Western Civilizations: p. 456 - 478
& Vol. 2: p. 130 - 143, 147 - 158, 166 - 173
& Seminar 6 - Absolutism
November 5th & November 7th/2012
Perspectives From the Past: p. 130 - 143, 147 - 158, 166 - 173
-> published the Six Livres de la Republique which argued an absolutist theory of the
-> sovereignty is indivisible and cannot be shared amongst separate agencies
-> he was also a spokesperson against increased taxation and religious uniformity
- the sovereignty of a monarch is not altered by the presence of the “estates”
- the main point of a sovereign majesty is giving the law to its subjects in general without
- contempt towards the sovereignty is contempt towards God
- he must be able to make laws without the consent of the people or else the majesty is
- a tyrant is someone who makes himself into a sovereign by his own authority
- if a prince is elected or has the divine right to the throne, it makes no difference
whether he is evil; killing a sovereign prince is treason
1) The definition of sovereignty is the absolute and perpetual power of a commonwealth.
2) Both Machiavelli and Bodin believe in absolutism and the authority of the prince to
rule by any means.
3) Bodin argues that sovereignty cannot be mixed since power can only belong to one
ruler; division amongst multiple agencies will only cause chaos and inefficiency.
4) It is perfectly reasonable to resist the advances of a tyrant.
5) A sovereign ruler who has come to the throne by divine right or election cannot be
tyrant, even if the acts they commit are cruel.
6) Since a sovereign cannot be a tyrant, they cannot be resisted. Doing so would be
-> a forceful argument for political absolutism which is necessary to compel order in
society - in the natural society, every many must use his own strength for protection against
- forming cities and kingdoms is an important tool to increase security (aka
- in such a commonwealth, the ruler is a “leviathan” since this authority has so much
power and strength which enables him to enforce peace at home and provide mutual
aid against enemies abroad
- this sovereign power can be attained in two ways: one by natural force and two when
men voluntarily agree to submit themselves
- it is the job of the sovereign to make good laws, that is laws which are needed for the
good of the people
1) Hobbe’s view of human nature is pessimistic; the strong take advantage of the weak
and life is not ideal.
2) Human motivation for joining into society is the selfish need for protection and
security which cannot be provided in man’s natural state.
3) The purpose of the state is to provide this security for the weak.
4) Human beings come together to form a political society to ensure that their interests
5) The responsibilities of the sovereign revolve around providing this security from
foreign invaders as well as domestic forces which sometimes break the laws set forth
by the sovereign.
6) No, Hobbes thinks that human nature is permanent and the only way for the living
conditions of humanity to improve is for an absolute ruler to provide inalienable laws.
Two Treatises of Government
-> a philosopher who contributed greatly to the enlightenment
-> this work was published anonymously
-> denied the concept of an absolute monarch as the only system of government and
replaced this theory with a model based upon natural law where consent of the
governed is needed for a ruler to be legitimate
- all men are created equal, however children are not born into this full state of equality
- their parents have a type of rule/jurisdiction over them until they come of age
- this power belongs to the father as long as he remains an effective guardian; if he quits
his care of them he loses his power over them
- this metaphor of a father can be used to describe a sovereign leader
- God created man with the inclination to be a part of society for necessity and
convenience - man is born into perfect freedom with uncontrolled enjoyment of all his rights (equal
with all other men)
- he has the right to life, liberty and estate without the intrusion of other men
- however the inclination to be a part of society which causes men to five up some of
their freedoms so that these rights can be ensured by a sovereign ruler
- no one can be subject to the political power of this ruler without their consent
- those who submit to this society are bound by the will of the majority
1) The nature of political society according to Locke is to unite the will of the majority in
order to protect everyone’s natural right to life, liberty and estate.
2) This political society comes into being when people give consent for a ruler to provide
3) This theo