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Patriarcha And Other Writings

2.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  44 Ratings  ·  5 Reviews
This volume contains the political writings of Sir Robert Filmer (1588-1653), an acute defender of absolute monarchy and perhaps the most important patriarchal political theorist of the seventeenth century. The recent explosion of interest in women's history and the history of the family has greatly enhanced the audience for Filmer's work, and in this new edition Johann So ...more
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published February 22nd 1991 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1680)
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A defense of the divine right of kings, and the obligation to passive obedience to monarchy. John Locke's refutation to this in Two Treatises of Government is the foundation of classical liberalism.

Filmer argues that the divine right of kings has a historical and biblical precedent, specifically Adam's dominion over his sons, and Noah's sons repopulating the earth. Hence it is analogous to a father's control over his family. Filmer also cites Aristotle's praise of Monarchy in his politics, as we
Jun 22, 2009 Dan added it
Filmer is famous for being "Locke's Straw Man," and with a certain amount of justification. His reasoning is a bit sloppy and his concept of the state and of the foundation of political obligation is not completely accurate. And yet, until one sees Locke's radicalization of the notion of the state, Filmer's description of late-renaissance/early modern political authority does seem to have a certain "common-sense" appeal. His reasoning probably does correspond to the political common-wisdom of th ...more
Garrett Cash
Filmer's positions are poorly though out, dismally cited, and horribly wrong. His writing is clear and concise, but he is also dull. His claim to fame is being the subject of John Locke's brilliant refutation, which is the reason I read this. It's not an atrocious work, it's simply laughable. More so frightening is that people believed this then and that they believe equally absurd things now. Sometimes ideas even more ridiculous.
Starts well, and ends poorly. The argument is pretty flimsy for most of the book, although I would give him some credit for the early sections. Very easy to read. (Only read 'Patriarcha')
Mar 27, 2011 Catherine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work, england, 2011, law
Filmer is a clear and concise writer - I like that about him. And I can certainly see the attraction of his argument for anyone who believes the world was created in seven days, by God, that Adam was the first human, and who hasn't heard of other cultures or the concept of evolution. For me, as a 21st century reader, however, the whole thing was terribly quaint. Glad to have read him; glad to understand his position; marveling a little at how common his position once was.
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Sir Robert Filmer was an English political writer, most famous for his Patriarcha, advocating absolute monarchy.
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“Though Aristotle allows so many several forms of corrupted governments; yet he insists upon no one form of all those that he can define or describe, in such sort, that he is able to say that any one city in all Greece was governed just according to such a form; his diligence is only to make as many forms as the giddy or inconstant humour of a city could happen upon; he freely gives the people liberty to invent as many kinds of government as they please, provided he may have liberty to find fault with every one of them; it proved an easier work for him to find fault with every form, than to tell how to amend any one of them; he found so many imperfections in all sorts of common-weals, that he could not hold from reproving them before ever he tells us what a commonweal is, or how many sorts there are, and to this purpose he spends his whole second book in setting out, and correcting the chief commonweals of Greece, and among others the Lacedemonian, the Cretan and Carthaginian commonweals; which three he esteems to be much alike, and better than any other, yet he spares not to lay open their imperfections, and doth the like to the Athenian; wherein he breaks the rule of method, by delivering the faults of commonweals, before he teach us what a commonweal is; for in his first book, he speaks only of the parts, of which a city, or a commonweal is made, but tells us not what a city or commonweal is, until he come to his third book, and there in handling the sorts of government, he observes no method at all, but in a disorderly way, flies backward and forward from one sort to another: and howsoever there may be observed in him many rules of policy touching government in general, yet without doubt where he comes to discourse of particular forms, he is full of contradiction, or confusion, or both: it is true, he is brief and difficult, the best right a man can do him, is to confess lie understands him not; yet a diligent reader may readily discern so many irregularities and breaches in Aristotle's books of Politics, as tend to such distraction or confusion, that none of our new politicians can make advantage of his principles, for the confirmation of an original power by nature in the people, which is the only theme now in fashion: for Aristotle's discourse is of such commonweals as were founded by particular persons, as the Chalcedonian by Phaleas, the Milesian by Hippodamas, the Lacedemonian by Lycurgus, the Cretan by Minos, the Athenian by Solon, and the like: but the natural right of the people to found, or elect; their kind of government is not once disputed by him: it seems the underived majesty of the people, was such a metaphysical piece of speculation as our grand philosopher was not acquainted with; he speaks very contemptuously of the multitude in several places, he affirms that the people are base or wicked judges in their own cases, ‘οι πλειστοι φαυλοι κριται περι των οικειων and that many of them differ nothing from beasts; τι διαφερουσιν ενιοι των θηριων; and again he saith, the common people or freemen are such as are neither rich, nor in reputation for virtue; and it is not safe to commit to them great governments; for, by reason of their injustice and unskilfulness, they would do much injustice, and commit many errors and it is pleasanter to the multitude to live disorderly, than soberly, ‘ηδιον γαρ τοις πολλοις το ζην ατακτως η το σωφρονως.” 0 likes
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