Samuel von Pufendorf
About Samuel von Pufendorf
Pufendorf, born in 1632, has already attended several German universities. As a Professor of Natural and International Law in Heidelberg, he had become sufficiently well-known internationally to be headhunted to Sweden by Chancellor De la Gardie. Pufendorf’s salary – 900 “daler” compared to the other professors’ 600 – shows how important it was to attract him to the new University.
Through Pufendorf, Lund not only got a well-known name, but also a controversial freethinker. In a time characterised by religious orthodoxy and old dogmas, he represented a rationalistic way of thinking that had been initiated by Descartes and championed by contemporaries of Pufendorf such as Locke and Spinoza. Like them, Pufendorf represented thinking that was not based on religion, but on reason. This was not appreciated by his colleagues.
Consequently, when Pufendorf collected his ideas in the book De jure naturae et gentium (On the Law of Nature and Nations, 1672) the first academic conflict at the young University was a fact. The Vice-Chancellor was furious and the professor’s colleagues published counterblasts. In one of these, Pufendorf was accused of being an ”epicurean, Pelagian, Socinian, Hobbesian, Cartesian, Spinozian, Calvinist, polygamist, antinomist and atheist”.
Pufendorf could be relaxed about the attacks. He knew that he had a mandate to think freely from the powers that were, and ultimately it was his slanderers who had to recant. Time and the outside world were also on his side. It was his writings – not those of his opponents – that were the first academic works from Lund to gain international renown, even long after the writer’s death. For example, his “De officio hominis et civis” (On the Duty of Man and Citizen, 1673) was still being used as a textbook in France in the 1800s.
In 1676, when war temporarily closed the University, Pufendorf chose to move on in his career, and became Sweden’s Historiographer Royal in Stockholm. He was made a nobleman in1684 and ended his days in 1694 in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg.
Samuel Pufendorf 1632 - 1694