Friday, February 21, 2020

Wine Fraud

Wine fraud relates to the commercial aspects of wine. The most prevalent type of fraud is one where wines are adulterated, usually with the addition of cheaper products (e.g. juices) and sometimes with harmful chemicals and sweeteners (compensating for colour or flavour).

Counterfeiting and the relabeling of inferior and cheaper wines to more expensive brands is another common type of wine fraud.

To understand the meaning of the title and introductory paragraph, see here.

Thomas Hobbes

The entire theory of Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) amounts at bottom to a denial of the natural law.

Rommen describes him as a “gloomy fellow traveler of Epicurus,” picturing the state of nature as chaos – a war of all against all.  Hobbes, following Occam, held that reason is unable to know universals; words describing universals are mere words, assigned arbitrarily, without any grounding in fact. 

Man, in a state of nature, is no more than a wolf – wicked, devoted solely to himself, no natural tendency to live in society.  This brutish individualism would cause in Hobbes an antagonism toward cooperative organizations such as guilds and the like.  Such voluntary organizations could not constrain man’s brutish behavior.

For this reason, Hobbes sees that man is willing to give up many rights in order to achieve the greater good of peace.  (How such a brute would decide such a thing, how he might even come to know that peace is a “good,” is not clear.)  These rights are given up to an absolute sovereign.

Hobbes would argue that agreement among irrational creatures is natural, but among men is artificial – by covenant only.  As it is artificial, a third party must be brought in to make the agreement constant and lasting.

“The only way to erect such a Common Power…is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of Men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will….”

Everyone would then submit his will to the judgement of this one Man, this one Will.  Once everyone does so, this one man can use terror to inform the wills of all.  Hobbes natural law is nothing more than a law of subjugation – the older idea of natural law as a moral basis for positive law, as an objective for which law would strive, would lose all of its function.

René Descartes

Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am.  Man, from the ideas present in his own reasoning, can construct the world according to the lines of mathematical reasoning – the ideal of science.  Individual reason was the measure of itself.

Suarez’ prediction of what would happen should human reason be made the source of the natural law now came true.  Rationalism soon made human reason and its innate ideas the measure of what it is.  Human reason could now indulge in the uncontrolled construction of systems that has ever characterized the natural law of rationalism.

The objective basis of natural law has disappeared. 

John Locke

For Locke, natural law was meant to establish as inalienable the rights of the individual.  These rights do not flow from objective orders of norm; instead, these rights bring about whatever order exists.  Order is induced by voluntary agreement, still, with no objective standard by which to measure such terms.

Civil society is, therefore, not a result of man’s social nature; it is the result of individual self-interest.  Nothing transcendent or overarching – a skepticism of metaphysics, if you will.  Instead of an objective metaphysical reality, natural law would be based on – for Locke – Locke’s worldview of proper law.  Of course, this opened the doors for others to hold to a different worldview.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Virtually the opposite of Hobbes, Rousseau saw the state of nature as something approaching the biblical Paradise.  Men happily and freely become citizens, a war of all against all does not compel them into some sort of social contract.  They enter because it is their will – and as everyone has the same will, the General Will is born. 

Of course, this didn’t end so well for those who, it turns out, had a different General Will.  Rousseau’s passion for liberty and virtue would produce fruit in men like Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. 

The Primary Differences

Rommen would identify three primary differences when considering the original idea of natural law of the Scholastics to the work of thinkers such as these noted here.  First is the individualistic idea that the state of nature is the proper starting point for the discovery of natural law; second, the nominalist attitude of separating eternal law and natural moral law; third, the resultant autonomy of human reason.

I might summarize: each man is an island: nothing above him, nothing below him, nothing before him, nothing after him.


During the Middle Ages, [if] a producer or merchant was found selling fraudulent or "corrupt wine", they were forced to drink all of it. In medieval Germany, the penalty for selling fraudulent wine ranged from branding to beating to death by hanging.

The further development of this fraudulent wine will be examined in a subsequent post.

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