Giovanni Botero

Last updated
Giovanni Botero Giovanni Botero.jpg
Giovanni Botero

Giovanni Botero (c. 1544 1617) was an Italian thinker, priest, poet, and diplomat, best known for his work Della ragion di Stato (The Reason of State) . In this work, Botero argued against the amoral political philosophy associated with Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince , not only because it lacked a Christian foundation but also because it simply did not work. Basing his political and economic ideas primarily on the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Botero argued for a more sophisticated relationship between princes and their subjects, one that would give the people more power in the political and economic matters of the state. In this way, Botero foreshadowed the thought of later liberal thinkers, such as John Locke and Adam Smith.

Contents

Early life

Born around 1544 in Bene Vagienna, in the northern Italian principality of Piedmont, Botero was sent to the Jesuit college in Palermo at the age of 15. A year later, he moved to the Roman College, he was introduced to the teaching of some of the most influential Catholic thinkers of the sixteenth century, including Juan Mariana, who, in his On the King and the Education of the King, would argue for the popular overthrow of tyrannical rulers.

In 1565, Botero was sent to teach philosophy and rhetoric at the Jesuit colleges in France, first in Billom, and then in Paris. The second half of the sixteenth century saw the kingdom dramatically, and often violently divided by the French Wars of Religion. Paris especially was heating up during Botero's stay there from 1567-1569, and he was recalled to Italy after getting too caught up in the excitement, apparently for his involvement in an anti-Spanish protest.

Botero spent the 1570s drifting from one Jesuit college to another, Milan, Padua, Genoa, and then back in Milan. After a doctrinally incorrect sermon he gave questioning the Pope's temporal power, he was discharged from the Jesuit order in 1580.

Secretary and diplomat

Botero's life took a major turn at this time, when he was commissioned by Bishop Carlo Borromeo of Milan as a personal assistant. Borromeo introduced Botero to the practical side of Church administration, often socializing with the nobility of northern Italy, most notably Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. When the Bishop died in 1584, Botero continued his service to the family as assistant to Carlo Borromeo's nephew, Federico.

Before his work with Federico began, however, Botero took part in a diplomatic mission to France on behalf of Charles Emmanuel. For most of 1585, Botero was in Paris, discussing affairs of the day, and perhaps overhearing the conspiratorial debate on whether the pope would grant license for the French Duke of Guise, assisted by the Duke of Savoy and Philip II of Spain, to kill the French King, so they could then launch a massive offensive against the French and Swiss Calvinists. The license was never granted, and the offensive was postponed and made more modest, but this conspiracy tells of what kind of political debate was being had, and just what kind of trouble there was in 1580s France.

Works and thought

Della ragion di stato, 1589 Botero - Della ragion di stato, 1589 - 5870034.tif
Della ragion di stato, 1589

By the late 1580s, Botero had already published a few works, most notably an epic-style poem dedicated to Henry III of France in 1573 and a Latin commentary on Hebrew Scriptures titled On Kingly Wisdom in 1583, but his most important works were yet to come. In 1588, Botero first published his Delle cause della grandezza delle città (On the Causes of the Greatness of Cities). Foreshadowing the work of Thomas Malthus, here Botero outlines the generative and nutritive virtues of a city, the former being the rate of human reproduction, and the latter being the ability of the products of the city and its countryside to maintain the people. Cities grow when their nutritive virtue is greater than the generative, but at the inevitable point when these virtues are inverted, the city begins to die.

In 1589, Botero completed his most famous work, Della ragion di Stato (The Reason of State). In this work, Botero argues that a prince's power must be based on some form of consent of his subjects, and princes must make every effort to win the people's affection and admiration. This differed from Machiavelli's philosophy in that it is not sufficient to seem like a just prince, for one's true nature will always shine through; one must actually be a just prince by the advice Botero lays out.

Botero's idea of justness came from his exposure to Thomist thought and natural law circulating the Jesuit college system, which had been greatly influenced by the work of Dominican theologians Francisco de Vitoria and Domingo de Soto of the School of Salamanca. Thomas Aquinas had argued that God infused each individual with certain natural rights, and by the use of reason, human beings could come together to create just societies. Politically, Aquinas imagined that the people would decide on a suitable king, and invest him with certain powers to protect them and allow their prosperity. If the king turned tyrant, Aquinas argued, the people were within their natural rights to depose him. This was in direct opposition to the ideas on the God-given absolute sovereignty of kings that were being proffered by Protestant theologians in the early sixteenth century, and by political thinkers like the French jurist Jean Bodin at the end of the century.

Indeed, Jean Bodin's influential Six Books of a Republic was an important influence on Botero's writing of the Reason of State, even if, as with Machiavelli's Prince, much of that influence was negative. While Botero disagrees with Bodin's thought on sovereignty, preferring something more popularly based, he does agree with some of Bodin's economic ideas. Nonetheless, Botero's overall conception of political economy is again more 'liberal' than that of Bodin, who argued for active participation by kings in the economy of the country, including mercantilist policies that would be enacted wholeheartedly in seventeenth century France by Louis XIV and Colbert. Bodin cautioned kings only against trading with their own subjects; all other economic activity was allowed. Botero, on the other hand, argued that there were only three cases where the prince could take part in trade: 1) if no private citizen could afford it, 2) if a single private citizen would grow too powerful by the profits of it, or 3) there were some shortfall in supply whereby the prince would have to aid in the distribution of goods. Ultimately, Botero argued that economic activity was unbecoming a prince, and that the people were to be the prime economic mover in the state.

Later works, life, and influence

Through the 1590s, Botero continued in the employ of Federico Borromeo, who would become Archbishop of Milan in 1595. Botero mixed in the high society of Rome and Milan in these years, and published another work for which he was to become quite well known, the Relazioni Universali. Released in four volumes between 1591 and 1598 (a fifth volume was finally published in the late nineteenth century), the 'relations' of the title referred to those of the 'universal' (Catholic) church in various parts of the world, a treatise on "The Strength of all the Powers of Europe and Asia", and even includes the Americas. The work marks the beginning of demographic studies.

Finishing his employment with Federico Borromeo in 1599, Botero returned to the House of Savoy, to be tutor to three sons of Charles Emmanuel. He would tour Spain with his three charges from 1603 to 1607, no doubt associating with the closest of Philip III's advisors, from whom his ideas would be passed on to Philip IV's most trusted policy-maker, the Count-Duke of Olivares.

Here is where Botero's work began to have an influence. Olivares seems to have used Botero's Reason of State to outline the strategy for preserving the Spanish Empire in his famous Memorial on the Union of Arms. There is also evidence that Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, one of the staunchest political supporters of Catholic reform and a leading figure of the Thirty Years' War, had discussed the Reason of State with his advisors. Thus, Botero's thought was able to shape at least some of the policy among the European states of the very troubled seventeenth century.

Botero's work would also influence the next generation of political and economic thinkers. Thomas Mun's liberal mercantilist treatise England's Treasure by Foreign Trade, written in 1624, but not published until 1664, owes something to the Reason of State, and there is evidence that the great Belgian thinker Justus Lipsius read the Reason of State.

Related Research Articles

Niccolò Machiavelli Italian politician, writer and author

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. He has often been called the father of modern political philosophy and political science. For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs. He wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is of high importance to historians and scholars. He worked as secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power. He wrote his best-known work The Prince in 1513, having been exiled from city affairs.

Political philosophy sub-discipline of philosophy and political science

Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

<i>The Prince</i> political treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From his correspondence, a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus. However, the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. This was carried out with the permission of the Medici pope Clement VII, but "long before then, in fact since the first appearance of The Prince in manuscript, controversy had swirled about his writings".

Christian philosophy Development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition

Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.

Jean Bodin French jurist and political philosopher, member of the Parlement of Paris and professor of law in Toulouse

Jean Bodin (1530–1596) was a French jurist and political philosopher, member of the Parlement of Paris and professor of law in Toulouse. He is best known for his theory of sovereignty; he was also an influential writer on demonology.

In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good refers to either what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a given community, or alternatively, what is achieved by citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the realm of politics and public service. The concept of the common good differs significantly among philosophical doctrines. Early conceptions of the common good were set out by Ancient Greek philosophers, including Aristotle and Plato. One understanding of the common good rooted in Aristotle's philosophy remains in common usage today, referring to what one contemporary scholar calls the "good proper to, and attainable only by, the community, yet individually shared by its members." The concept of common good developed through the work of political theorists, moral philosophers, and public economists, including Thomas Aquinas, Niccolò Machiavelli, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, James Madison, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes, John Rawls, and many other thinkers. In contemporary economic theory, a common good is any good which is rivalrous yet non-excludable, while the common good, by contrast, arises in the subfield of welfare economics and refers to the outcome of a social welfare function. Such a social welfare function, in turn, would be rooted in a moral theory of the good. Social choice theory aims to understand processes by which the common good may or may not be realized in societies through the study of collective decision rules. And public choice theory applies microeconomic methodology to the study of political science in order to explain how private interests affect political activities and outcomes.

Charles Borromeo cardinal archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584

Charles Borromeo was the Latin archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584 and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation combat against the Protestant Reformation together with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Philip Neri. In that role he was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. He is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church, with a feast day on November 4.

Classical republicanism, also known as civic republicanism or civic humanism, is a form of republicanism developed in the Renaissance inspired by the governmental forms and writings of classical antiquity, especially such classical writers as Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero. Classical republicanism is built around concepts such as civil society, civic virtue and mixed government.

<i>The Art of War</i> (Machiavelli) treatise by Niccolò Machiavelli in the form of a Socratic dialogue

The Art of War is a treatise by the Italian Renaissance political philosopher and historian Niccolò Machiavelli.

<i>The Reason of State</i> book by Giovanni Botero

The Reason of State is a work of political philosophy by Italian Jesuit Giovanni Botero. Reason of state denotes a way of thinking about government that emerged at the end of the fifteenth century and remained prevalent until the eighteenth century. It refers to the right of rulers to act in ways that go against the dictates of both natural and positive law with the aim of acquiring, preserving, and augmenting the dominion of the state. It was first published in Venice in 1589, and is most notable for criticizing methods of statecraft associated with Niccolò Machiavelli and presenting economics as an aspect of politics.

Johannes Althusius German jurist and Calvinist political philosopher and father of modern federalism

Johannes Althusius was a German jurist and Calvinist political philosopher.

Federico Borromeo Cardinal Archbishop of Milan

Federico Borromeo was an Italian cardinal and Archbishop of Milan.

House of Borromeo Italian noble family

The aristocratic Borromeo family were merchants at San Miniato around 1300 and became bankers at Milan after 1370. Vitaliano de’ Vitaliani, who acquired the name of Borromeo from his uncle Giovanni, became count of Arona in 1445. His descendants played important roles in the politics of the Duchy of Milan and as cardinals in the Catholic Reformation. In 1916 the head of the family was granted the title Prince of Angera.

The history of political thought dates back to antiquity while the political history of the world and thus the history of political thinking by man stretches up through the Medieval period and the Renaissance. In the Age of Enlightenment, political entities expanded from basic systems of self-governance and monarchy to the complex democratic and communist systems that exist of the Industrialized and the Modern Era. In parallel, political systems have expanded from vaguely defined frontier-type boundaries, to the definite boundaries existing today. The history of political thought has often overlapped with the history of philosophy.

Virtù

Virtù is a concept theorized by Niccolò Machiavelli, centered on the martial spirit and ability of a population or leader, but also encompassing a broader collection of traits necessary for maintenance of the state and "the achievement of great things."

Italy over the ages has had a vast influence on Western philosophy, beginning with the Greeks and Romans, and going onto Renaissance humanism, the Age of Enlightenment and modern philosophy.

Resistance theory is an aspect of political thought, discussing the basis on which constituted authority may be resisted, by individuals or groups. In the European context it came to prominence as a consequence of the religious divisions in the early modern period that followed the Protestant Reformation. Resistance theories could justify disobedience on religious grounds to monarchs, and were significant in European national politics and international relations in the century leading up to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. They can also underpin and justify the concept of revolution as now understood. The resistance theory of the early modern period can be considered to predate the formulations of natural and legal rights of citizens, and to co-exist with considerations of natural law.

Luc Foisneau, born in Blois on 30 March 1963, is a French philosopher specialising in contemporary political thought and that of the Early Modern period. Director of research at CNRS, he is a member of the Centre Raymond Aron, and teaches at School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences.

Deism is the philosophical belief which posits that although God exists as the uncaused First Cause, responsible for the creation of the universe, God does not interact directly with that subsequently created world. The deists, differing widely in important matters of belief, yet agreed denying the significance of revelation in the Old and New Testaments. They either ignored the Scriptures, endeavoured to prove them in the main by a helpful, or directly impugned their divine character, their infallibility, and the validity of their evidences as a complete manifestation of the will of God. Deism manifested itself principally in England towards the latter end of the seventeenth century.

References