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Thomas Fitzherbert's Reason of State

Höpfl, Harro (2011) 'Thomas Fitzherbert's Reason of State.' History of European Ideas, 37 (2). pp. 94-101. ISSN 0191-6599

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Abstract

Thomas Fitzherbert's two-part Treatise concerning Policy and Religion (1606, 1610) was a rebuttal of unidentified Machiavellians, statists or politikes and their politics and policies. The work was apparently still well-regarded in the following century. Fitzherbert's objections to ‘statism’ were principally religious, and he himself thought the providentialist case against it unanswerable. But for those who did not share his convictions, he attempted to undermine Machiavellism on its own ground. Like both ‘Machiavellians’ and their opponents, he argued by inference from historical examples, but with a particularly copious knowledge of historians ancient, medieval and modern to draw on. Equally, however, he deployed the principles of speculative (principally Aristotelian) ‘political science,’ as well as theology and jurisprudence, to demonstrate that the kind of knowledge that Machiavellians required to guarantee the success of their ‘reason of state’ policies was simply unobtainable. A particularly striking strategy (perhaps modelled on that of his mentor and friend Robert Persons) was Fitzherbert's attempt to demonstrate, on the Machiavellians’ own premises, that they advocated policies which were very likely to fail, and would be visited with divine punishments sooner as well as later, whereas policies that were compatible with faith and morals were also much more likely to succeed, even judged in purely human and ‘statist’ terms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Jesuits, reason of state, politiques, political science, political morality, statecraft, machiavellism, Machiavelli, historiography, providentialism
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Clare Chatfield
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2014 17:04
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2014 11:17
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/7107

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