|As Western European
monarchies became more sophisticated the same talents achieved a
premium - diplomats and advisors also obtained advantage from the
skilful use of language.|
|These humanists studied the writings of ancient Rome -
Cicero and of
Tacitus - as great models of eloquence.|
illa vis autem eloquentiae tanta est, ut omnium
rerum, virtutum, officiorum omnisque naturae, quae mores
hominum, quae animos, quae vitam continet, originem, vim
mutationesque teneat, eadem mores, leges, iura describat, rem
publicam regat, omniaque, ad quamcumque rem pertineant, ornate
Cicero, De Oratore, 3.XX. (Eloquence is
so powerful that it embraces the origin and operations and
developments of all things in the world, all the virtues,
duties, and natural principles related to the manners, minds,
and lives of mankind. Eloquence also determines customs, laws,
and rights, controls government, and expounds every kind of
topic in a polished and refined manner).
Renaissance readers of classical texts soon began to notice how
corrupted these had become over the centuries, through repeated errors
of copying. Scholars became interested in finding the various copies
of different texts and collating different versions.
spread to writings of classical Greece. Aristotle's works were known
only from Latin translation - not until the fifteenth century did
scholars begin to study the original Greek.|
Plato, too, aroused increasing interest. Marsilius Ficino (a
client of Cosimo Medici) was a seminal figure in the early-modern
revival of Neoplatonism - a mystical system that saw the world as an
emanation from God.
Early humanism concentrated on the classical world, but in the later
fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, Erasmus, Sir Thomas More,
his friend, John Colet, and others began to apply humanist attitudes
to Christianity. They argued that scholastic theologians had forgotten
the practical aspects of Christian doctrine - charity to others and
Sir Thomas More's fictional commonwealth
"Utopia" (1516) was marked by tolerance, equality, and rationality.
Erasmus' stress on tolerance and individual moral responsibility made
little impact on the bitter divisions of Reformation Europe, but in a
few quarters and especially in his native Holland, his ideas remained
influential. In Holland and England during the seventeenth century,
more theorists defended religious toleration, and they drew on the
The English Leveller,
William Walwyn wrote defending religious freedom in the Christian
humanist tradition, and John Locke's great defense of religious
Epistola de tolerantia (soon translated as A Letter concerning Toleration)
(1689) was written while in exile in Holland.
Medieval scholasticism changed under the impact of humanist thought,
and this "neo-scholasticism" was very important in 17th century
Its most important practitioner was the Spaniard,
Francisco Suarez (1548-1617). Suarez was Jesuit who taught at a
number of universities but settled at Coimbra in Portugal. He was
important as a philosopher and
particularly his Disputationes metaphysicæ, which influenced
both Descartes and Malebranche.
Still more important and influential was Suarez, De Legibus
(1612). This discussed the laws of God and nature, of church and
state; it even laid many of the foundations for the theory of
international law. Suarez believed in using reason to devise laws and
governments that accorded with human nature. Laws should facilitate
cooperation between people so that they could pursue secular and
spiritual goals. Natural associations (e.g. the family) and spiritual
institutions (the Church) had independent legitimacy but a certain
amount of state coercion was necessary to prevent disorder. However,
government was established for the public good, and if it grew
tyrannical could be resisted. States were autonomous and, in Suarez'
view, could only
justly make war to defend their own territories or
other innocent victims. Even then, war had to be conducted in such a
way as to avoid harm to non-combatants wherever possible.
The basics of this Natural Law
theory were shared by many European political thinkers: - Protestant
as well as Catholic. Many of Suarez' ideas were repeated by
Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and
Samuel Pufendorf (1632-94), for example.
The ideas of the Natural Law
tradition were shared by Catholics and Protestants, humanists and
scholastics, and were used to support both absolutism and
constitutional resistance theory.