Kalev’s Anti-Blog: What Strauss Does Not Say About Marsilius

By Kalev Pehme

Marsilius of Padua is a shadowy figure in the work of Leo Strauss. Even though Strauss devotes an entire essay to him, there is a vast silence about Marsilius that is rarely ever mentioned by anyone or even discussed. This omission, I believe, has more to do with a lack of care rather than careful reading. Marsilius makes an early appearance in what is a startling footnote to a Strauss article on Abravanel written in 1937. In discussing Abravanel’s critique of the monarchy of what is no-less than the philosopher king that is based on a cosmological hierarchy culminating in a god, Strauss writes: “…Abravanel objects that they are based on a metabolis eis allo genos [in Greek letters in the original], on a metabolis from things natural and necessary to things merely possible and subject to human will.” It should be noted here that the Greek refers to a logical fallacy that a set of understandings and methods applying to one kind of genus cannot be applied to another genus, unless that other genus is somehow subordinated to the first genus in some way. This fallacy is discussed in Aristotle’s Prior Analytics (75b9).

“Those philosophers tried, further,” Strauss continues, “to prove the necessity of monarchic government by contending that the three indispensible conditions of well-ordered government are fulfilled only in a monarchy. These conditions are: unity, continuity, and absolute power. As regards unity, Abravanel states that it may well be achieved by the consent of many governors.”

At this point, Strauss adds footnote 46: “Cp. Marsilius of Padua, Defensor Pacis, lib. I, cap. 15, 2.” A celeries paribus footnote! How often do you see one of them? There is a decisive sameness between Abravanel and Marsilius on this point.

Let’s look at another remarkable passage that is not a footnote. In his essay “On Natural Law,” Strauss writes:

The Thomistic natural law teaching, which is the classic form of the natural law teaching, was already contested in the Middle Ages on various grounds. According to Duns Scotus, only the commandment to love God or rather the prohibition of hating God belongs to natural law in the strictest sense. According to Marsilius of Padua, natural right as Aristotle meant it is that part of positive right which is recognized and observed everywhere I(divine worship, honoring of parents, raising of offspring, etc.); it can only be metaphorically be called natural right; the dictates of right reason regarding the things to be done (i.e., natural law in the Thomistic sense) on the other hand are not as such universally valid because they are not universally known and observed.

When reading this paragraph, one gets the sense that the dissent from St. Thomas is strictly an argument, even to the point of tetraplylictomy. After all, disputation was the hallmark of Medieval theology.

The greatest extent, I believe, that Strauss explains who Marsilius is comes in Natural Right and History.

There exists an alternative medieval interpretation of Aristotle’s doctrine, name.ly, the Averroistic view, or, more adequately stated, the view of the falasifa (i.e., of the Islamic Aristotelians). This view was set forth within the Christian world by Marsilius of Padua and presumably by other Christian or Latin Averroists. According to Averroes, Aristotle understands by natural right “legal natural right.” Or, as Marsilius puts it, natural right is only quasi-natural; actually, it depends on human institution or convention; but it is distinguished from merely positive right by the fact that it is based on ubiquitous convention. In all civil societies the same broad rules of what constitutes justice necessarily grow up. They specify the minimum requirements of society; they correspond roughly to the Second Table of the Decalogue but include the command of divine worship.

Strauss elaborates by repeating this problem in Persecution and the Art of Writing.

According to him [Marsilius], Aristotle understands by ius naturale a set of conventional rules, but of such conventional rules as are accepted by all countries, “so to speak by all men”; these rules, dependent upon on human institution, can only metaphorically be called iura naturalia. “Yet there are people,” he goes on to say, “who call ius naturale the dictate of right reason concerning objects of action.” Over against this he remarks that the very rationality of the ius naturale thus understood prevents its being universally, or generally, accepted, and, hence, we shall add, its being identical with that phusikon dikaion [in Greek letters in the original], or that koinos nomos, which Aristotle had in mind. By rejecting, in the name of Aristotle, the view that the ius naturale is a set of essentially rational rules, the Christian Aristotelian Marsilius opposes the Christian Aristotelian Thomas Aquinas in particular who had said that, according to Aristotle, the “justum natural” is a “rationi inditum,” and who had defined the “lex naturalis” as “participatio legis aeternae rationali creatura.”

Averroism derives from the someone who was called Averroes in Europe, but whose most commonly known name in the Muslim world was Ibn Rushd. Now, it is important to note that not everyone believed everything that Ibn Rushd put forth, but at the same time what was important is that there were basic principles of what is known as Averroism. Ibn Rushd attempted to reconcile Islam with Aristotelian philosophy, and this method was influential in Christian Europe with those who wanted to do the same. What makes the Averroists different is most critical in two particular areas. First, the Averroists accept Aristotle’s view that the world is eternal. The second view is that the man’s soul is divided into parts: a mortal one and an immortal one that belongs to all. But these problems are more cosmological than political on the surface, although an eternal cosmos certainly puts an end to any notion that the cosmos is created out of nothing over seven or whatever days.

When writing about a minor work by Maimonides, Strauss notes that there is a strange omission about the government of a nation, while Maimonides includes the self-government of the individual, the government of the household, the city, and of the great nation or of the nations.

The expression “the great nation or the nations,” as distinguished from “the great nation or all nations,” may indicate that there cannot be a great nation comprising all nations. This “Averroist” view is best known to us from Marsilius of Padua’s Defensor Pacis (I 17:10).

There is a kind of brutal truthfulness to Marsilius on the question of whether there ought to be one great nation, an Islam, for example, that brings peace to all. As the world is eternal and with it man himself, that there is the problem that men in such a state would consistently procreate to the point that there would no longer be resources for all. That there are many nations promotes periodic wars and other such demonstrations like plagues that keep the population in control.

One of major contentions that we find in the Defender of the Peace is that Marsilius opposes Thomas’s view that the hierarchy of the clergy of the Church is divinely established, and that basically all clergy are more or less equal in the eyes of god. I have read Strauss’s essay with others, and it is remarkable to me that Protestants have absolutely no sense of how truly revolutionary Marsilius’s political thought is. The reason is very obvious: Marsilius’s thought became a cornerstone of Reformation theology and ideology. Although Strauss never attempts to hide the radical nature of Marsilius’s thought, what is missing from Strauss are the actions of Marsilius, as opposed to his speech and thought.

In all mentions of Marsilius that I can find in Strauss, never once does Strauss let on how Marsilius’s work was translated into political reality. The only hint he gives us is buried in Persecution and the Art of Writing: “The Latin Averroists gave a most literal interpretation of extremely heretical teachings.”

The truth of Marsilius is what is overlooked: He was not just a theoretical man, but he was a politician as well. Rather than sum up the history on my own, I think it easier simply to quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which contains the sense of orthodox disgust that I could never reproduce.

It was at this time that Louis of Bavaria was about to reopen against the pope the struggles of Philippe le Bel against Boniface VIII. John XXII had just denounced Louis as a supporter of heretics, excommunicated him, and ordered him to cease within three months administering the affairs of the Empire. The emperor was looking for help, and Marsilius, who had now begun the study of theology, joined with Jean de Jandun, canon of Senlis, in offering him his assistance. Together they composed the “Defensor pacis” at Paris, and, about 1326, setting out for Germany, presented their work to the emperor. They became his intimate friends, and on several occasions expounded their teaching to him. What were the doctrines of these two Parisian doctors, the very audacity of which at first startled Louis of Bavaria? They recalled the wildest theories of the legists of Philippe le Bel, and Caesarian theologians like Guillaume Durand and the Dominican John of Paris. The teachings of these last mentioned had been proposed with hesitation, restrictions, and moderation of language which met with no favor before the rigorous logic of Marsilius of Padua. He completely abandoned the oldentheocratic conception of society. God, it is true, remained the ultimate source of all power, but it sprang immediately from the people, who had in addition the power to legislate. Law was the expression, not of the will of the prince, as John of Paris taught, but of the will of the people, who, by the voice of the majority, could enact, interpret, modify, suspend, and abrogate it at will. The elected head of the nation was possessed only of a secondary, instrumental, and executive authority. We thus arrive at the theory of the “Contrat Social”. In the Church, according to the “Defensor Pacis”, the faithful have these two great powers—the elective and the legislative. They nominate the bishops and select those who are to be ordained. The legislative power is, in the Church, the right to decide the meaning of the old Scriptures; that is the work for a general council, in which the right of discussion and voting belongs to the faithful or their delegates. The ecclesiastical power, the priesthood, comes directly from God and consists essentially in the power to consecrate the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and remit sins, or, rather, to declare them remitted. It is equal in all priests, each of whom can communicate it by ordination to a subject legitimately proposed by the community. Luther would have recognized his theories in these heretical assertions, and the Gallicans of later times would willingly have subscribed to such revolutionary declarations. The two writers are just as audacious in their exposition of the respective roles of the Empire and the Church in Christian society and of the relations of the two powers.

According to the idea of the State propounded by Marsilius all ecclesiastical power proceeded from the community and from the emperor, its principal representative, there being no limit to the rights of the lay State (cf. Franck, “Journal des savants”, March, 1883; Noel Valois, “Histoire litteraire de la France”, XXXIII). As to the Church it has no visible head. St. Peter, he goes on, received no more power or authority than the other Apostles, and it is uncertain that he ever came to Rome. The pope has only the power of convoking an ecumenical council which is superior to him. His decrees are not binding; he can impose on the people only what the general council has decided and interpreted. The community elects the parish priest and supervises and controls the clergy in the performance of their duties; in a word—the community or the state is everything, the Church playing an entirely subsidiary part. It cannot legislate, adjudicate, possess goods, sell, or purchase without authorization; it is a perpetual minor. As is clear, we have here the civil constitution of the clergy. Marsilius, moreover, shows himself a severe and often unjust censor of the abuses of the Roman curia. Regarding the relations between the emperor and the pope, it is maintained in the “Defensor Pacis”, that the sovereign pontiff has no power over any man, except with the permission of the emperor; while the emperor has power over the pope and the general council. The pontiff can act only as the authorized agent of the Roman people; all the goods of the Church belong by right to Caesar. This is clearly the crudest concept of the pagan empire, an heretical assault on the Church’s constitution, and a shameless denial of the rights of the sovereign pontiff to the profit of Caesar. Dante, the Ghibelline theorist, is surpassed. Arnold of Brescia is equalled. William Occam could never have proposed anything more revolutionary.

The pope was stirred by these heretical doctrines. In the Bull of April 3, 1327, John XXII reproached Louis of Bavaria with having welcomed duos perditionis ftilios et maledictions alumnos (Denifle, “Chart”, II, 301). On April 9 he suspended and excommunicated them (“Thesaurus novus anecdotorum”, ii, 692). A commission, appointed by the pope at Avignon, condemned on October 23 five of the propositions of Marsilius in the following terms: “1) These reprobates do not hesitate to affirm in what is related of Christ in the Gospel of St. Matthew, to wit that He paid tribute that he did so, not through condescension and liberality, but of necessity—an assertion that runs counter to the teaching of the Gospe1 and the words of our Savior. If one were to believe these men, it would follow that all the property of the Church belongs to the emperor, and that he may take possession of it again as his own; 2) These sons of Belial are so audacious as to affirm that the Blessed Apostle St. Peter received no more authority than the other Apostles, that he was not appointed their chief, and further that Christ gave no head to His Church, and appointed no one as His vicar here below—all which is contrary to the Apostolic and evangelic truth; 3) These children of Belial do not fear to assert that the emperor has the right to appoint, to dethrone, and even to punish the pope—which is undoubtedly repugnant to all right; 4) These frivolous and lying men say that all priests, be they popes archbishops, or simple priests are possessed of equal authority and equal jurisdiction, by the institution of Christ; that whatever one possesses beyond another is a concession of the Emperor, who can moreover revoke what he has granted, which assertions are certainly contrary to sacred teaching and savor of heresy; 5) these blasphemers say that the universal Church may not inflict a coactive penalty on any person unless with the emperor’s permission.” All the pontifical propositions opposed to the declarations of Marsilius of Padua and Jean de Jandun are proved at length from the Scriptures, traditions, and history. These declarations are condemned as being contrary to the Holy Scriptures, dangerous to the Catholic faith, heretical, and erroneous, and their authors Marsilius and Jean as being undoubtedly heretics and even heresiarchs (Denzinger, “Enchiridion”, 423, ed. Bannwart, 495; Noel Valois, “Histoire litteraire de la France”, XXXIII, 592).

As this condemnation was falling on the head of Marsilius, the culprit was coming to Italy in the emperor’s train and he saw his revolutionary ideas being put into practice. Louis of Bavaria had himself crowned by Colonna, syndic of the Roman people; he dethroned John XXII, replacing him by the Friar Minor, Peter of Corbara, whom he invested with temporal power. At the same time he bestowed the title of imperial vicar on Marsilius and permitted him to persecute the Roman clergy. The pope of Avignon protested twice against the sacrilegious conduct of both. The triumph of Marsilius was, however, of short duration. Abandoned by the emperor in October, 1336, he died towards the end of 1342. Among his principal works, the “Defensor Pacis”, which we possess in twenty manuscripts, has been printed frequently and translated into various languages. The “Defensor Minor”, a resume of the preceding work compiled by Marsilius himself, has just been recovered in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Canon. Miscell., 188). It throws light on certain points in the larger work; but has not yet been published.”De translatione Imperii Romani” has been printed four times in Germany and once in England.”De jurisdictione Imperatoris in causa matrimoniali” has been edited by Preher and by Goldast (Monarchia Sancti Rom. Imperii, II, c. 1283). The influence of the “Defensor pacis” was disastrous, and Marsilius may well be reckoned one of the fathers of the Reformation.

While Strauss is scrupulously silent about the history of Marsilius, he does mention something that is entirely within the history of Marsilius. When writing about Farabi, Strauss notes: “He [Farabi] substitutes politics for religion. He thus may be said to lay the foundation for the secular alliance between philosophers and princes whose most famous representatives in the West are Marsilius of Padua and Machiavelli.”

If we start to see what is going on in Strauss with respect to Marsilius, one wonders, for example, if the celeris paribus footnote, for example, doesn’t indicate a very highly radicalized view that Abravanel takes or that perhaps the comparison between Thomas, Scotus, and Marsilius falls in favor of the heretic who seeks much more natural right than natural law.

As Strauss is completely silent about Marsilius’s biography, we cannot know what Strauss thought about what Marsilius attempted to do, including the overthrow of the pope. But that silence doesn’t not seem to indicate contempt so much as some kind of acceptance.

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About Kalev Pehme

I am an icastic artist and a Straussian. I am not a conservative or neocon Straussian. Sadly, there are too many of them. My interests are diverse, however, and sometimes quite arcane. I have a deep interest in Daoism, Indo-Aryan religion, Buddhism, Plato, Aristotle, and whole lot more. I love good poetry. I also enjoy all things ancient. And I would like to meet any woman who is born on May 29, 1985.
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13 Responses to Kalev’s Anti-Blog: What Strauss Does Not Say About Marsilius

  1. burritoboy says:

    I wonder the following about your post:

    The philosopher advising the prince isn’t something new to Marsilius or Machiavelli. So, Strauss is saying that somehow Marsilius and Machiavelli ‘s alliances with princes are different than how the ancient philosophers interacted with princes, or how such other medieval figures as Giles of Rome interacted with princes. It seems that Aquinas’ great friend and student, Ptolemy of Lucca, along with Giles of Rome, were philosophical, political and theological opponents of Marsilius and Ockham. How was Giles of Rome’s political activity (and Giles of Rome was far more politically prominent than Marsilius, being Archbishop of Bourges and sitting on Philip IV’s council) different from Marsilius’ political activity? Since many of Giles’ students became very prominent men as well, how did the political teaching of Giles influence James of Viterbo (eventually Archbishop of Naples), for just one instance?

    Giles, by the way, wrote an admiring analysis of Cavalcanti, Dante’s great friend.

    • icastes says:

      What is different here is that the problem of Christianity. The Averroists, i.e., Marsilius, adopt positions that are far more in keeping with the philosophers of Judaism and Islam than anything to do with Christianity. However, on second look, it appears that the position of the Averroist, like that of the eternity of the world, also are in deep conflict with the orthodoxy of both Islam and Judaism. Thus, it appears that the Averroist movement is a covert effort to undermine monotheistic religion simply by secularizing the religions by rethinking what law is. Is the law of divine establishment or is it the law something that men can make on a rational basis, even without a philosopher king? The answer seems to go against divine establishment as well as the prophecy of the philosopher king in the case of Marsilius and Machiavelli.

      • Alex Gorelik says:

        But the philosophers of Judaism are particularly attached to the concept of the philosopher-king, who is the Messiah. I do not know the philosophers of Islam well, but are not they also advocates of the philosopher-king?

      • icastes says:

        As you know, there is a controversy over whether the Messiah is actually a philosopher-king in Judaism or even that Moses is a philosopher king. The problem is over whether the philosopher is an actual religionist, so to speak, of someone who is essentially apart from religion. Any philosopher who is in conflict with Judaism, i.e., does not accept its basic premises, is not a Jew and hence cannot be, strictly speaking, the Messiah. This problem arises with Islam as well, although in another form. So we can generalize the problem in thie following way: Because there are two different ends to philosophy and religion which are in apparent conflict, the politics of philosophy is an effort to harmonize philosophy with religion. However, the philosophers see this harmonization to come in the form of the rule of the philosopher king, who is legislator, king, prophet, iman, etc.. This harmonization, however, in the eyes of a religious man is unacceptable, if he sees the problem clearly and does not fall for the ruse that Moses is a philosopher king, which he is not.

        What we find in Marsilius and Machiavelli is not so much a denial of the philosopher king, as to the notion that one can establish a firm republican form of government, rather than monarchy, that is secular in character and defangs religion at the same time. In part, the way to do that is to recognize what the falasifa of the Jews and Muslims recognized: That there are basically rational nomoi (as Halevi called them), i.e., that all human beings recognize positive laws that nevertheless seem to be an essential part of all regimes at any time. There are laws that everyone makes, even though they are conventionally made by man. Rationally speaking, it is obvious that there ought to be laws against murder and theft in any regime. The point that is made is that the second part of the Decalogue comprises of such laws. Thus, if one recognizes that such laws are actually man made through his reason, then they are not divinely given. In other words, men do not need a god to make the fundamental laws to live by. Marsilius and Machiavelli also clearly make the case that these rational nomoi do not require philosopher king. A multitude of men can make these laws unassisted either by a god or by a philosopher king. Thus, perhaps the better way to live is under a republic rather than a monarchy, which tend to become tyrannical when monarchs are not no longer philosophers and become popes or emperors, and so on. What Marsilius and Machiavelli apparently do is to work with princes to undermine princely rule without the princes really understanding what is happening.

  2. Alex Gorelik says:

    Interesting factoid that I just discovered:

    Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s prime minister and his chief adviser in turning England Protestant, commissioned and funded the translation and printing of the Defensor pacis out of his own personal funds. Cardinal Pole, the great opponent of Cromwell and Machiavelli, accuses Cromwell of being a disciple of Machiavelli.

  3. icastes says:

    There are many theories about Cromwell, including that he was a very devout Protestant, which I find very hard to believe. He is more likely to me to be a Machiavellian, but, then, what would be more Machiavellian than to attempt to install the Reformation? I almost bought a first edition of Machiavelli that was translated into English once, and it is a very early edition of the Prince and Discourses, about 1531. In the early 16th century, Machiavelli became widely disseminated in Europe, and Marsilius perhaps did even better. The Church was in deep trouble.

    • Alex Gorelik says:

      Pole accuses Cromwell of explicitly being a Machiavellian. Now, Pole might of course be wrong. However, the traditional academic response has been to note that there were no English translations of Machiavelli at the time that Pole wrote (1536). However, Cromwell knew Italian and, in fact, lived in Rome for a time as well as working in London for the great banking house of Frescobaldi.

      The Prince and Discourses were first published in 1532 and 1531, but there was apparently some manuscript copies that had been in circulation since 1513. The first English translation of the Prince is supposed to have been published in 1640.

  4. icastes says:

    It is an interesting problem. What is called Machiavellian are traditional and time-honored means to tyrannize and oppress people. Cromwell uses of these methods, including the genocide the Irish, however, are not truly Machiavellian, if we look to Machiavelli’s ends. What we find in Machiavelli is one of the greatest condemnations of tyranny that anyone has ever written in history. Only Machiavelli writes in a way that seems to be very attractive to those who would use tyrannical means to usurp or maintain power. Nevertheless, we know that Machiavelli’s end is not a monarchy or tyrannical rule, but a republican form of government that is secular, whose freedoms include a constant partisanship within the realm that creates “checks and balances,” and the replacement of religion by patriotism and the virtue of loving one’s country. The tyrannical Prince’s proper end is to create a republic, which will give the Prince glory rather than infamy. In that sense, Cromwell does not qualify as a Machiavellian. Although the Puritans eventually would create the first American “democratic” institutions, in England the Puritan rule of Cromwell was not republican, but monarchic and tyrannical in character. Moreover, this tyranny was intensified by Cromwell’s belief in a god that was even more tyrannical than he was. Clearly, Machiavelli would not approve.

    • Alex Gorelik says:

      I believe you are mixing up the two Cromwells. Thomas Cromwell (Henry VIII’s Prime Minister) had little to do with Ireland. Oliver Cromwell was a descendant of Thomas and did invade Ireland.

      I would argue that it’s possible that Thomas Cromwell did understand Machiavelli correctly. Thomas Cromwell has the following problems on the path to making England the Machiavellian republic above: Church of Rome, recent history of extended civil war, history of aristocrats trying to take over the Crown (see: extended civil war), comparatively primitive level of politics (little experience with republicanism, etc) and so on. It might be possible that Cromwell viewed the tyrannical Tudor policies as the best vehicle to get later on to the Machiavellian republic – Henry VIII’s tyrannical nature made him a good instrument for Cromwell to use to disestablish the Church, for instance, which might have been harder to do with a less tyrannical man (and England was probably not ready to become a republic at the time).

      Without the tyranny of the early Tudors, Cromwell might have expected the civil wars to continue. And the peace of the Tudors was the thing from which the English republic emerges.

  5. icastes says:

    Sorry about that, Alex. I have had Oliver Cromwell on my mind for a long time lately and your post immediately made me think of Oliver. It’s Thanksgiving time, after all, and the Puritans are all around us in fully little hats carrying a lot of turkeys.

    As for Thomas Cromwell, I agree he was a Machiavellian, unless one believes that Cromwell was truly a pious Protestant, of which a case may be made, although I don’t believe it. The great effort by Cromwell to unite the Lutheran and Protestants of Germany with the English and other anti-papists was truly a Machiavellian enterprise of great daring as it may have destroyed the Pope and Catholicism if it has been done correctly. Unfortunately for Cromwell, the Germans took the cowardly way out which led, of course, to the destruction of Cromwell.

    Cromwell’s failure was that he was too loyal to Henry Tudor. Cromwell killed or imprisoned aristocrat after aristocrat. He literally destroyed the old aristocracy while at the same time invigorating the aristocracy with parvenus, a Machiavellian thing to do. However, by doing so, Cromwell, not the King, got the credit for this class war. So, when the time came, Cromwell did not have a single ally among the upper class to help him either to establish a republic or even to limit the king’s powers.

    The other problem Cromwell had with religion is that Henry had absolutely no desire to reform the Church. He wanted the old church without the Pope running it. Henry’s Church is indistinguishable the Pope’s church’s rituals, holidays, and so on, except that Henry is the head of the Church. That meant that the reform Church that Cromwell sought was doomed from the start. While Cromwell was able to bring about the seeds of a reformation in England, the reformation never really hits England until later, until the Puritans and the other Cromwell take power fully.

    Cromwell really wasn’t Machiavellian enough to change England to the Machiavellian enterprise.

  6. Alex Gorelik says:

    True – and Cromwell should have been on his notice – what does Cesare Borgia do to Remirro de Orco?

  7. Alexandrian says:

    Mr. Pehme,

    Strauss places Marcilio dei Mainardini as different in both kind and degree from Nicolo Machiavelli, viz. as and ancient rather than a modern. When I first read the Defensor Pacis I thought that Marcilius was clearly a modern in the ilk of Machiavelli. I had many long arguments over this point with several of Strauss’ students, notably Howard White, Dick Kennington, and Seth Benardete, and they held that Marcilius was an ancient as Strauss intended the distinction. I have frequently varied my position on this and have often wondered if the subtle distinction does not illustrate a greater point that Strauss was making about ancients and moderns.

    I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this aspect of Marcilius and Machiavelli.

  8. icastes says:

    I agree that Marsilius is not a modern. However, at the same time, he is not completely an ancient. Again, the problem is Christianity. Christianity by the Middle Ages is not an ancient view of life, and it does set the pillars for modernity once the god is removed from the morality. Christianity, especially as understood by Thomas, is truly a problem, because it is so infected with Aristotelian philosophy. What Marsilius has to do is to undermine Thomas by separating Thomas’s conventional views from what is true by natural right. It is this appeal to natural right that make Marsilius an ancient and not a modern. Machiavelli clearly dismisses the ancient view of natural right, although it is true that Machiavelli would agree with the fundamental approach of Marsilius to the clergy of the Church. However, unlike Machiavelli, Marsilius actually makes war on the Church and, in a certain sense, he is a lot more courageous than Machiavelli when it comes to everyday politics. Machiavelli is content to make his name through literary work over the long-haul rather than redoing the world in a revolutionary way in the here and now as Marsilius did. I think that in the end, Marsilius is inclined to the ancient views of natural right, but has to translate them into a world that is not truly ancient, but is not yet modern. By laying down the basic argument that would become the Reformation, Marsilius doesn’t return the world to ancient times, but prepares for what will become modernity and the death of Christianity, which will happen at the end of the Thirty Years War.

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