March 3, 2020
The Red Lounge, Stanford Faculty Club

Globalism and Natural Law

A Flourishing Society Lecture by Professor Kevin M. Doak (Georgetown University)

Time & Location

March 3, 2020
The Red Lounge, Stanford Faculty Club
439 Lagunita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305


A common objection to the existence of natural law concerns the diversity of moral life and thought across societies. Given that the natural law tradition flowered in the West, this raises the question of whether the concept of natural law is merely an expression of Western cultural beliefs or philosophical principles. Drawing on his recent book, Tanaka Kōtarō and World Law: Rethinking the Natural Law Outside the West, Professor Kevin M. Doak (Georgetown University) explored this question through the jurisprudence of Tanaka Kōtarō (1890-1974). One of the 20th-century’s most distinguished jurists, Tanaka served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Japan, and as a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague. In his monumental A Theory of World Law (1932-1934), he outlined a globalist natural law theory called World Law. Professor Doak showed how Tanaka’s jurisprudence opens new ways of thinking about the natural law, particularly in relation to civil law and world society. He also answered questions from attendees regarding the relation of Tanaka’s insights to legal realism, philosophical anthropology, and the geopolitical.




Nippon Foundation Endowed Chair, Professor of Japanese Studies, and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University

Related Publications

Tanaka Kōtarō and World Law: Rethinking the Natural Law Outside the West (Palgrave Pivot, 2019)
Tanaka Kōtarō and World Law: Rethinking the Natural Law Outside the West (Palgrave Pivot, 2019)

"This book explores one of the 20th century’s most consequential global political thinkers and yet one of the most overlooked. Tanaka Kōtarō (1890-1974) was modern Japan’s pre-eminent legal scholar and jurist. Yet because most of his writing was in Japanese, he has been largely overlooked outside of Japan. His influence in Japan was extraordinary: the only Japanese to serve in all three branches of government, and the longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His influence outside Japan also was extensive, from his informal diplomacy in Latin America in the prewar period to serving on the International Court of Justice in the 1960s. His stinging dissent on that court in the 1966 South-West Africa Case is often cited even today by international jurists working on human rights issues. Above and beyond these particular lines of influence, Tanaka outlined a unique critique of international law as inherently imperialistic and offered as its replacement a theory of World Law (aka “Global Law”) based on the Natural Law. What makes Tanaka’s position especially notable is that he defended the Natural Law not as a European but from his vantage point as a Japanese jurist, and he did so not from public law, but from his own expertise in private law. This work introduces Tanaka to a broader, English-reading public and hopes thereby to correct certain biases about the potential scope of ideas concerning human rights, universality of reason, law and ethics."

Share this Event

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • YouTube

Zephyr Institute, Inc.

560 College Ave

Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

(650) 667-1160 |

© 2014-2019 by Zephyr Institute, Inc. 

All Rights Reserved