On the Origins of Classical Liberalism

 

usalbibliotecaSome argue that classical liberalism (now conservatism), as a philosophy, began in the Enlightenment (late 17th century into the 18th century) with the works of thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Bastiat, and Hume. As Friedrich Hayek categorized it, classical liberalism had a French and British branch.

Conservatism, according to this narrative, was rather a unique and radical idea in comparison to all previous philosophies. In other words, what the English did in the Glorious Revolution was the result of a new Protestant paradigm shift from the old and defunct schools of thought which permeated a still predominantly Catholic Continent.

Usually such a movement in the “Enlightenment” is pitted as rational Protestants in England and the Netherlands, along with more secular French and German thinkers, against the superstitious and ritualistic Catholics from Spain and France. As if such areas were entrenched in some permanent medieval paradigm.

I find such a narrative to be antiquated and lacking in detail or support. The roots of classical liberalism are to be traced (obviously in Judeo-Christian writings, the Bible not being the least) in thought to the works of Aristotle (his Politics) then to Augustine (City of God), to Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica), but they were formulated and codified not in the Enlightenment but rather in early 16th-century Spain, with the School of Salamanca.

The School of Salamanca was a group of Jesuit/Dominican thinkers that more or less followed in the Thomist tradition (Scholastics) and their scholarly focus was generally deployed to understanding the various issues in the context that Spain found itself in as an imperial nation in the early 16th century with the unification of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain and its conquests in the New World.

This meant that they dealt with the issue of the humanity of American Indians (do they have souls?), the value of money (all that bullion), the human condition itself (where does sovereignty come from?), the free market (trade across a vast colonial empire), and international law (just wars and treaties).

From the beginning, with the school’s founder Francisco de Vitoria, this group of thinkers more or less made the argument of classical liberalism. They asserted that even the native Americans were humans worthy of dignity. That government’s legitimacy was founded in the will of those under it in a contractual manner, the opposite of the English theory at the time which posited Divine Right (as the king was also head of the Anglican Church).

Free trade was seen as a moral good, as it was the use of free will to the benefit of yourself and your fellow man (thus increasing the bonds of community among all). Value in goods was also subjective (and relied on scarcity), and this meant that only free allocation of goods and services could create efficient outcomes (and was the natural result of said free will).

The concept of usury was undone by the time theory of value posited by Martín de Azpilcueta. The concept of private property being a right of man was posited by Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, entailing that one had the right to the fruits of that property. These thinkers also devised the concept of just war. To summarize, their theory was that war was supposed to be used to prevent greater evils.

This meant that war ought to occur in order to prevent a greater war, to depose unjust enemies (a government that represses the natural rights of humans), and when it was possible (as a form of charity) to establish some form of peace in areas without structure. In terms of humanity, the school argued that all humans (Christian and non-Christian) had inherent rights that came with our humanity (Vitoria called it ius gentium, the law of all people), and this was the foundation of international law.

In short, such a school formulated classical liberalism (conservatism as we know it today). All humans have an inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the state is supposed to act in a way that does not impede upon such but rather protects it from foreign and native coercion and fraudulence. Free trade is a natural effect of our free will and is the best means of enriching ourselves and our communities.

Thus conservatism was not some radical break from precedent that occurred in the late 17th century, but rather a philosophical tradition already developing in Europe (and arguably had been developing for many centuries). It was finally given its best example in 1787, with the creation of the US constitution, which better exemplified the promise of the Declaration of Independence (classical liberalism). That all men are created equal in the eyes of their creator, and that they have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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There are 133 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Dang! Your exposition tears me away from the Trump/Sanders spectacle and sends me back to the books. You had me at Hayek and then lost me in my own ignorance of the “School of Salamanca.” I’ll now have to do some digging for the purpose of self-satisfaction. (Hope I don’t have to brush up on my Spanish.) And in the meantime: THANKS!

    • #1
    • February 13, 2016, at 3:10 AM PDT
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  2. I Walton Member

    Thanks,completely new to me, but not surprising. Intellectual history creeps up on us rather than bursts forth from zero. Then some get their minds around notions scattered here and there and bring it to us more digested and coherent.

    • #2
    • February 13, 2016, at 3:59 AM PDT
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  3. Titus Techera Contributor

    You may find this narrative antiquated, In the Beginning, there were Hobbes & Locke, &c., but aside from a vulgar preference for the new, what are you really revealing?

    The modern liberal teaching owes very little to any previous Greek or Biblical teaching, except as enemies of the highest type owe each other knowledge & acknowledgment.

    I do not have the time to heap infinite scorn on the foolish morality of hiding the ugly teachings of Hobbes & Locke, not least of which is the revolution in thought they effected: That rights are prior to any duties, & that they are essentially individual–that there is a state of nature, no Garden of Eden in the beginning–that there is no fate worse than death. These are the serious concerns of political philosophy.

    No serious man can hide from the obvious truth that Aristotle says the highest science is the political science, for it directs all the others, & that the purpose of politics is to instill virtue. There is no way around the destruction of this view of virtue in Hobbes & Locke.

    If you wish to prove that when the Federalist quotes Montesquieu & Locke, they’re really talking about some Spanish Jesuits, be my guest. Do your worst. Otherwise, your assertions are wishful thinking.

    Let me add that Hayek & Bastiat are worth nothing to the liberal teaching. The latter had almost no influence in the rise of liberalism & the other owes his late influence to his being a servant, & not a very good one.

    • #3
    • February 13, 2016, at 4:38 AM PDT
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  4. Titus Techera Contributor

    By the way, as I suppose, most people who are interested in politics & political philosophy here are Americans interested in America. The two most influential political philosophers for your Founders are Locke & Montesquieu.

    Locke wrote his most influential political teaching in Civil Government. That’s two books; the latter is about government of the modern kind, starting from Hobbes’s state of nature, prettified. (People who like Locke but not Rousseau should ask themselves, where did Rousseau learn modern audiences, super-educated, want to be told nature’s pretty?) The former book is overtly an attack on the divine right of kings, but at a deeper level an attack on the authority of the church & family.

    Montesquieu famously said of his most famous book, The spirit of the Laws, that he conceived it without a mother, that is, alone–this is the single proudest, most revolutionary statement in all of modern political philosophy. It beats the Federalist’s talk about for the first time founding politics on reflection & choice, as opposed to all previous politics, founded on accident & force.

    I urge you all not to fall for this kind of pious talk. Listen to the man who were actually in the arena, as TR famously said, & listen carefully to their proud statements of revolution. Calling their statements antiquated is the single silliest thing ever said about the modern revolution in politics.

    • #4
    • February 13, 2016, at 5:02 AM PDT
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    I’m highly skeptical, but ideas moved about in the past in ways we sometimes forget or would be surprised by, so show me the links to later thinkers in a way that matters. What are the major texts they produced, who were they in correspondence with, where are the translations in the libraries of their successors? Who acknowledge their debt to their thinking?

    I know the work of Bartolomé de las Casas, but he is a Dominican, and it is disputed if he had any connection to Salamanca, in fact, as far as I know, only one of his biographers makes the claim, and he never mentions the university or a connection in his writings (but I only know them from translations and/or quotations in secondary sources).

    Also, my very limited reading into Spanish trade policy in the time under question 16th-18th century, leads me to think there is nothing that resembles free-trade about it. If they were positing such a thing at the school, the results seem to show it as a stillbirth.

    • #5
    • February 13, 2016, at 6:08 AM PDT
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  6. MJBubba Inactive

    I see the founders of the School of Salamanca were writing in the time of the Reformation. Lots of ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas were in circulation and vigorous debate at that time.

    So, if all this high-powered thinking has a Spanish provenance, why then was Spain the very last Western place for this sort of thinking to actually take root?

    • #6
    • February 13, 2016, at 6:37 AM PDT
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  7. Larry3435 Member

    I am curious, CBA, whether this is your own theory of history, or one you picked up somewhere else. And if somewhere else, where?

    While my knowledge of the history of philosophy is very much that of a layman, your account contradicts everything I thought I knew. And, for whatever it’s worth, I still think I know those things. Your account does not seem persuasive to me.

    • #7
    • February 13, 2016, at 7:07 AM PDT
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  8. Lucy Pevensie Inactive

    CBA, sorry for the digression, but you don’t seem to have a Ricochet mailbox. Any chance you could set one up?

    • #8
    • February 13, 2016, at 7:38 AM PDT
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  9. Mark Camp Member

    The article says, first, that the Salamanca School created liberalism in the 1500’s. I didn’t know that. I hadn’t even heard of this school until a year or two ago. So I was very surprised! The book I’d read was by an Austrian economist, and though he touched on the contributions to liberal (especially Austrian) economics, I didn’t get the full impact.

    I verified it by checking the Wikipedia article on the School. By golly, @Could Be Anyone/@ is right!

    Could Be says, secondly, that the usually credited authors of the American revolution of liberalism were not revolutionaries at all, since the liberal tradition was a couple centuries old when they wrote (and to an extent, even much more).

    The debate between the author and the commentators so far boils down to whether Locke et. al. were rediscoverers or followers. This is interesting to me, but not of gravity-wave significance like the first revelation.

    One of the joys of beginning one’s education at the threshold of old age is the delight in discovering that so many of life’s lessons were well known and clearly explained long ago. I’m slowly reading Bastiat’s book about the seen and the unseen, for example, and realizing that I don’t need to craft responses to Bernie’s followers (assuming the success of the nationwide search for one or two who are capable of reading and of simple reasoning). Just point ’em to the book.

    • #9
    • February 13, 2016, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  10. Titus Techera Contributor

    Mr. Camp, if you tell me something which I believe to be true, then you may say I am your follower. But not otherwise. So with any other people. You can call someone a follower of the Buddha as soon as of Salamanca, but what’s the evidence?

    If you believe Locke or Hobbes or both learned from these Jesuit fellows, there is a burden of proof on you to show that they did. That would require a thorough understanding of Locke & Hobbes; of the respective Jesuits, too; & then a comparison to the effect that the later writers owe their thinking to the prior writers, including the evidence of reading or correspondence.

    When someone offers none of that & starts talking instead about narratives, what serious man will take him seriously?

    Some of the most obvious things in the writings of modern political philosophers include claims to revolution in thought & originality; & very serious attacks, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit on Greek teaching, Christianity, & their combination in Aquinas. Whoever wants to say, these writers are lying to us!, or to themselves!, or to their audience at the time!, has got to be serious about proving whichever of these possibilities seems to him to be the truth of the matter.

    The notion that anyone who can write online can decide he knows these philosophers better than they knew themselves, & will prove it by not trying in the slightest to say what they knew, is the silliest thing I’ve encountered on Ricochet!

    • #10
    • February 13, 2016, at 8:21 AM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    Titus Techera:…

    If you believe Locke or Hobbes or both learned from these Jesuit fellows, there is a burden of proof on you to show that they did. That would require a thorough understanding of Locke & Hobbes; of the respective Jesuits, too; & then a comparison to the effect that the later writers owe their thinking to the prior writers, including the evidence of reading or correspondence.

    Yes, that’s what I want to know, because – for Hobbes and Locke – one would have to ignore all the polemical writing that comes from the English Civil War and the link to earlier English writers.

    I am open to the possibility of influence moving from these writers to others, but since this is posted with little to investigate further than broad generalities I’d be very interested in seeing the links – if they can’t be provided or they thought these things but they went nowhere that is an interesting aside, but not a direct link.

    Although, I’ve always been skeptical of Montesquieu’s Minerva via Jupiter’s head claims in The Spirit of the Laws.

    • #11
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:19 AM PDT
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  12. Profile Photo Member

    I know dear Dr. Rahe has been ill – but this would a be thread where his erudition would be most enlightening. Pun intended. Perhaps it could be a pleasant distraction from his recovery issues.

    • #12
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:20 AM PDT
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  13. Vice-Potentate Member

    Thanks for bringing attention to the School of Salamanca, but your claim may be over broad. You never really define what role you think this school had in informing other Enlightenment thinkers.

    There has been a rush by enlightenment scholars, especially those who study France, to set up the movement as a tete a tete with the church. As if classic liberalism and the church were birthed in conflict and never will be compatible. Key pieces of evidence contradict this narrative including the significant support of the 1st estate for the 3rd in the Estates General preceeding the French Revolution. In order to defend the church from such claims of illiberalism, there have been attempts to place the origins of enlightenment thought within the church itself. Though this is not entirely incorrect, the claim that classical liberalism owes itself entirely to a Spanish school of Catholic thought simply ignores contributions made by English, French, and German thinkers.

    If you mean by origin, starting point, then you must do as Titus says and prove transmission.

    • #13
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:26 AM PDT
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  14. Profile Photo Member

    Titus Techera:

    …When someone offers none of that & starts talking instead about narratives, what serious man will take him seriously?

    However, can not one say, that there have been times in scholarship when a narrative (let us better say an interpretation) was allowed to dominate in such a way as to close off avenues of thought that meant that actual facts were ignored and therefore the more interesting reality missed in the history of the development of …well many things?

    • #14
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:47 AM PDT
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  15. Sabrdance Member

    The strand of liberalism that originated in Salamanca has a lot in common with the later strand that would develop under Elizabeth, the Jameses and Charleses, and finally William. I don’t find it even entirely unlikely that Hobbes and Locke would have been familiar with it given the historic ties between England, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. However, if Locke and Hobbes were rediscovering it, they were rediscovering it in the same way Luther rediscovered Jan Hus -as an accident, coming to the same conclusions after the previous thinkers had been purged.

    Ferdinand and Isabella, Phillip the Fair, Charles V and I, and early Phillip II were all solicitous of the ideas, both as a response to the Reformation humanists and also as a justification for their rules. They were less happy to play when the school began cramping their wars with their neighbors and inhibiting their colonization of the New World. When the wars and colonizations mixed in the Elizabethan era’s Anglo-Spanish War, Philip II cracked down. The toleration of anything that smacked of the Lutheran heresy or inhibited the war aims of Spain was suppressed. Phillip II became more autocratic towards the end of his life (probably out of control-freak tendencies) and Phillip III became even more so as he tried to keep his empire together.

    Even papal protection wouldn’t be enough against the Spanish kings’ need for conformity.

    Maybe the survivors escaped to England and Holland. But it was dead in Spain.

    • #15
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:49 AM PDT
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  16. barbara lydick Coolidge

    MJBubba: So, if all this high-powered thinking has a Spanish provenance, why then was Spain the very last Western place for this sort of thinking to actually take root?

    That situation may be similar to W. Edwards Deming’s writings on quality control. (Very) short version: It’s said that in the 1950’s and years beyond, he couldn’t get the ear of managers here in the US and so introduced his thinking to Japanese manufacturers. They embraced it wholeheartedly. In fact, he had more impact on Japanese manufacturing than any other person not of Japanese heritage. Despite this, he was just beginning to receive widespread recognition here in the US at the time of his death in 1993. (A prophet on one’s own land, and all…)

    Note: President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Technology in 1987. The following year, the National Academy of Sciences gave Deming the Distinguished Career in Science award.

    • #16
    • February 13, 2016, at 9:56 AM PDT
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  17. Profile Photo Member

    Sabrdance:The strand of liberalism that originated in Salamanca has a lot in common with the later strand that would develop under Elizabeth, the Jameses and Charleses, and finally William. I don’t find it even entirely unlikely that Hobbes and Locke would have been familiar with it given the historic ties between England, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. However, if Locke and Hobbes were rediscovering it, they were rediscovering it in the same way Luther rediscovered Jan Hus -as an accident, coming to the same conclusions after the previous thinkers had been purged.

    …Maybe the survivors escaped to England and Holland. But it was dead in Spain.

    This I could believe, also Grotius and Leibniz are supposed to be in debt to Suarez in some sense (via Wikipedia, in what sense, I don’t know and wouldn’t rest on that source alone). So, in that way, some ideas could certainly reach Locke via Grotius to Joseph Hall to some of the Civil War writers to Locke, (links I’ve studied), and perhaps Leibniz himself (links I’ve not), but I agree I think what we are seeing are multiple people in multiple places coming to similar ideas, not unusual in the history of ideas, and those ideas moving around, but I wonder how the paths moved. Consider Gracian as a cousin of them, and his popularity, but he is too late (no?), and I don’t think there is a direct Salamancan tie (not sure?).

    • #17
    • February 13, 2016, at 10:48 AM PDT
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  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    St. Salieri:

    Sabrdance:The strand of liberalism that originated in Salamanca has a lot in common with the later strand that would develop under Elizabeth, the Jameses and Charleses, and finally William. I don’t find it even entirely unlikely that Hobbes and Locke would have been familiar with it given the historic ties between England, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. However, if Locke and Hobbes were rediscovering it, they were rediscovering it in the same way Luther rediscovered Jan Hus -as an accident, coming to the same conclusions after the previous thinkers had been purged…

    This I could believe…

    As could I.

    • #18
    • February 13, 2016, at 10:50 AM PDT
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  19. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    MJBubba:I see the founders of the School of Salamanca were writing in the time of the Reformation. Lots of ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas were in circulation and vigorous debate at that time.

    So, if all this high-powered thinking has a Spanish provenance, why then was Spain the very last Western place for this sort of thinking to actually take root?

    It seems Sabrdance offered an explanation in comment #15:

    Sabrdance: …Ferdinand and Isabella, Phillip the Fair, Charles V and I, and early Phillip II were all solicitous of the ideas, both as a response to the Reformation humanists and also as a justification for their rules. They were less happy to play when the school began cramping their wars with their neighbors and inhibiting their colonization of the New World…

    In order for a school of ideas to gain influence in a country, it stands to reason that there must not only be scholars thinking those ideas, but a broader population politically receptive to those ideas, whether among the citizenry or aristocracy.

    • #19
    • February 13, 2016, at 10:57 AM PDT
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  20. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone Post author

    Glad to see that I have stirred up controversy among some individuals.

    Titus Techera:The modern liberal teaching owes very little to any previous Greek or Biblical teaching, except as enemies of the highest type owe each other knowledge & acknowledgment.

    Let me give you an example with some early greek philosophers. Was it not men like Socrates, Plato (who spent time in Egypt and thus would have been exposed to Zoroastrian and Jewish thought), and Aristotle that more or less established “natural law” as a concept (aside from the obvious founding of that with the Jewish tradition) which implies some degree of permanence. They also (as likewise seen by the jewish thinkers) emphasized moral agency (as seen with Aristotle and his virtue ethics; rather than that accursed utilitarianism) rather than simply results.

    Likewise with Christianity moral agency is seen as greatly important as salvation is personal. The individual is seen as the literal building block of the church, of the flock. Christian thinking does not disavow the individual. You cannot get to 100, without counting 100 ones.

    Judeo- Christian and greek/roman thought were not the enemies of conservatism but rather their bedrock. Hell, Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica pretty much codified popular sovereignty .

    I think you have a charge to prove that Englightenment thinking occurred in some vacuum of human thought, especially in the absence of religious thought. Now I will cover the intellectual thinking of the school in depth.

    -continued-

    • #20
    • February 13, 2016, at 11:30 AM PDT
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  21. Sabrdance Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance: …Ferdinand and Isabella, Phillip the Fair, Charles V and I, and early Phillip II were all solicitous of the ideas, both as a response to the Reformation humanists and also as a justification for their rules. They were less happy to play when the school began cramping their wars with their neighbors and inhibiting their colonization of the New World…

    In order for a school of ideas to gain influence in a country, it stands to reason that there must not only be scholars thinking those ideas, but a broader population politically receptive to those ideas, whether among the citizenry or aristocracy.

    I should say, I am not intending to denigrate Phillip. He considered himself, with much cause, the only Christian king trying to fend off another wave of Muslim invasions from Turkey, and he felt the French, Italians, and Scots (but in this particular case, I repeat myself: how about “The House of Guise”) was trying to take advantage of his distraction to foment rebellion in his territories, including territories in Iberia itself, by making Henry of Navarre King of Spain. Meanwhile, England -a country he was formally allied with, and have even been de fact king of -was bankrupting his country, stealing his treasury, and killing his subjects in an illegal war.

    The last thing he needed was some monks in Salamanca dividing his kingdom further.

    It is notable that Second Treatise succeeds the Glorious Revolution and English unification, even if started earlier.

    • #21
    • February 13, 2016, at 11:46 AM PDT
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  22. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone Post author

    -continued-

    Francis de Vitoria (a Dominican) was perhaps the first thinker of the school and his work predominantly dealt with international law and the rights of humans. He took from roman law and the works of Aquinas the concept of Ius Gentium (the natural rights of all people) and critiqued the conquest of Spain and Portugal and provided the criteria of Just War theory.

    His seminal work (De Indis De Jure Belli) was the reason for the papal bull Sublimis Deus (in 1537 by Pope Paul III), declared that Indians were not to be enslaved nor were they “to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside of the faith of Jesus Christ.”.

    Francisco De Vitoria argued that even the pagan native american was a human with all the dignity of a christian spaniard. They had rights to property, trade, and freedom of belief. Obviously as Sabrdance stated already, the Spanish Crown did not like this and worked towards censoring such work (but it was published, across Europe; at least within Catholic Universities, which were numerous).

    Long story short De Vitoria laid down a codified thought of how humans are universal and thus share in this nature and that it ought to be respected by the state (which had already been posited since at least Thomas Aquinas) and that the state exists to protect these.

    -continued-

    • #22
    • February 13, 2016, at 11:54 AM PDT
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  23. Mike Rapkoch Member

    Titus Techera:Mr. Camp, if you tell me something which I believe to be true, then you may say I am your follower. But not otherwise. So with any other people. You can call someone a follower of the Buddha as soon as of Salamanca, but what’s the evidence?

    If you believe Locke or Hobbes or both learned from these Jesuit fellows, there is a burden of proof on you to show that they did. That would require a thorough understanding of Locke & Hobbes; of the respective Jesuits, too; & then a comparison to the effect that the later writers owe their thinking to the prior writers, including the evidence of reading or correspondence.

    When someone offers none of that & starts talking instead about narratives, what serious man will take him seriously?

    Some of the most obvious things in the writings of modern political philosophers include claims to revolution in thought & originality; & very serious attacks, sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit on Greek teaching, Christianity, & their combination in Aquinas. Whoever wants to say, these writers are lying to us!, or to themselves!, or to their audience at the time!, has got to be serious about proving whichever of these possibilities seems to him to be the truth of the matter.

    The notion that anyone who can write online can decide he knows these philosophers better than they knew themselves, & will prove it by not trying in the slightest to say what they knew, is the silliest thing I’ve encountered on Ricochet!

    Titus:

    While I agree with some of your thoughts, please refrain from insulting language.

    • #23
    • February 13, 2016, at 12:26 PM PDT
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  24. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone Post author

    -continued-

    The next philosopher was Francisco Suarez. Perhaps the most famous of the lot. His nick name was Doctor Eximius (Exceptional and Pious Doctor) and his work was more broad than Vitoria’s. His seminal work was Disputationes metaphysicae and it dealt with (as the name implies) metaphysics but was different in the fact that it was comprehensive and was not a commentary on the work of Aristotle.

    This specific book was actually widely distributed across both protestant and catholic nations on the continent (but not so much in England due to the his other famous book) and was cited as an influence from many, from Rene DeCartes to Hugo Grotius. In terms of theology he worked alongside another thinker of Salamanca (De Molina) in forwarding the reconciliation of free will and God’s omnipresence (man can have free will and God can be all powerful; they are not logically contradictory).

    His second famous book though was Defensio catholicae fidei contra anglicanae sectae errores. This book was more or less further work from De Vitoria in that it refuted the Divine Right of Kings which was being forwarded by the King of England (for the obvious political reason of power, he was head of both church and state) and advocated for popular sovereignty. Suarez work even supported the legitimacy of regicide/overthrow in the case of the king/goverment acting as a tyrannical. His work was most influential though on Hugo Grotius (who would influence John Locke).

    -continued-

    • #24
    • February 13, 2016, at 12:33 PM PDT
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  25. Stoicous Inactive

    You can’t make the assumption that Conservatism today is the Classical Liberalism of yesterday. Many Conservatives are Protectionists and Nationalists and view intervention as beneficial to police the culture. Those people certainly can’t be called Classical Liberals, but one would be hard pressed to argue they aren’t Conservative.

    Classical Liberalism today is probably best described as a sphere containing a large chunk of Conservatives, Libertarians, and a couple Modern Liberals disaffected by Progressivism. Of those groups, Libertarianism is the only group that is almost entirely in the Classical Liberal sphere.

    • #25
    • February 13, 2016, at 12:42 PM PDT
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  26. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Sabrdance:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance: …Ferdinand and Isabella, Phillip the Fair, Charles V and I, and early Phillip II were all solicitous of the ideas, both as a response to the Reformation humanists and also as a justification for their rules. They were less happy to play when the school began cramping their wars with their neighbors and inhibiting their colonization of the New World…

    In order for a school of ideas to gain influence in a country, it stands to reason that there must not only be scholars thinking those ideas, but a broader population politically receptive to those ideas, whether among the citizenry or aristocracy.

    I should say, I am not intending to denigrate Phillip…

    Understood.

    …The last thing he needed was some monks in Salamanca dividing his kingdom further.

    • #26
    • February 13, 2016, at 12:53 PM PDT
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  27. Joseph Stanko Member

    St. Salieri:

    Sabrdance:However, if Locke and Hobbes were rediscovering it, they were rediscovering it in the same way Luther rediscovered Jan Hus -as an accident, coming to the same conclusions after the previous thinkers had been purged.

    I agree I think what we are seeing are multiple people in multiple places coming to similar ideas, not unusual in the history of ideas

    Indeed, if you believe in some form of natural law — and the Founders and their Enlightenment sources certainly did, even if many post-modern conservatives seem to have lost faith in the idea — then these ideas are not invented by creative thinkers but rather out there in the world to be discovered by anyone with an open and unbiased mind. After all, Jefferson famously asserted his truths were “self-evident.”

    We should not be surprised then if the same truths are discovered, lost, and rediscovered many times over the course of history.

    • #27
    • February 13, 2016, at 1:27 PM PDT
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  28. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone Post author

    Stoicous:You can’t make the assumption that Conservatism today is the Classical Liberalism of yesterday. Many Conservatives are Protectionists and Nationalists and view intervention as beneficial to police the culture. Those people certainly can’t be called Classical Liberals, but one would be hard pressed to argue they aren’t Conservative.

    Classical Liberalism today is probably best described as a sphere containing a large chunk of Conservatives, Libertarians, and a couple Modern Liberals disaffected by Progressivism. Of those groups, Libertarianism is the only group that is almost entirely in the Classical Liberal sphere.

    I deny Libertarians the title of Classical Liberal. If you mean to use Conservatism in a relative term then perhaps in some ways you are correct. But if it is to be used in a permanent way then I would argue you are incorrect. Conservatism has roots and a defined political philosophy.

    All political philosophy is intended on finding the best environment for the human condition. It is the classical liberal position that our humanity is imperfect but our nature is immutable (at least by human means) and thus our free will is integral in understanding our humanity. Due to this humans ought to be seen and treated in such a way that respects this, so long as the actions of the individual do not trample on another (their right to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness).

    Thus a free market, virtue, limited government, and strong military is needed and that fits modern conservatism, not libertarianism.

    • #28
    • February 13, 2016, at 1:27 PM PDT
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  29. Joseph Stanko Member

    Somewhat of an aside, but in college I took a course in “Modern Philosophy,” a survey that began with Descartes and was supposed to end with Kant, but we ran out of time and never got to him. It didn’t seem all that “modern” to me ending before Kant, but the philosophy department divided the subject into two broad buckets: Ancient (i.e. Greek) and Modern. In between were the Dark Ages when mysticism and superstition prevailed and no philosophy worth studying occurred.

    Later on when I began to study Aquinas and then other Scholastics I discovered there was philosophy in the Middle Ages after all, and it developed on the tradition of Ancient philosophy and anticipated many of the developments of Modern philosophy. The whole sweep of intellectual history makes more sense if you don’t skip over the entire 2nd act. True sometimes the Modern philosophers were reacting against and rejecting Medieval ideas in their writings, but understanding those ideas they were reacting against helps bring the whole picture into focus.

    • #29
    • February 13, 2016, at 1:39 PM PDT
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  30. Stoicous Inactive

    Could Be Anyone:

    Stoicous:———————————————–

    I deny Libertarians the title of Classical Liberal. If you mean to use Conservatism in a relative term then perhaps in some ways you are correct. But if it is to be used in a permanent way then I would argue you are incorrect. Conservatism has roots and a defined political philosophy.

    ———————————————————————-

    Thus a free market, virtue, limited government, and strong military is needed and that fits modern conservatism, not libertarianism.

    Where do you find “virtue” and “a strong military” in the “limited government” of the Classical Liberals. They said you need virtue and defense, but it is inherently different to have a state which manages virtue and prioritizes the size of its military; than a society with virtue that is protected by an effective and limited military.

    Indeed, the ideas of Classical Liberalism revolved around Individualism. The equality of all individuals in moral terms. To say that the State is justified in dictating morality and inherently requires militarism is a reaffirmation of Paternalist Principals. The idea that the state (and hence individuals in the state) should act as a moral parent of its subjects. John Locke’s contribution was to shoot down this idea, by showing how Judaeo-Christian teachings did not declare the kings a parent of the people. The Government of Locke and Jefferson prevented coercion in the same way any individual could defend themselves. There is no way to make that include laws dictating sexuality or drug use.

    • #30
    • February 13, 2016, at 1:48 PM PDT
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