History 351: Seventeenth Century Europe 2011

Reason of state; ragione di stato; raison d’état

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Reason of state; ragione di stato; raison d’état:

  • Giovanni Botero (1589); Louis Machon; Gabriel Naudé.

    Absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings

    • Britain:

    • James VI and I. The True Law of Free Monarchies 1598.

    • Filmer.

    • Thomas Hobbes: absolutism grounded on science and deduced from first principles by a quasi-geometric method; The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic 1640; De Cive 1642, 1647; Leviathan 1651.

    Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan 1651

    Absolutism: Hobbes

    • Hobbes:

    • Self-preservation; the state of nature; the right of nature; the law of nature.

    • “poor, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short”.

    • War of all against all.

    • Covenants create obligations, but are binding only once there is a sovereign; we have no rights of property against the sovereign.

    • Right of self-defense against sovereign.

    Constitutionalism and contract

    • Suárez: De Legibus (1612); Defensio fidei catholicae (1613): people were at first free and equal; so no one had better claim to rule than anyone else; but nature requires government; so first governments were direct democracies; so all later governments derive their powers from the first democracy, by contract.

    • The original contract defines the powers of current governments.

    Francisco Suárez (1548-1617)

    Constitutionalism and contract

    • Suárez: powers of modern governments vary because they stem from different original contracts in different countries.

    • Customs and constitutional practices derive from the original contract.

    • If rulers break the contract they can be resisted;

    • The Parlement of Paris condemns Defensio fidei 1613; retreat from radical contractualism after 1610.

    Constitutionalism and contract

    • Conservative contractualism: absolutism can be based on contract; resistance is permissible only in extreme circumstances.

    • Hugo Grotius (1583-1645); De jure belli ac pacis (1625); “etiamsi daremus”.

    • Samuel Pufendorf (1632-94); De jure naturae et gentium (1672).

    • Radical contractualism: Levellers; regicides; Pierre Jurieu (contrast Pierre Bayle).

    Samuel Pufendorf 1632-94

    Constitutionalism and contract

    • John Locke (1632-1704). Two Treatises of Government (1689);

    • Contract theory and resistance.

    • Second treatise, chapter 5: “Of Property”:

    • The Labor Theory of Property; earth originally held in common; what makes something private property? Discovery; first occupation? Mixing labor with things, provided the things don’t waste; the role of money. America, or James II?

    John Locke’s Two Treatises 1689

    Republicanism and radicalism

    • Dutch Republic under De Witt 1650s-1672: alliance of science and republicanism (against Calvinist clergy and Orange family).

    • Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza (1632-77): Tractatus politicus 1677; Hobbes and Machiavelli – absolute sovereign democracy; toleration.

    • England 1640s-50s: checks and balances; separation of powers.

    James Harrington 1611-77

    Republicanism and radicalism

    • James Harrington (1611-77). Oceana 1656. People self-interested (Hobbes). Distribution of wealth determines distribution of power. The Gothic balance destroyed. Two girls and a cake. Cats and green sauce.

    • Bi-cameral legislature. Rotation of office. Agrarian law. Secret ballot.

    • Levellers. Diggers. Gerrard Winstanley.

    Skepticism: the Pyrrhonian Crisis

    • Aristotelianism undermined: Copernicus; Galileo.

    • “And new philosophy calls all in doubt ... ‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone” (John Donne).

    • Exploration undermines idea that European customs are natural/ universal.

    • Rediscovery in later sixteenth century of writings of Sextus Empiricus (c.160-210); unreliability of senses; suspension of judgment. Pyrrho.

    • Michel de Montaigne (1533-92); Pierre Charron (1541-1603).

    Scientific Revolution: Outline

    • (1) Introduction: in 1600 alchemy not yet fully distinguished from chemistry, not astrology from astronomy; many scientists held non-scientific views – Napier, Newton; science not fully distinguished from philosophy – Descartes (Cartesianism), Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz; (2) Copernicus; (3) Tycho Brahe; (4) Johannes Kepler; (5) Galileo; (6) Other scientific advances; (7) Newton; (8) Scientific organization.

    Scientific Revolution: Copernicus

    • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543); Polish priest.

    • De revolutionibus orbium coelestium 1543

    • Aristotle (300BC); Ptolemy (100s AD)

    • Geocentric and heliocentric theories

    • Aristotle/ Ptolemy: (1) sublunary sphere: decay; motion in straight line downwards; (2) motionless earth at center of universe; (3) superlunary sphere: no decay; motion in perfect circles.

    Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)


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