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Philosophy and Government: 1572-1651.

Although this study covers a period of time no longer than the extended lifetime of a single person, it traces the substantial intellectual journey from the heyday of late-Renaissance humanism to the completion of Hobbes' Leviathan. The midpoint in this evolution is Hugo Grotius, and the underlying theme is the shift of models among humanists from the republican Cicero to the defeated elitist Tacitus, from the rhetoric of a sovereign Roman Senate to the murmurs of a bitter servant of tyrannical emperors. This parallels at a distance the transition of political writing from a subspecies of ethics to a "science" of politics beyond ethical considerations recently described by Marizio Varoli in his From Politics to Reason of State in the same Cambridge series, though Varoli placed the transition from ethics to statecraft earlier. Scholasticism plays no direct part in the story Tuck has to tell, despite its resuscitation in sixteenth-century Spain. Spain, in fact, is significant in this story primarily as the hegemonic power in Italy after the withdrawal of France. Although Montaigne appears as a contributor to the tradition of skepticism, and Descartes makes his appearance in turn, France is not a primary forum, and neither Francois Hotman nor Jean Bodin play major roles. In Germany, only Althusius is treated with much seriousness, and Grotius is seen in his Netherlandish setting, though he was active in the cultural context both of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Baltic.

Grotius stands in the middle of the story because he posited the mathematical model of self-interest in his epochal De Indis, defended Dutch overseas interests with his Mare liberum, and formulated his epochal De iure belli ac pacis after his political career in the Dutch Republic had ended. English and Dutch writers formulated the language of interest in politics, though their positions might be diametrically opposed, as when John Selden opposed Grotius's Mare liberum with an argument on behalf of Mare clausum. Since Tuck shows so much interest in jurists, it might have repaid his efforts to look at such trans-European writers as Alberigo Gentili, an Italian Protestant lawyer active in England, or at the English Romanist Sir Arthur Duck (currently undergoing a mild revival in Germany). The consilia of jurists of the period also contain a great deal which could be mobilized for this study, and Robert Feenstra's forthcoming edition of Grotius's De Iure Belli ac Pacis will probably help to make this literature more accessible.

The culmination of the book is an analysis of the emergence of the works of Thomas Hobbes, and here Tuck's work is magisterial. Unlike some portrayals of the English Civil War, he emphasizes that the conflict was among three parties, consisting of royalists, Presbyterians and Independents. The Independents, he believes, were the real innovators in the history of political thought, since they dealt more clearly with the state as an autonomous power capable of managing conflicting interests. He portrays Hobbes as working within the royalist emigrant community in France until he published his Leviathan, which propounded a concept of state which was absolutist rather than strictly monarchist, bestowing upon the state religious autonomy indifferent to such central institutions for the royalists as episcopy. Ironically, the crucial passage which made the Leviathan into liber non gratum in England after 1660 was added only at the very end, when Hobbes openly accepted the Republic and the position of the Independents. The result was a work denounced and proscribed after the Restoration for its atheism. Far from being only an afterthought, though, the conclusion of Leviathan was consistent with the general theory which Hobbes propounded, completing a structure raised on the self-interest and self-preservation of the isolated individual in a hostile world.

The author informs us that this volume was originally intended as the first volume of a two-volume study of seventeenth-century thought, with the second half to be provided by James Tully. He asserts, however, that the completion of Leviathan settles the basic terms of political discourse until Kant. This would seem to leave Tully with rather little to do, if he agrees. On the whole this is a stimulating, exciting treatment of the evolution of political thought. It should stimulate even more interesting work in the future by pointing our attention in productive directions.
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Author:Rowan, Steven
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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