Guide Transformations in Medieval and Early-Modern Rights Discourse

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View Wishlist. Our Awards Booktopia's Charities. Are you sure you would like to remove these items from your wishlist? Remove From Wishlist Cancel. In Paris, Hobbes wrote and published Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil , after which he returns to England, where he submits to the new regime and he is allowed to retire to private life.

For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principall part within, why may we not say that all automata engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a watch have an artificiall life? For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joynts, but so many wheeles, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer?

Art goes yet further, imitating that rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, man. Hobbes follows thus the model of paradigm transformation which occurred during the seventeenth century and which consisted in the abandonment of the old outlook of the man as a microcosm mirroring on a lesser scale the universal macrocosm.

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A machine is no longer a natural given, an immutable order of nature which has to be preserved in order to avoid the fatal consequences of breaching it: the result was that the order existing within this body politic was no longer an immanent characteristic of that body, but was dictated exclusively by reason. Thus, Hobbes will constantly stress the artificiality of the state.

According to J. If the corporal template proposed by Hobbes brings about a significant innovation by this shift from the model of the microcosm to a mechanical model, in other regards he falls in line with the tendencies expressed by his predecessors. First and foremost, it is about the extremely important role granted to the soul within the body politic.

According to the typical corporal template, the soul is the element which grants life, but, for Hobbes, this notion also has a tangible result, the motion: existence, for Thomas Hobbes, is first and foremost a movement. The macrocosm is a natural datum , a divine creation, whose order is dictated by the divinity; the human body was in turn a microcosm, thus a natural element, and this quality implicitly reflects, by analogy, upon the body politic and its composing parts.

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In the end, it was not meaningless that the medieval and early modern political theorists depicted any attack against the body politic as an attempt against the natural order. By imagining the body politic as a mechanical creation, though, its soul is no longer a natural element, but it is explicitly proclaimed as being artificial. The distinction is important, because not just the monarch can possess sovereignty. This feature can be found in other types of governments, which Hobbes, even though he considers them less appropriate than the monarchy Hobbes, , , acknowledges that they exist.

In like fashion, the idea of artificiality could have had additional important consequences for the theories of government, especially if one recalls the context when Leviathan was written, that of the English civil war. First and foremost, an artificial element is no longer as indispensable as a natural one, and it can be replaced. The theory of political thaumaturgy until that time implied that the application of any remedy was obviously a procedure full of pain and suffering and, most importantly, avoided to provide a solution if the ruling element of the body — the sovereign, usually associated with the head or heart — was himself afflicted 2 , preferring to focus on prophylaxis.

The idea of artificiality no longer implies such restrictions, but, as we will see, Hobbes does not fully exploit the possibilities which this innovation provided. Also following the old template, Hobbes establishes the same link between the relationships existing among the parts of the body and its health. This topos of the corporal metaphor remained basically constant from the twelfth century up until the seventeenth century: harmony means health, discord brings disease.

Following the typical medical axiom, the more blatant the absence of unity, the more precarious the health of the body. The concept of soul implies the idea of immortality, so it would naturally be expected for the sovereignty to be immortal as well, if this analogy is followed to the letter.

Les cahiers psychologie politique. The Discourse of Body Politic in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan

The subjects owe obedience to the sovereignty, as set by the initial covenant of the Commonwealth, because this obedience is what enables the sovereignty to fulfil its main task, which is the protection of the body politic. The traditional corporal template of the English political thought was rather simple: the king was the supreme organ, as head or heart, his subjects were the parts.

Fifty years before, Forset went as far as to ascribe to them the role of physicians of the realm, albeit subordinate to the king Forset, , A good number of state officials are left without a specific analogy — doubtless, because there are many more of them than of any body parts, thus the extent of the analogy, if one writer wants to go deep into it, is naturally limited. Nevertheless, an important part such as the heart is left without any element of the Commonwealth being associated with it. The reason for this omission probably resides in the old importance of the heart, which was so often regarded as the chief part of the body.

A solution could have been for Hobbes to establish a multiple analogy, in the manner of Edward Forset 4 , where the sovereign was not just the soul, but also the heart, yet the author avoids the issue altogether. Just as it was the case with many of the writers making use of the corporal analogy, a metaphor of the political disease develops in Leviathan as well. We have already seen several references made by Hobbes to the potential dissolution of the Commonwealth if some unfavourable conditions were met.

In making his case, Hobbes remains many a times faithful to the traditional vision of the political pathology. For him, the Commonwealth can collapse as a result of such an affliction which originates inside itself or as a result of an external aggression or an infiltration from the outside, whatever kind it might be.

MASSOLIT: Monarchy in Europe in the Early Modern Age

Within the initial template proposed by Thomas Hobbes in his introduction to Leviathan , the law together with equity was equated to the reason and the will of the human body: the law, together with those entrusted with its enforcement, had the role of an arbiter of good and evil. The subject was approached as early as twelfth century, by John of Salisbury, and the opinions on this issue were always quite divided.

The only consensus was that the sovereign was arguably subject to divine and natural law which sometimes were considered as covering the same area, while other times they were regarded at least partially distinct , but the relationship between him and the human law was much more complex. The opinions of all sorts of writers ranged from the idea that it was desirable for the sovereign to submit to the human law, but without being compelled to do so, to much more radical attitudes, such as that expressed by John Fortescue, who argued that a prince could not change the laws without the consent of the subjects Fortescue, , Hobbes considered thus that the sovereign was not subject to those laws whose author was himself, because the existence of a law presupposed the existence of punishments if said law was broken.

The English political thought prior to the civil war believed it had found a solution to this dilemma by establishing that the king could not be punished for breaking the law, but his agents who fulfilled a command contrary to the law could actually be brought to justice.

Yet, the events after showed the limitations of this doctrine and a king was actually put on trial for his alleged transgressions. Explores the fundamental images and assumptions of this period and discusses the forces that are undermining them. Concludes with a consideration of what may replace these images and assumptions in the next few decades. Focuses on the peculiarly American angle of vision and value in the development of its cultural heritage.


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Examines the contribution of tradition and change to that experience and to subsequent philosophical reflection upon it. Considers a selection of classic artistic, scientific, philosophical, and literary works.

Transformations in Medieval and Early-Modern Rights Discourse

May be repeated for credit with instructor's approval. Examines how they address questions about reality, thought, and the beautiful and the good. Examines historical origins, development, and present forms of existentialism. Assesses existentialism's impact on psychology, religion, literature, and the arts. Focuses on the way issues in philosophy remain the same even as ways of thinking about them change.

Explores ethics as a branch of philosophy while focusing on particular ethical problems, such as war, race, abortion, justice, sexuality, medical issues of life and death, the environment, and the transactions of the business world. Includes ideas of early thinkers and how they were adopted, transformed, or rejected by later thinkers.