A comparative analysis of Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin, and their concept of the church and state during the 16th, 17th century
Department of Sociology and Political Science
While approaching the writings of major philosophical figures in the 16th century and the 17th century there emerges several weaknesses in addition to their political thought in their time. In his work, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Quentin Skinner’s emphasises the ‘textualist’ approach by the ones writing within the genre of political theory and further claim that they “rarely supplies us with genuine histories”.1 Skinner seems to engage in a ‘historical’ approach to the writings of political thought, which goes hand in hand with the social and political context of the period the major works were composed. Indeed, this proves fruitful for this analysis, and therefore it will be provided a narrow historical review of the period the works were written, in order to present the remarkable similarity between the causes of political thought. Accordingly, there will be implemented a comparison of the philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin, focusing primarily of their concept of the state and the church and the differences between the two models of political thought. In terms of the state, the focus will lie on the citizens and the sovereign rule; in terms of the church, an analysis of its place within the governmental framework will be provided. The primary sources used as a basis for this analysis is the work of Jean Bodin Six Books of the Commonwealth, translated by M.J. Tooley, and Hobbes On the Citizen, edited by Richard Tuck & Michael Silverthorne. In grasping the political works of Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin it is important to remember that their perception of the state was born in an age of crisis. As central themes of his political thought Hobbes was concerned with peace, security and order; however, religion was omnipresent throughout his experience of life and through his works. For Hobbes the only valid proposition of a natural religion was that something must have created the world, but who or what is not for certain.2 Most important he also believed that religious division was a significant factor for the origins of war. The basics of Hobbes theory was to add the will to avoid religious conflict and restore peace into one or a group of biological people that was to further secure the will of the state. Like Hobbes, Bodin was concerned with preserving order and his relation to religion is said to be complex. Although he was less familiar with the New Testament, he knew the Old by line, which was one of chief influence of his intellectual life. For much of his political theory ‘It is impossible” writes J.W. Allen “to separate Bodin’s political from his religious thought.’3 However, entering deeper into the religious life of Bodin it is palpable that he never adhered to one true theological standpoint throughout his lifetime.4 Another factor of correlation between the two political thinkers is their personal historical background containing the experience of war, which largely contributed as one of their causes for writing. Most known for his work and best-seller, Leviathan, the Englishman Thomas Hobbes was to be acknowledged as an important contribution to the philosophical field in his lifetime and all the way to the 21th century. Hobbes was born in 1588 in Westport raised by his non-wealthy family, fortunately being paid for by his uncle to get an education when the time was right.5 Entering the field of the enlightened, Hobbes at an age of 54 later produced his first claim to fame, De Cive (On the Citizen), published in Latin edition in 1642 which is characterised as one of the forerunners to his major work Leviathan. Here, it is important reconsider what is omnipresent throughout both, De Cive and Leviathan, namely fear: in order to understand his...
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