After reading this article you will learn about the impact of renaissance and reformation on political theory.
Both Renaissance and Reformation turned the academic, intellectual and even the political worlds of whole Europe upside down. The superstition, religious conservativeness and narrowness of mind and outlook underwent drastic changes.
It has been observed by a critic that Renaissance and Reformation Movement penetrated at every level of superstitious beliefs. People of all walks of life changed their belief and outlook.
They did not, it is true, throw away their beliefs about God and religion but the obstinacy in attitude was considerably relaxed and this was due to Renaissance and Reformation. The scientists and social reformers challenged the time-old views and ideas.
People began to view everything with inquisitiveness and scientific mind. Unscientific views and concepts were faced with unprecedented challenge. There was also a change in the political world. People were conscious of their right and obligation. They demanded more and more rights and privileges from the authority.
Religious beliefs and faiths were replaced by materialistic outlook and in this field Thomas Hobbes is really a harbinger. According to several scholars of Western political thought he was the first man who introduced materialism or materialist outlook in political science.
Chris Harman says:
“The conservative political theorist Thomas Hobbes published a thoroughly materialist book Leviathan which combined attacks on the notion of religious miracles”.
Severe attacks against superstition, conservativeness, unscientific views and concepts began to pour and all these combined built up a solid foundation for new world of thought, faith and belief.
Renaissance and Reformation ruthlessly removed superstition and enlightened the faith, belief and outlook. New thought and outlook were not confined in any particular field, it spread almost too all the sections of society and some people call it catch-all effects.
That is, not a single sector or part of society remained out of the catch-all effects or category. Natural scientists, philosophers, historians, economists and political scientists and theorists all made sincere and serious efforts to make contribution to their respective fields.
Their contributions were radical in nature. People of all walks of life began to think and feel that their society was defective and it must be changed. This feeling was almost universal and serious people came under its influence.
Voltaire’s Candide caricatured brilliantly the existing situation, beliefs and faiths. Philosophers Descartes in France, Spinoza in Holland, and Leibniz in Germany were all convinced that reason would prevail everywhere and guide all activities and thoughts. This inflicted a serious attack upon the prevailing thought system. This is called rationalism or rationalist philosophy.
Many thinkers declared that every conclusion must be based on empirical observation. That is, every decision must be supported by facts or physical incidents. Voltaire and Montesquieu of France supported empiricism.
In the period of Enlightenment, Voltaire once said; encrasezl’ infame—crush the infamy. These words he uttered against the superstition of religion.
Gibbon in England wrote a pioneering work the Decline and fall of the Roman Empire which was a scathing attack on the influence of the Christian church.
All these thinkers were unanimous at least in one respect and that was everything was changing and therefore society must be changed to cope with the new situation.