-Danish War. In 1660 he followed the Swedish ambassador to The Hague , where he published his work: The Basics of a General Legal Doctrine , a contribution to the discussion of natural law theory that was simmering at the time . Pufendorf started from a purely secular legal idea and understood natural law as an empirical science. In the Netherlands Pufendorf made the acquaintance of Baruch Spinoza .

In 1661 he was called to Heidelberg by the Palatinate Elector Karl Ludwig , where he taught in his first professorship at the newly established chair of natural and international law. There he aroused the displeasure of his colleagues with his sharp criticism of the imperial constitution and therefore went to Lund in Sweden in 1668 , where he received a professorship for practical philosophy. In 1670 he was the rector of the university. In 1672 his main work De jure naturae et gentium libri octo , written in Latin, appeared , which was published in 1711 in German translation under the title Eight Books of Nature and International Law . In 1677 Pufendorf moved to Stockholm . The Swedish King Charles XI. appointed him court historian , privy councilor and state secretary. The Lutheran Pufendorf spoke out for religious tolerance and for the scientific separation of theology and philosophy, which brought him increasing hostility. Although the Swedish King Pufendorf would have liked to stay at his court, he moved to Berlin in 1688 to the Brandenburg court, also as court historiographer and privy councilor. In addition to material incentives, this was primarily based on the motivation to intervene in the public discourse against the strengthening France. 1684 he received the uplift in the Swedish nobility and was in 1694, he of Karl XI. raised by Sweden to the baron status.

Samuel von Pufendorf died in Berlin at the age of 62 and was buried near the altar of the Nikolaikirche .

Pufendorf married Catharina Elisabeth, born von Palthen (1630–1713), widow of Heidelberg professor Ludwig Heidegger (Hedinger) in 1665 . With her he had the following two daughters.

A great-nephew of Samuel von Pufendorf is the lawyer and polymath Friedrich Esaias Pufendorf .


De jure naturae et gentium , 1744
Roll of honor for Samuel von Pufendorf in the St. Augustin Grimma
grammar school (in the passage of the main portal)
From a letter from Samuel Pufendorf in Stockholm to a Jean Christofle in Stralsund, December 15, 1686

With his legal conception of a secular natural law ( law of reason ) and the advocacy of a uniform international law , Pufendorf had a decisive influence on German, but also European legal and state philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries and became one of the pioneers of the Enlightenment . However, for him, natural law “agreed with Christian revelation, since both have their origin in God. Under Calvinist rulers, Pufendorf proved himself to be a loyal Lutheran . He wasn't a scout yet. His rationalism affirmed a 'practical, experience-led social reason' which, with emphasis on the natural equality of human beings, paved the way for the idea of humanity and human rights ”and advocated tolerance. Natural law, which is essentially indeterminate in terms of content, is only apparently secular in Pufendorf, similar to that of his contemporary John Locke , since it is equated with Christian revelation through the ethical and legal basic convictions of the Bible , as they are above all in the Decalogue (10 commandments; 2 Mos 20  EU ) and Jesus' love command ( Matthew 5,44  EU ) are expressed, is defined in terms of content. Because his writings, along with those of Locke, were widely heard in the English colonies of North America, Pufendorf became one of the masterminds of the American Revolution and the United States' Declaration of Independence .

In addition, Pufendorf made a natural law systematization of the early modern legal relationships. He derived the formation of states from natural sociability and man's need to recognize the difference between right and wrong . With this he set himself in contradiction to the previous theory of the state, which traced the right back to divine laws. In order to be able to separate faith and legal relationships based on the law of reason, Pufendorf dismissed the “Kingdom of God”, the Revelation, from the area of ​​“natural reason” and vice versa, he dismissed the objects of reasonable knowledge from the area of ​​faith. In addition, Pufendorf introduced the concept of human dignity (dignatio) , a fundamental norm (basic value) that was later to acquire central importance in numerous constitutions.

Pufendorf's system of separating faith from natural reason required the emancipation of an (autonomous) social ethic that had been stripped of ecclesiastical beliefs. He laid the cornerstone of this ethic in the polemical pamphlet against the orthodox Lutheran theology of revelation, Eris Scandica - Swedish Handel , who lives mainly from the dispute with the neo-Gothic Valentin Alberti . The modern idea of ​​autonomy u. a. Pufendorf had also developed it further with recourse to ancient material (e.g. Cicero , Seneca , Maximus Tyrius ). In doing so, he deepened the ancient understanding of nature in the direction of a final theistic justification. The self-legislation of freedom thus finds its humane form and can contribute to the creative shaping of the world as an actio humana . Pufendorf can thus be regarded as a pioneer of a moral idealism in the style of Immanuel Kant, who, in view of the natural scope for action in the world, does not shrink from the question of God as a question of inalienable happiness.

His characterization of the Constitution of the Holy Roman Empire as an “irregular body similar to a monster” (irregular aliquod corpus et monstro simile) also made it well known . This judgment, which he came to in a large study of the state of the empire ( De statu imperii Germanici of 1667), quickly made him the most important, but also the most controversial thinker of imperial journalism , although he only wrote his imperial constitution, which was only produced outside the university, during his lifetime published under a pseudonym (Severinus de Monzambano) . He came to assess the imperial constitution as "irregular" and "monstrous" on the basis of the knowledge that the empire can neither be assigned to one of the Aristotelian forms of government nor does it do justice to the terminology of the sovereignty thesis. Although his judgment therefore does not have to be interpreted as judgmental, it provided a basis for viewing the Old Reich as an “unstate” and a stumbling block for the German nation into the 20th century ( Heinrich von Treitschke in particular took this view).

In marriage law he became a pioneer of equality through the theory of marriage as a contract between two individuals with equal rights up to the conclusion of the contract, formulated in De iure naturae et gentium libri octo and backed up with numerous examples . This text on natural and international law, published in 1672, primarily continued the civil law already drafted by Grotius, which, however, he systematized and supplemented in areas not dealt with by him. His work De officio hominis et civis prout ipsi praescribuntur lege naturali followed in 1673 . Both works together are considered to be the founding works of the theory of rational law . Many later natural rights activists such as Christian Thomasius , Christian Wolff and Karl Anton von Martini build more or less clearly on Pufendorf's idea of ​​the marital relationship between the sexes.

Quotes (translated)

“So we have no choice but to call the German Reich, if one wants to classify it according to the rules of the science of politics, an irregular and a monster-like body, which over time through the negligent courtesy of the emperors , through the ambition of the princes and the machinations of the clergy, has developed from a regular monarchy into such a disharmonious form of government that it is no longer a limited monarchy, even if the outward appearance suggests it, but is not yet a federation of several states, rather something in between. "

- De statu imperii Germanici , 1667, Chapter 6, § 9.

"Man is of the highest dignity because he has a soul that is distinguished by the light of the understanding, by the ability to judge things and to decide freely, and which is familiar with many arts."

- De jure naturae et gentium , 1672, 2nd book, 1st chapter, § 5.


In Berlin-Friedrichshain , Leipzig-Leutzsch , Grimma and Flöha streets are named after Samuel von Pufendorf.

In his birthplace, Dorfchemnitz , the primary school is named after him in his memory.

The Augustiner Association, the support association for the St. Augustin High School in Grimma, awards the Samuel von Pufendorf Prize annually in honor of the former pupil of the Princely School Grimma and in direct connection with his association's goals.

Since 2014 there has been a "Samuel Pufendorf Society for Political Economy" based in Berlin, which is committed to the Modern Monetary Theory .

Works (selection)

  • De iure naturae et gentium libri octo. 1672, German: Eight books on nature and Völcker rights / with the… Johann Nicolai Hertii , Johann Barbeyrac u. a. highly learned men unreadable note. u. into the German language. Bone, Franckfurt a. M. 1711 (reprint: Olms, Hildesheim 2001) urn : nbn: de: hbz: 061: 1-5824 at the University and State Library Düsseldorf .
  • De officio hominis et civis prout ipsi praescribuntur lege naturali. 1673 (reprint: Hein, Buffalo NY 1995).
  • De statu imperii Germanici ad Laelium fratrem, dominum Trezolani, liber unus. Geneva (The Hague) 1667 (published under the pseudonym "Severinus de Monzambano Veronensis").
  • Elementorum Iurisprudentiae Universalis Libri Duo. Jena 1660 (reprint: Hein, Buffalo NY 1995).
  • Introduction to the history of the noblest empires and states as it was in Europe in the mid-century. Frankfurt am Main 1684 ( edition 1695 ).
  • Commentariorum De Rebus Suecicis from Expeditione Gustavi Adolphi in Germaniam ad Abdicationem usque Christinae. 1686.
  • About the nature and quality of the Christian religion and church with regard to civil life and the state. 1687.
  • Introduction to the moral and statistic teaching. Translated by Immanuel Weber . Gleditsch, Leipzig 1691. Digitized and full text in the German text archive
  • De Rebus Gestis Friderici Wilhelmi Magni Electoris Brandenburgici Commentariorum Libri Novendecim. Posthumous 1695.
  • De rebus a Carolo Gustavo Sueciae rege gestis commentariorum . Nuremberg 1696 ( ).
  • Seven books of the deeds of Carl Gustav King in Sweden. Decorated with excellent coppers and provided with the necessary registers ... Riegel, Nuremberg, posthumously 1697.
  • Swedish and German war history, from King Gustav Adolf's campaigns in Germany, bit to abduct Queen Christina. At the same time it describes what the Cron Swedes had to do with other states of Europe at the same time; In addition to the Osnabrügischen and Munster peace conclusions, as well as a double register of the things and names of brave people and families, so occur in this history . Volume 1.


Samuel Pufendorf, engraving by Samuel Blesendorf
  • Paul Gerhard AringPufendorf, Samuel Freiherr v .. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 7, Bautz, Herzberg 1994, ISBN 3-88309-048-4 , Sp. 1064-1066.
  • Klaus von Beyme : Samuel (Freiherr von) Pufendorf. In: Klaus von Beyme: History of political theories in Germany. 1300-2000. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-16806-7 , pp. 110–127.
  • Harry BreßlauPufendorf, Samuel . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 26, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1888, pp. 701-708.
  • Craig L. Carr (Ed.): Political Writings of Samuel Pufendorf. Oxford University Press, New York a. a. 1994, ISBN 0-19-506560-3 .
  • Horst Denzer : Pufendorf . In: Hans Maier , Heinz Rausch , Horst Denzer (Eds.): Classics of Political Thinking. Volume 2: From Locke to Weber. CH Beck, Munich 1968, pp. 27-52.
  • Horst Denzer: Moral philosophy and natural law with Samuel Pufendorf. A study of the history of humanities and the history of science on the birth of natural law from practical philosophy (= Munich Studies on Politics , Volume 22). CH Beck, Munich 1972, ISBN 3-406-03732-1 (also: Munich, Univ., Philos. Fac., Diss. 1971).
  • Horst Denzer: Samuel Pufendorf and the constitutional history. In: Samuel Pufendorf: The Constitution of the German Empire (= Library of German State Thought , Volume 4). Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 1994, pp. 279–322, ISBN 3-458-16655-6 .
  • Horst Dreitzel: Samuel Pufendorf. In: Outline of the History of Philosophy. 17th century philosophy. Volume 4: Helmut Holzhey , Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann (eds.): The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, North and East Central Europe. Half volume 2. Schwabe, Basel 2001, ISBN 3-7965-1035-3 , pp. 757-812 (with references to literature).
  • Bodo Geyer, Helmut Goerlich (Ed.): Samuel Pufendorf and its effects up to the present day. Modifications made by Gerd Schliebe. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1996, ISBN 3-7890-4426-1 .
  • Heikki Haara: Sociability in Samuel Pufendorf's Natural Law Theory. Diss. University of Helsinki, ISBN 978-951-51-2904-8 . Summary.
  • Julia Haas: The theory of empire in Pufendorf's "Severinus de Monzambo". Monstrosity thesis and imperial debate as reflected in the political and legal literature from 1667 to today (= writings on the history of the constitution , volume 76). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-12315-5 .
  • Notker Hammerstein : Samuel Pufendorf. In: Michael Stolleis (Ed.): State thinkers in the early modern times. CH Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-39329-2 , pp. 172-196.
  • Dieter Hüning (Ed.): Natural law and state theory with Samuel Pufendorf (= understanding of the state , volume 23). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8329-4467-4 .
  • Leonard Krieger : The Politics of Discretion. Pufendorf and the Acceptance of Natural Law. Chicago University Press, Chicago IL et al. a. 1965.
  • Leonard Krieger: Samuel Pufendorf. In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German historians. Volume IX. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982, ISBN 3-525-33474-5 , pp. 7-22.
  • Klaus Luig : Samuel Pufendorf. About the duty of man and the citizen. In: Manfred Brocker (Ed.): History of political thinking. A manual (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft , 1818). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-518-29418-5 , pp. 242-257.
  • Klaus Luig:  Pufendorf, Samuel. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , pp. 3-5 ( digitized version ).
  • Johann Georg Meusel : Life of the Baron Samuel of Pufendorf. In: Historisch-literary-bibliographical magazine. 1. Stück, 1788, ISSN  1017-3994 , pp. 27-37 ( digitized version ).
  • Sascha Müller: Samuel von Pufendorf's strengthening of the modern idea of ​​autonomy. Knowledge of natural law as actio humana . In: Theologische Viertelschrift 191, 2011, ISSN  0342-1430 , pp. 242-259.
  • Fiammetta Palladini, Gerald Hartung (ed.): Samuel Pufendorf and the European early enlightenment. Work and influence of a German citizen of the learned republic after 300 years (1694–1994). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-05-002874-2 .
  • Horst Rabe : Natural law and church with Samuel von Pufendorf. An investigation of the natural law influences on Pufendorf's concept of the church as a study on the emergence of modern thought (= writings on church and legal history , Volume 5, ISSN  0582-0367 ). Fabian, Tübingen 1958 (also: Univ. Diss., Göttingen).
  • Thorsten Ingo Schmidt: Samuel von Pufendorf - pioneer of the principle of equality? - Between human dignity and state wisdom . In: Zeitschrift für Rechtssphilosophie , vol. 2005, ISSN  1618-4726 , pp. 111–115.
  • Hans Welzel : Samuel Pufendorf's doctrine of natural law. Meister, Heidelberg 1930 (also: Jena, Univ., Diss., July 26, 1930) (Reprints: de Gruyter, Berlin 1958/1986, ISBN 3-11-003096-9 ).
  • Erik Wolf : Samuel Pufendorf. In: Erik Wolf: Great legal thinkers in German intellectual history. A development picture of our legal view. Mohr, Tübingen 1939, pp. 306-366 (4th, worked through and supplemented edition, ibid 1963).

Web links

Commons : Samuel von Pufendorf  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Samuel von Pufendorf  - Sources and full texts


  1. Martin Schermaier : The determination of the essential error from the glossators to the BGB (= research on the modern history of private law. Volume 29). Böhlau Verlag, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2000, section 10, The error law discussion between the theory of explanation, trust and will , p. 537 ff.
  2. Peter Bahl : The court of the great elector. Studies on the higher office holdings of Brandenburg-Prussia (= publications from the archives of Prussian cultural property, supplement 8). Böhlau, Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 2001, p. 558.
  3. Edited by Johann Claussen in the school program of the Christianeum in Altona, 1906.
  4. Hans Hohlwein : Pufendorf, Samuel Freiherr von . In: The religion in past and present , 3rd edition. Volume V, Col. 721.
  5. ^ Helmut Thielicke: Theological Ethics , 1st volume. Tübingen 1958, p. 657. - See Erik Wolf: Naturrecht. Profane natural law . In: The religion in past and present , 3rd edition. Volume IV, Col. 1355.
  6. cf. Jeremy Waldron: God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke's Political Thought . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, p. 22 ff.
  7. ^ Clifton E. Olmstead: History of Religion in the United States . Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1960, p. 89.
  8. ^ A b Franz Wieacker : History of private law in the modern age with special consideration of the German development . 2nd Edition. Göttingen 1967, DNB 458643742 (1996, ISBN 3-525-18108-6 ). P. 306 f.
  9. Hans Welzel : Natural Law and Material Justice , Göttingen, 4th edition. 1962, ISBN 978-3-525-18105-8 . P. 135 ff.
  10. Cf. Pufendorf: De Jure Naturae Et Gentium [= JNG], I, 3: libri octo: Tomus primus [ed. Gottfridus Mascovius]. Frankfurt and Leipzig 1759 [Reprint: Frankfurt / M. 1967], p. 8; see. JNG I, 1, § 14: ed. Mascovius, p. 15.
  11. See Pufendorf: De officio hominis et civis juxta legem naturalem libri duo , Lib. I, Cap. I, § 1. Londini Scanorum [Lund] 1673. In: Gesammelte Werke , ed. by Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, Volume 2, ed. by Gerald Hartung . Berlin 1997, p. 13.
  12. Samuel von Pufendorf: The constitution of the German empire . Edited and translated by Horst Denzer (=  Library of German State Thought , Volume 4). Leipzig 1994, c. VI, § 9, p. 198 f.
  13. a b Uwe Wesel : History of the law. From the early forms to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-54716-4 , Rnr. 242.
  14. ^ Julia Haas: The theory of empire in Pufendorf's "Severinus de Monzambo". Monstrosity thesis and imperial debate as reflected in the political and legal literature from 1667 to the present day . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, p. 108 ff.
  15. Book 6, Chapter 1, §§ 9-13.
  16. ^ Jan Dirk Harke : Roman law. From the classical period to the modern codifications . CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-57405-4 (= floor plans of the law ), § 3, no. 4th
  17. ^ Helmut Coing : Epochs of Legal History in Germany . CH Beck, Munich 1967. 3rd edition: 1976, p. 129.
  18. Uwe Wesel: History of the law. From the early forms to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-54716-4 , Rnr. 249.
  19. Pufendorfstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  20. ^ Rene Meintz: Pufendorfstrasse . In: Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg-Portal . ( [accessed October 26, 2018]).
  21. ^ Pufendorf Primary School Zwönitz. Retrieved April 8, 2020 .
  22. ^ Pufendorf Gesellschaft e. V. Retrieved October 26, 2018 .
  23. Another Latin version: De officio hominis et civis juxta legem naturalem.