Paolo Sarpi between Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes: A case study on the "political animal" in early modern Europe
Title: Paolo Sarpi between Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes: A case study on the "political animal" in early modern Europe
Author: KAINULAINEN, Jaska
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2009
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
The aim of my thesis is to present an intellectual biography of Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623) by researching three different but intertwining sides in his intellectual activities: natural philosophy, religion and politics. My central argument is that it is possible to justify Sarpi’s political theory by his natural philosophy and by his conception of religion. More specifically, it will be argued that Sarpi was an advocate of absolutism, divine right theory and Bodinian concept of sovereignty. Like Hobbes’ political philosophy, Sarpi’s political theory evolves around the idea of a ubiquitous motion that needs to be checked, around the notion of unconditional obedience, and around an unfaltering anti-papism, which resulted in his excommunication. While some scholars have seen Sarpi as an atheist or a religious skeptic, here he will be regarded as a believer. It will be shown that Sarpi was not ideologically volatile, as hypocrisy would entail, but adhered to his few but constant principles even when it was unadvantageous to him. I argue that this constancy grew from a coherent theory of a universe, where God was unfathomable and omnipotent, man weak and mortal by nature, the Pope fallible, and temporal rulers supreme executors of God’s will. Sarpi’s universe was ruled by eternal and transient laws, by divine, natural and civil laws, by laws of causation and predestination, and within this complex system, which God only understood perfectly, man’s role was to obey the law and to rest assured that faith in God was enough to guarantee the resurrection of his mortal soul on the day of judgment. Infringement of any of the abovementioned laws was a violation against God’s will.
LC Subject Heading: Sarpi, Paolo, 1552-1623; Bodin, Jean, 1530-1596; Hobbes, Thomas, 1588-1679
Defense Date: 27/02/2009; Examining Board: Prof. Martin van Gelderen (EUI) - supervisor Prof. Markku Peltonen (University of Helsinki) Prof. Lea Campos Boralevi (University of Florence) Prof. Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla (EUI)
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