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The Differentiation of Authority

The Differentiation of Authority: the medieval turn toward existence

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    The Differentiation of Authority
    Book Description:

    In this study, James Greenaway explores the philosophical continuity between contemporary Western society and the Middle Ages. Allowing for genuinely modern innovations, he makes the claim that the medieval search for order remains fundamentally unbroken in our search for order today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1957-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-18)

    There are things we take for granted. There is an ocean seething with meaning just under the skin, always moving us. We raise our sails on it, sink our tiller into it, and upon it we navigate for better or worse. In the routine of daily living, there is much that we assume to be palpably obvious, and we wonder at the struggles of generations past to arrive at what is unambiguous. The medieval world, on those occasions when it surfaces into discourse, is usually spoken of in a pejorative manner, associated with the most fantastic prejudices, fears, superstitions, harshness,...

    (pp. 19-50)

    Legal historian Harold Berman points to an “axis-time” in the development of western medieval order. He has postulated that “there was a radical discontinuity between the Europe of the period before the years 1050–1150 and the Europe of the period after [these] years.”¹ Norman Cantor, in another context, agrees, stating that this period was dominated by an attempt at world revolution which influenced many aspects of social change. “It seems, in retrospect, that it was almost necessary for a revolutionary onslaught to shake the order of the early Middle ages to its foundations, so that the new political, economic,...

    (pp. 51-82)

    The emphasis on existence had reached an influential point by the twelfth century. Moreover, this new emphasis was not a merely legal, political, or philosophical movement, but affected every aspect of medieval civilization. To demonstrate some of this universality, this chapter concerns itself with the development of law and its glosses that reflects the shift toward the existence of the person as constituting a field of rights. Second, we will consider the life of Saint Francis as embodying the dignity of the existential, whose theoretical significance is measured—at least implicitly—in the political and legal thought of Saint Thomas...

    (pp. 83-116)

    The existence of a parliament is arguably the most obvious indicator of a constitutional government, or perhaps provides a cover of constitutionality for tyranny. Either way, parliamentarism is a technical device for government that suggests a well-integrated and functioning political society. Michael Oakeshott gives an account of the earliest and most simple forms of parliament in the cortes of the Iberian peninsula in the twelfth century before surveying the development of French and English parliaments. He writes that “although ‘parliaments’ of various sorts appeared everywhere in medieval Europe, none except the English parliament managed to establish itself as a permanent...

  8. 4 CRISIS AND CLOSURE 1: The Isolation of the Sovereign Individual
    (pp. 117-145)

    Eric Voegelin has argued that the evocation of a sacrum imperium had the “effect of weakening the sentiment of distinction between the world and the realm of what is not of this world.” He suggests that the eschatological expectation of the temporal world sinking into oblivion, prevalent in the early Christian experience, had receded rapidly in the medieval period because “the sentiment that the structure of the world was part of the Christian realm was growing; the world had entered the realm of God.”¹ Christian civil theology was so evocatively successful that even political authority was now conceived to belong...

  9. 5 CRISIS AND CLOSURE 2: The Submergence of Existence
    (pp. 146-178)

    If the absolutizing of existential authority and the consequent corruption of the triad of authorities was the theme of the last chapter, then this chapter looks at the inverse of the individual sovereignty through the work of Siger of Brabant, Dante, and Marsilius of Padua. What emerges is, of course, another form of closure to reality with another degradation of symbols of the partners in being—man, God, and the world—that, to different degrees, falls outside the historicism of Christianity, but this time subordinates man—that is, existential authority—beneath a superior principle of authority.

    The popular name given...

    (pp. 179-203)

    Existential authority was the new civilizational factor with which both political and spiritual institutional authorities had to grapple. The problem for the church was the rise of heretical new pieties outside the traditional orthodoxy which will be examined in the next chapter. However, the problem that the political authorities had to face was the management of individual personal assertions which presented a potential threat to the like-mindedness of society and the legitimacy of political power in general. We have seen how the English realm drew the variety of movements and estates into a process of political articulation for the sake...

    (pp. 204-234)

    After considering the development of political authority in the crisis of meaning in medieval society, the church—as the institutional carrier of transcendental substance and the eminent spiritual authority of the medieval West—must now be considered. The spiritual authority of the church will be discussed in the context of the differentiation of authority. Consequently, much of the church’s doctrine and life that properly belong to other fields of enquiry, such as theology, will be placed in parentheses as much as this is possible. Relevant contexts for this narrative include claims of the medieval church to potestas over the mundus,...

    (pp. 235-268)

    The future of Western society beyond the medieval cosmion involved the integration of the existential into the orbit of authorities. With obvious exceptions—such as absolutism in early modern kingship and the horrors inflicted by modern ideologists who claimed to possess the collectivist spirit of the age/race/nation/class/liberation and so on—the postmedieval period continued the distinctly medieval project of finding a new equilibrium among the triad of authorities. The emphasis on the existential and the concern to find a new balance with the traditional pillars of authority marks the work of two significant thinkers of the time: William of Ockham...

  13. CONCLUDING REMARKS: The Contemporary West and Islam
    (pp. 269-294)

    How did it come about that a small group of peoples in Western Europe should in a relatively short space of time acquire the power to transform the world and to emancipate themselves from man’s age-long dependence on the forces of nature? . . . Why is it that Europe alone among the civilizations of the world has been continually shaken and transformed by an energy of spiritual unrest that refuses to be content with the unchanging law of social tradition which rules oriental cultures? . . . In the West spiritual power . . . has acquired social freedom...

    (pp. 295-302)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 303-309)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 310-311)