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Download PDF by John Miller, Graham Scott: Absolutism in Seventeenth-Century Europe

By John Miller, Graham Scott

So much 17th Century ecu Monarchs governed territories that have been culturally and institutionally different. compelled via the escalating scale of struggle to mobilise evermore males and funds they attempted to convey those territories lower than nearer keep an eye on, overriding local and sectional liberties. This was once justified by way of a conception stressing the monarchs absolute energy and his accountability to put the great of his kingdom prior to specific pursuits. The essays of this quantity examine this procedure in states at very varied levels of financial and political improvement and examine the good gulf that frequently existed among the monarchs strength in concept and in perform.

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That power, again, is 26 ABSOLUTISM IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY EUROPE characterised by a plenitude or fullness which, by its very nature, cannot be shared with anybody else. It is a power not derived, humanly speaking, from any other source; and it is, in Raleigh's phrase, 'entire'. Yet further scrutiny of Raleigh's account of the matter suggests that, however true these statements may be, they are not the whole truth. A number of nuances demand attention. Thus the absolute king's power is entire or full in respect of 'all statematters'; the limited ruler does not have 'full power in all the points and matters of state'.

His will was in itself a sufficient reason for what he did: it was here that luvenal's phrase, sit pro ratione voluntas ('let will stand for reason') was pressed into service by the jurists. This did not imply that the pope acted irrationally, but rather that his will was supposed to be guided by good reasons even if these were not readily accessible to lesser mortals. One variation on this theme was the formula whereby the pope decreed 'from his certain knowledge' (ex certa scientia). Once again the decisive will is not conceived as acting in an arbitrary vacuum but in the light of knowledge of which the certainty is guaranteed.

It is that kind of breaking away from the established patterns of thought that we may expect to find in philosophical thinking more fundamental (though perhaps for that very reason less immediately influential) than that which has so far been considered here. In anything like a full account of the subject, such major intellectual structures as the natural-law jurisprudence of Grotius and Pufendorf and the naturalistic philosophy of Spinoza would have to be surveyed. No excuse is needed, however, for concentrating, within the present narrower compass, on the thought of Thomas Hobbes, with particular reference to his major work in what he himself called 'civil philosophy', Leviathan (1651).

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