Private Will, Public Justice: Household, Community and Consent in Marsiglio of Padua's Defensor Pacis Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper argues that the Defensor Pacis of Marsiglio of Padua (1324) develops a distinction between the public and private realms which was far more rigid than that commonly articulated by medieval theorists. Diverging from the influence of Aristotle, Marsiglio denies that the household is a form of community or that there can be justice of any sort within the family. Rather, the Defensor claims that the head of the household disposes of its persons and goods purely in accordance with his own will. Marsiglio thus describes the paterfamilias as a dominus, a lord who enjoys private and exclusive rights of appropriation and use. By contrast, Marsiglio says that the public realm of the civil community is characterized by adherence to an impersonal code of law and justice. This distinction may be seen to shape Marsiglio's theory of consent to law and government.

published proceedings

  • The Western Political Quarterly

author list (cited authors)

  • Nederman, C. J.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Nederman, Cary J

publication date

  • December 1990