John of Salisbury: Policraticus (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) [John of Salisbury, Cary J. Nederman] on *FREE* shipping on. Editor’s introduction John of Salisbury’s Policraticus: Of the Frivolities of Courtiers and the Footprints of Philosophers is commonly acclaimed as the first extended. John of Salisbury (c) was the foremost political theorist of his age. He was trained in scholastic theology and philosophy at Paris.

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Friends and colleagues throughout the world lent practical aid and moral support at crucial moments, including Professor Kate Forhan, Ms Allison Flolcroft, Dr Katherine Keats-Rohan whose forthcoming critical edition of the Policraticus is jonh awaitedDr David Denemark, and Professor Quentin Skinner.

If this self-love prevails no one may expect a cure.

John of Salisbury (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

In the prologue, he announces, An Academic in matters which to the wise man are doubtful, I do not swear that what I say iohn true, but, be it true or false, I remain content with probability salisburry.

For of course the tension of relaxed strings may be regained by the skill of the craftsman and they should regain their pleasing sounds; but those which are once broken no craftsman may repair. All whom I encounter who are philosophers in word or deed are judged to be my clients, and what is more, I arrogate them to myself in servitude.

Moreover, this gives us good reason to believe that when John refers to other unknown sources, he may be performing a similar sleight of hand upon his audience. Yet nature does not strictly determine human behaviour.

For in fact a diligent reader is a disciple of the law, not a master; nor does he distort the law as a captive to his own discretion, but he accommodates his discretion to its meaning and integrity. And thus in this way the virtue of the Athenian leader, by which he offered his own death in exchange for the safety of his country, delivered Athens from war. Yet the use of exempla must nevertheless be taken very seriously. Rather, the body politic found in the Policraticus is the expression of a principle of jogn harmony through which otherwise disparate individuals and interests are reconciled and bound together.


Yet the general absence of classical models of politics created for John something of a dilemma, since his intellectual instincts resisted the postulation of innovative concepts unsupported by long-standing tradition.

Whoever prevails due to his own qualities of strength will be impeded by the health or fate of a friend or a relative. Yet, since it sometimes happens otherwise, these things are not sufficiently certain, and yet not without evidence.

For indeed a lord dominus is the lord of a servant. Oxford University Press, pp. The discussion of tyranny is one of the best known and most influential features of the Policraticus. Yet truly the amount of that affection, with which subjects are to be embraced like brothers in the arms of charity, must be confined to the limits of moderation.


Every person will receive the fruits of io Book I nature, labour and industry strictly according to merit. Benson and Giles Constable, eds. Accordingly, to those of carnal wisdom was given a carnal promise, and a long duration of time was promised to those who had not yet conceived of the hope of eternal happiness; and the succession of their sons to the temporal kingdom was held out to those who had not yet contemplated eternity. For while it has this sword, yet it is used by the hand of the prince, upon whom is conferred the power of bodily coercion, reserving spiritual authority for the papacy.

These would not have been worthless, however, if, there being a large weight of them which exceeded usefulness, a greedy king had hoarded them for himself.

Policraticus – Wikipedia

His solution is one that was not uncommon in the Middle Ages: He could have buried them in the earth, that they would be more desirable for having been removed from human familiarity.

Thus, it is clearly vicious to take a human life, yet as a form of punishment or as the result of a justly fought battle, it may be vicious not to take a life.


For I realise that this field lies broadly open to orators, and that the rhetoricians have toiled frequently over both sides of the argument, inasmuch as they labour for the absolution of the killing of blood relations by reason of faith and attempt to extinguish the merit of faith with the impiety of killing relatives.

Whatever the prince can do, therefore, is from God, so that power does not depart from God, but it is used as a substitute for His hand, making all things learn His justice and mercy. But rulership should not be by blood, but by merit; and he reigns uselessly who is born king without meriting it.

But this philosophical preparation is only accessible to those who, in opposition to the kingdom of vanity, freely proclaim they are freed when they are the children of truth, and who serve the Holy Spirit by leading away iniquity and injustice yoked by the neck. If they wish and they dare, they may make the king, whom they remove from the bonds of law, an outlaw; yet I assert that kings must keep this law – protesting this loudly not only against their denials but to the world.

It is said that when someone is empowered who declares himself a brother of the whole people in matters of religious worship and in the feeling of charity, he should not multiply his horses, since the greatness of their number is a burden to subjects.

His books are urbane and clearly written, providing a cultured view of the upper-class society of the twelfth century. Not only do I remove from their hands the power of directing the law, but I think that precepts and prohibitions to be maintained perpetually are by no means subject to their pleasure.

Thus we encounter throughout the Policraticus extensive quotations from and citations of both pagan and Christian sources.

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