Letter to Helmut Kuhn

Letter to Helmut Kuhn, Independent Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 2 (1978).


Forgive me for writing to you in English but my hand-writing is hard to read and the lady who is taking down my dictation does not have an easy command of German.  You have obliged me very much by sending me your review article on my book. I had heard of the existence of that article and had tried to get hold of it through my German publisher and a Heidelberg book store but my efforts have been of no avail. As regards the contents of the review, I have been very much gratified by it. It is the best review of my book which has appeared. It is far more than generous and above all based on profound understanding of the issue with which I am concerned. I myself regard the book as a preparation to an adequate philosophic discussion rather than as a treatise settling the question (cf. the end of the Introduction and of Chapter 1). Such a preparation is necessary because the very notion of natural right has become completely obscured in the course of the last century. Scholars lacking historical knowledge simply believe the histories of natural right and as far as I can see no historian after Fr. J. Stahl has approached the subject philosophically. (Stahl’s history of the philosophy of law ought to be reprinted. I tried to persuade my German publisher to do such a reprinting but I failed. Perhaps you have an opportunity to talk to another publisher on this subject). Since natural right is today at best remembered rather than a living doctrine and since the fundamental ambiguity regarding natural right is the one caused by the essential difference between pre-modern and modern natural right, I had to write a precis raisonne of the history of natural right. I agree then with your judgment that the value of my book consists rather in its historical than in its philosophic aspect especially since your judgment implies that the historical observations which I made are not philosophically irrelevant.