Title: Optical Revolutions
- Total Pages: 3
- Words: 967
- Citation Style: APA
- Document Type: Essay
Please write a three-page, double-spaced word processor document (size 11 font) in response to the question listed below. In your topic sentence, state your point of view, and then follow up with reasoning and evidence to support your assertion. Evidence may emerge from readings in the assigned text(s), and also from editorial materials in the textbook, the Internet, and other support sources. Append a list of “Works Cited” and, within your paper, cite your sources through parenthetical (author-page number) citations. IF you make a point analyze it fully with supporting evidence.
Title Should either be.... How the Telescope was a more significant invention to the Microsope
OR How the Microsope was a more significant invention to the Telescope
Make sure to answer the main question and derive thesis from this: Optical instruments were the devices that supported the new scientific understandings of the macrocosm and the microcosm. In the era of the Early Modern world, do you think the telescope or the microscope was the more significant invention? Defend your position, giving specific examples.
Please use these 2 specific books:
Cohen, I. Bernard. The Birth of a New Physics. Rev. ed. Norton, 1991. ISBN: 0393300455. Paper.
Hooke, Robert. Micrographia. BiblioBazaar, 2008. ISBN: 1426486766. Paper.
Please have a mininum of 4 quotations from each of the above mentioned books.
Below is an excerpt from Konnert, Early Modern Europe
~ CHAPTER FOUR ~
By the middle of the sixteenth century, the first great wave of the Protestant
Reformation had largely played itself out. This was the series of events set
off by Martin Luther's protest beginning in 1517 against certain dogmas and practices
of the Roman Church. By 1559, however, Luther's version of reformed
Christianity (or Protestantism as the various branches of western European non-
Catholic churches are called) was no longer a growing or dynamic movement.
Within Germany, Catholic and Lutheran princes had fought each other to stalemate,
as recognized in the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. This treaty brought religious
peace to Germany according to the Latin principle cuius regio, eius religio:
literally, "who rules, his religion." The religion of the territory and its inhabitants
was determined by the religion of the ruler. A Catholic ruler had Catholic subjects.
and a Lutheran ruler had Lutheran subjects; no other creeds were permitted by
the treaty. Martin Luther himself had died in 1546, and in subsequent years
Lutherans became bitterly divided over theological questions. As a result,
Lutheranism after the mid-sixteenth century was largely static and stagnant, confined
to northern Germany, Scandinavia, and pockets of territory along the Baltic
coast. Lutheran churches were organized territorially; there was no international
Lutheran organization, so the churches tended to be dominated by the ruler and
functioned essentially as a department of the government.
Besides the various Lutheran churches, on the non-Catholic or Protestant side,
there were also scattered groups of Anabaptists, who tended to withdraw and live
isolated in their own communities, trying to escape persecutions of both Catholics
and other Protestants. After their catastrophic takeover of the northern German
city of Munster in 1534-35, which was brutally suppressed by allied Lutheran
and Catholic forces, Anabaptists were concerned first and foremost with living
according to their interpretation of God's will and escaping the notice of hostile
authorities. Among the more notable groups were the Mennonites (followers of a
Dutch former priest named Menno Simon), and the Hutterites (named after their
founder Jakob Hutter). These groups and others often emigrated to central and
eastern Europe, where landowners were keen to populate their sparsely peopled
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territories and were prepared to overlook their "heresy" in exchange for a hardworking
and peaceful workforce.
The dynamic and expanding Protestant movement was noW the one founded
and led by John Calvin (1509-64). French by birth and brought up as Catholic,
Calvin experienced a religious conversion at some point in the early 1530s while
a law student and renounced the Catholic Church. A series of circumstances
forced him into exile in the city of Geneva, where with just one two-year hiatus
he spent the rest of his life. By 1559, Calvinism, or Calvin's version of Protestant
Christianity, had emerged as an international Protestant movement. Both Calvin
and his successor Theodore Beza (1519-1605) consciously fostered the international
character of the movement. They welcomed refugees from all over Europe
and set up the Genevan Academy as a theological training school. They sent missionaries
and preachers out to various areas, but especially to France. (Like
Calvin, Beza was French by birth, and both remained intensely interested in and
concerned with their homeland.) Ultimately, a number of jurisdictions became
officially Calvinist: Geneva and parts of Switzerland, various cities of southern
and western Germany, Scotland, the Dutch Republic, and the western German
territory of the Palatinate. In addition, there were significant Calvinist movements
and minorities in many other places: France, the Netherlands, England, Germany,
Bohemia, and Hungary.
At the same time that Calvinism was coming into being and expanding internationally,
and after several false starts and much debate and hesitation, the
Catholic Church had managed to put its house back in order, a process known as
the Counter-Reformation or the Catholic Reformation. This resurgence and
revival was most evident in the Council of Trent, which, after three sessions meeting
on and off for twenty years, finally concluded in 1563. The reformed Catholic
Church is often referred to as the Tridentine Church, and reformed Catholicism as
Tridentine Catholicism, after the Latin name for Trent, Tridentum. Although the
Catholic or Counter-Reformation is seen most evidently in the reforms decreed by
the Council of Trent, it is also evident in a number of other ways: the formation of
the Society of Jesus or Jesuits in 1540, the revived Roman Inquisition, the Index of
Prohibited Books, and the dramatic and emotional style of art known as Baroque.
At the risk of over-simplification, the religious conflicts that dominated
Europe between 1559 and 1715 could be seen as a clash of these two dynamic
and confident movements, international Calvinism and Tridentine or reformed
Catholicism, each absolutely convinced of the divine justice of its cause and of the
pernicious error and heresy of the other. In a world where people believed in one
truth alone, and where rulers derived their right to rule from a divine mandate,
religion was in the very nature of things a political issue. Religious unity was seen
as an essential precondition for peace and stability; conversely, religious dissent
was seen as a certain recipe for civil disorder and civil war. Accordingly, large
numbers of people were willing to kill and be killed in the struggle for truth, how·
ever they defined it. On the other hand, much recent research has pointed out that
probably the majority of people were in fact not so disposed: that, left on their
FOUR ~ Religion and the People 73
74 EARLY MODERN EUROPE
own, most people would prefer peace and social harmony over religious struggle,
even while they condemned the heresy they saw around them. The fact remains,
however, that enough people were of the contrary opinion that religious violence
was a basic fact of life in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe.
THEOLOGY AND ORGANIZATION
The Catholic Church
Over the centuries since the Reformation, there has been a vigorous debate over
the nature and origins of Catholic Reform. This debate is reflected in the names
applied to the movement. "Counter-Reformation" was a term coined by nineteenth-
century German Protestant historians to convey the idea that had it been
left on its own, the Roman Church would have done nothing to reform itself. Only
the shock of the Protestant Reformation and the threat of extinction roused corrupt
church authorities into action, and even then they were purely reactive and
negative, able only to reject Protestant positions rather than doing anything creative
or original of their own. Catholic historians, on the other hand, pointed out
that there were genuine sources of Catholic reform and religious revival prior to
and independent of Luther and the other Protestant reformers. Today, most historians
would agree that although there was a genuine Catholic reform and revival
before the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation, religious schism inevitably
i'lfluenced the shape and outcome of that reform, that it assumed forms it probably
would not otherwise have taken.
This is evident most clearly in the area of theology and doctrine. The Council
of Trent had responded to the challenge of the Protestant Reformation by reaf,
firming the sanctity and necessity of traditional Catholic doctrines and practices. In
defining Catholic theology, the Council consciously and deliberately chose the path
of confrontation over that of compromise. At every point, the decrees of the
Council of Trent decisively and emphatically rejected key Protestant positions.
Thus, the necessity of good works for salvation was reaffirmed, as was the neces'
sity of all seven sacraments. The Council also reaffirmed the doctrine of transub,
stantiation: during the sacrament of Mass or Eucharist, when the priest
pronounced the words "hoc est corpus meum" ("this is my body"), the bread and
wine of the sacrament were physically and miraculously transformed into the body
and blood of Christ. In the terms of medieval philosophy, the elements of the Mass
retained their outward "accidents" (taste, smell, appearance), but their inner sub,
stance was transformed. The council also reaffirmed the divine inspiration of the
Vulgate Bible translated into Latin more than a millennium earlier by St. Jerome.
This was the official and truly inspired Word of God, to the exclusion of all others.
Furthermore, while Catholics were not forbidden to read the Bible themselves,
interpretation of its meaning was the exclusive monopoly of the Church and its
clergy, who were guided by the Holy Spirit. In contrast to Protestants who main,
FOUR ~ Religion and the People
tained Scripture alone as the source of religious authority, the Council of Trent
affirmed the equal authority of church law and tradition, both written and unwritten.
Theologically, the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent were designed to
make it crystal clear what one had to accept and what one had to reject in order to
be a Catholic. There was to be no more confusion or ambiguity on points of doctrine
such as had caused the Protestant Reformation, at least in the eyes of many
At the same time, the worst abuses and corruption that had made the
Protestant Reformation appealing to many people were cleaned up: along with the
theological confrontation, the Tridentine Church undertook a thoroughgoing moral
and institutional reform. To remedy an insufficient and haphazard education for
priests (indeed, a non-existent education for most), the Council ordered every
bishop to establish a seminary in his diocese to educate parish clergy in the basics of
their faith. It is not clear how widely or consistently this decree was followed, but
it was certainly an important step forward. Bishops were given greater control over
the clergy in their jurisdictions, especially over the regular clergy or monks, many of
whom had previously claimed exemption from the authority of their local bishops.
At the same time, the authority of the Pope over the whole church was reasserted,
and the Church was declared to be a papal monarchy, with the Pope, the "Vicar
of Christ," holding his office directly from God. Bishops and other important clergymen
were declared to hold their office from the Pope and not directly from God.
Thus, bishops were firmly subordinated to the power of the Pope, even while they
were given greater authority in terms of governing their dioceses. These measures
were meant to reinforce the hierarchical nature of church authority, to remedy what
was seen as one of the major causes of the Protestant Reformation: that the lines of
authority were unclear and murky, that no one was able to take effective action
against Luther and the other reformers at the very beginning, when the whole thing
could have been nipped in the bud. Although the doctrine of papal infallibility was
not declared at this time (it was not formally proclaimed until 1870), it was certainly
implicit in the decrees of the Council of Trent.
Although the Council of Trent set the Roman Catholic Church on the path to
reform, it was only a beginning. As with any large and complex institution it took
some time before reform made it off the drawing board and into the real world.
For one thing, tensions between many Catholic rulers and the Church made implementation
of the Tridentine reforms problematic. Only Philip II of Spain and the
kings of Poland and Portugal formally accepted the decrees of the council in its
immediate aftermath. Although they were adopted by the French clergy in 1615,
they were never formally accepted by the kings of France. These kings, along with
much of the French clergy and laity, claimed that the Catholic Church in France
was semi-autonomous in issues of administration, finance, and personnel, and that
the decrees of the Council of Trent violated these "Gallican Liberties." Even in
Spain, the "Catholic Kings" as they were known possessed a great deal of authority
over the Catholic Church. Even where such arrangements were not formally
spelled out, such as in most of Catholic Germany, rulers were extremely reluctant to
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be seen to be putting themselves under the Church's authority. We see the weight of
political issues as well in the case of the Roman Inquisition.
Not to be confused with the Spanish Inquisition, which was founded by a
papal grant of 1478 but was independent of papal control and entirely under the
control of the Spanish monarchs, the Roman Inquisition was established in 1542
at the urging of Cardinal Caraffa, later Pope Paul IV (1555-59). It was intended to
operate everywhere in Catholic Europe as the primary means of enforcing discipline
and orthodoxy. Most Catholic rulers, however, refused to let it operate in
their territories, for fear of enhancing or reviving medieval claims of papal
supremacy over secular rulers. Indeed, King Henry II of France (1547-59) established
his own religious court, the Chambre Ardente, or Burning Chamber, to hunt
down heretics but refused to let the Roman Inquisition operate in his kingdom.
In practice, the Roman Inquisition was operative only in the parts of Italy over
which the Pope had some influence or control.
It also took some time for the reforms proclaimed by the Council of Trent to
be implemented. For example, even apart from political issues, it was no easy matter
for bishops to set up seminaries for the training of priests. Where was the
money to come from? Who was to staff these schools? How much, if anything,
could be charged for tuition? What would the curriculum be? As a result, the
establishment of such seminaries was neither immediate nor universal. And so it
was with many other reforms proclaimed by the Council of Trent.
Furthermore, as with any large institution faced with turmoil and change,
there was a great deal of resistance from within. Many of the important men
within the Church liked things just as they were. They were respected, wealthy,
and powerful, so why should they tolerate changes that threatened their status,
power, and wealth? As a result of all these factors, the Catholic Counter-
Reformation was by no means fully implemented during the sixteenth century.
Indeed, the Catholic Church would show signs of real change in most areas only
during the seventeenth century. In fact, it is probably not too much to say that
Tridentine reforms were only fully implemented during the eighteenth century, just
in time for the secular and anti-clerical movements of the Enlightenment and the
Probably the most powerful force in the Tridentine Church was the Society
of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are more commonly known. Founded by Ignatius
Loyola (1491-1556), a former Spanish soldier, the order received papal recognition
in 1540 and quickly established itself as a pillar of the Catholic Counter-
Reformation. Unlike most monastic orders of the time, Loyola and the Jesuits
stressed activism and engagement with the world, rather than withdrawal from
it. Not confined to a cloister, or bound by the ritual observances of worship, the
Society was the most effective vehicle for the implementation of the Counter-
Reformation. If they were to make a real difference, Loyola and the other leaders
of the Society believed, they needed a disciplined and educated body of followers.
Jesuits therefore underwent an extensive and rigorous education, preparing them
for their careers. From the very beginning, the Society was international in its out,
FOUR ~ Religion and the People 77
look: among Ignatius's earliest followers were four Spaniards, one Portuguese, two
Savoyards, and two Frenchmen. The goals of the Society were manifold: to aid
the faithful in their religious devotions, to educate the young, but also to propagate
the faith through foreign missions and to win back converts to Protestantism.
In education, the Jesuits were spectacularly successful, founding and running many
schools, universities, and seminaries throughout Europe. Very quickly, Jesuit missionaries
found their way around the world: from St. Francis Xavier in India,
China, and Japan, to the Spanish colonies in the New World, to the French Jesuits
who proselytized among North American natives in the seventeenth century.
Within,Europe as well, Jesuits led in turning back the Protestant tide that threatened
the survival of the Roman Church. St. Peter Canisius (1521-97) was instrumental
in the preservation of Catholicism in Germany through his teaching, his
foundation of Jesuit colleges, and especially through his writing of catechisms.
When priests were needed in England to succour Catholics there under Elizabeth I,
three Jesuits were sent at very real risk tOJheir lives. In Poland, Bohemia, Austria,
and everywhere that Protestantism threatened the Catholic Church, Jesuits were
active in promoting the Catholic cause.
The Society of Jesus also sought to influence rulers and aristocrats. They acted
as personal confessors to many Catholic rulers: all the kings of France from
Henry III to Louis XV, that is from 1574 to 1774; all the Holy Roman Emperors
after Ferdinand II (1619-37); as well as almost all the kings of Portugal and
Poland. Jesuits, and those trained and influenced by them, were essential in the
reconversion of much of the nobility of Austria, Hungary, and Poland.
Both theologically and organizationally, Calvinism was very different from the
Roman Catholic Church. Protestants in general, and Calvinists in particular, denied
the role of good works in salvation, while emphasizing human depravity and sinfulness.
On its own, mankind is incapable of anything pleasing to God; salvation,
therefore, is entirely God's work. He chooses whom he wishes for salvation, the
Elect, and condemns whom he wishes to damnation. This is the doctrine of predestination
or election. Most Protestant theologians, while they acknowledged the
doctrine in theory, shied away from its more disturbing implications, stating, for
example, that it was vain to try to understand God's power and majesty, and that in
practical terms people should probably assume they were one of the Elect. Not so
with Calvin. Calvin insisted on predestination in its harshest and most strident
form. Before the creation of the world, God chose some for salvation and condemned
others to an eternity of torment in Hell. This was entirely at God's pleasure:
human merit had nothing to do with it. Calvin explicitly denied that
predestination 'Was the result of God's foreknowledge: that since God was outside
of time, he knew who was going to be good, and who was not, and then chose the
good for salvation and condemned the bad. Moreover, Calvin insisted, there was no
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way of knowing for sure in this life whether or not one was one of the Elect, and
there was certainly nothing one could do to change one's eternal destiny.
It has often been asserted that predestination or election was the core concept
of Calvin's theology. In fact, however, it was a result, not a cause. The core of
Calvin's theology that produced the emphasis on predestination was his conception
of God's utter majesty and sovereignty. For Calvin, to allow humans any role
in their own salvation, to admit that, on their own, humans were capable of anything
good, was to diminish the role and power of God. As he wrote in his major
theological work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion,
We shall never be clearly persuaded, as we ought to be, that our salvation
flows from the wellspring of God's free mercy until we come to know his
eternal election, which illumines God's grace by this contrast: that he does
not indiscriminately adopt all into the hope of salvation but gives to some
what he denies to others ...,
Protestant theology in general, and Calvinist theology in particular, also denied
the intermediary role of the Church. The Catholic position was that the institution
of the Roman Church had been founded by Christ Himself and had been
guided by the Holy Spirit through the centuries. The Catholic Church (catholic
means universal), therefore, was incapable of error and was the indispensable
intermediary between God and humanity. The Church was the custodian of the
sacraments, the vehicles of divine grace, without which no one could be saved. Its
clergy stood in a special position before God, having a unique relationship with
and access to the divine unavailable to laypeople. As a mark of this special status,
Catholic clergy were in theory celibate, not only not allowed to marry, but also
required to reject sex altogether.
Calvin, following Luther and other Protestant reformers, denied this role of
the Church. It was still crucial as the fellowship of Christians, but it was no longer
the intermediary between God and mankind. Thus, the Church lost its exclusive
right to interpret the Bible, and the clergy lost their special status. As a mark of
this denial of the elevated status of the clergy, Protestant pastors were allowed,
and even encouraged, to marry. Luther himself had married a former nun, had a
number of children, and wrote very tenderly about family life. Calvin also married,
but he was never as forthcoming about his family life. Individual Christians,
then, all stood in the same relationship to God as Catholic priests-they all had
equal access, and none had a special status in God's eyes. This is the doctrine of
"the priesthood of all believers."
In contrast once more to the Catholic Church, where Scripture and church
law and tradition were equal sources of authority, for Protestants and Calvinists,
Scripture alone was the source of religious authority. In conjunction with the
"priesthood of all believers," this meant that Protestants, including Calvinists,
emphasized the importance of individual reading of the Bible. This in turn led to
an emphasis on education, not only for the basics of literacy, but also to teach
FOUR ~ Religionand the People 79
people the "proper" interpretation of Scripture. Calvinism, it has been observed, is
a "religion of the book," placing great value on individual Bible study.
For Calvinists, in common with other Protestants, there were only two sacraments:
baptism and the Lord's Supper or communion. The sacraments, moreover,
lost their essential role in salvation as the vehicles of divine grace. In particular,
Protestants denied the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, although what
exactly happened during the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was the single most
divisive issue among Protestants. Luther, while he rejected transubstantiation, tried
desperately to maintain some physical divine presence in the bread and wine of
the sacrament. In his view, while the bread and wine were not miraculously transformed
by the priest, Christ was still somehow physically present. This view has
been called consubstantiation, or "Real Presence." Other Protestants followed the
view first put forward by the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who
maintained that nothing happened to the bread and wine. They were simply symbols
representing the body and blood of Christ. The only benefit to participants
was in the reflection on Christ's suffering and death caused by the sacrament.
Calvin denied that anything happened to the elements, but neither were they mere
symbols. Although Christ was not physically present in the bread and wine, He
was spiritually present. Believers received a real spiritual benefit from the sacrament
over and above mere reflection on Christ's crucifixion and death.
In institutional terms, Calvinism was also very different from the Catholic
Church. Although of course Calvin and later Beza had a good deal of influence
on Calvinists throughout Europe, in common with other Protestant churches
Calvinism had no international structure. Calvinist churches were organized territorially,
by political jurisdiction. Unlike Catholicism, which was organized hierarchically,
and Lutheranism, where the ruler was basically in charge, Calvinism
was more "democratic," organized in a presbyterian system, with local, regional,
and national assemblies or synods. Local churches would send delegates, usually
both clergy and laypeople, to regional or provincial synods. These regional bodies
would then send delegates to a national synod. This system allowed for significant
lay participation in church government, for it was not monopolized by the
clergy. It also allowed for a degree of popular participation and consultation.
These things had several consequences. For one thing, it meant that throughout
the organization a number of people, both clergy and laity, had significant experience
in church organization and governance. It also meant that it was highly
unlikely that the national church would come up with policies unacceptable to the
local congregations, since the national synod itself was made up of people who
had started out in local congregations. This organization also helped Calvinism
to survive in a hostile environment. Even if the national synod could be eliminated
by hostile authorities, the regional synods and local congregations would continue.
A Calvinist church could not be killed by cutting off its head. In this way, it was
somewhat similar to a modern terrorist organization with its separate and selfcontained
cells. Although the comparison may seem far-fetched, this probably
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reflects fairly accurately the feelings of Catholic authorities faced with Calvini
When it came to relations with secular rulers, the two movements had in thl
ory very different attitudes, but in practice faced many of the same problem
Catholic theology and tradition put the Church and the Pope above merely sect
lar rulers. In theory (restated by the Council of Trent) the Church had the rig}
to depose wicked, tyrannical, or heretical rulers. In fact it did not have this powe
and had not for a long time, if ever. So, in practice, the Church and Catholic ruler
cooperated uneasily but were continually suspicious of each other. In reality, what
ever Catholic theology said in theory, Catholic rulers continued to gain consider
able power over the Church in their territories. We have already discussed th
"Gallican Liberties" of the Catholic Church in France. In the Spanish kingdoms a
well, rulers had significant power over church revenues and personnel. Even when
these powers were not formally enshrined or spelled out, Catholic rulers had sig
nificant control over the Church in their lands, and continued to gain more. Then
was, as might be imagined, continual unresolved tension between the Catholic
Church and secular rulers over such questions. Indeed, the Catholic Counter,
Reformation produced somewhat of a revival in political theories that placed
Church above Crown. Two Jesuits, the Spaniard Juan de Mariana (1536-1624)
and the Italian Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), justified tyrannicide and defended
the Pope's power to depose secular rulers. Such theories could only further complicate
Calvin, like Luther and almost everyone else, emphasized the divine origin of
political power. It was therefore sinful to rebel against or resist a lawful ruler. If a
ruler was evil, tyrannical, or a heretic, the subject had three choices: conformity,
exile, or martyrdom. In no case was resistance or rebellion justified. But, having
slammed the door shut on any possibility of lawful resistance, Calvin proceeded to
open it just a crack. He left several theoretical loopholes for political action against
rulers. There were some states, he theorized, whose constitutions provided for
"lesser magistrates" whose job it was to correct and guide rulers. So, in fact, resistance
or rebellion might not be sinful if sanctioned or led by these "lesser magistrates."
After all, they were only doing their job. This was how one might justify
Luther's revolt against the Holy Roman Emperor: yes, he was rebelling against
the Emperor, but he had the support of his own ruler, the Elector of Saxony. In
Calvin's case, there is strong evidence that he considered French nobles to be just
such "lesser magistrates," and that if the Calvinist movement was supported by
the nobles, resistance to the king might be permissible. As we shall see, this had
enormous consequences in France in the later sixteenth century.
Calvin also had before him the experience of Israel as portrayed in the Old
Testament, where on several occasions prophets had led rebellions against wicked
kings. Calvin therefore theorized that on occasion God might raise up "open
avengers" to punish wicked rulers. He never discussed, however, how one might
distinguish such an "open avenger" from a garden-variety rebel. The obvious
implication was that if the rebel succeeded, he must have had God's blessing. So,
FOUR B1- Religion and the People 81
despite emphasizing the divine nature of political authority and the sinfulness of
resistance, Calvin left several theoretical loopholes that Calvinists exploited to justify
Wherever the official church was Calvinist, there was continual tension
between it and the government. Government is often a messy business, and rulers
often have to make practical decisions and reach compromises, regardless of their
impact on religious purity. (In the nineteenth century, the unifier of Germany, the
"iron chancellor" Otto von Bismarck, noted that "politics is like sausage: if you
want to enjoy the end result, you shouldn't watch it being made.") Many Calvinist
ministers and zealous lay people were not interested in practicalities; they were
interested in purity. The Dutch Republic, for instance, was officially Calvinist but
actually had a majority Catholic population until around 1600. Zealous Calvinists
were continually pressing the government to take a harder line toward the
Catholics, something governments continually resisted for pragmatic political purposes.
Likewise in Scotland, the government clashed repeatedly with the
Presbyterian Church (the "kirk") over issues of moral discipline, education, and
church governance. Even in Calvinist Geneva, Calvin himself became embroiled in
jurisdictional disputes with the city government.
Religion and the People
It is no doubt ironic or paradoxical that although the differences between them
were vast in some respects, in practice Calvinism and Tridentine Catholicism were
in some ways very alike, certainly to a degree that would have shocked sixteenthcentury
Calvinists and Catholics. Both movements produced a core of committed
followers who believed in the absolute truth and rightness of their cause and were
willing to kill and be killed in its service. Among Catholics the best example of
this elite is the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Among Calvinists, we might expect predestination
to produce apathy and fatalism, but for sixteenth-century Calvinists
it had the opposite result. According to Calvin's theology, the purpose of life was
not salvation, but rather serving and glorifying God on earth. If you turned out to
be one of the Elect, you praised God for His mercy and grace. If you turned out to
be one of the damned, it was only what you deserved, and you praised God for
His justice. In either case, believers were freed from anxiety about their salvation
so they could get on with their real task: doing God's will on earth. In both cases,
we see a disciplined, ascetic lifestyle in which all else is subordinate.
Early in the twentieth century, the German sociologist Max Weber published
an influential book called The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In it,
he proposed what has come to be known as the Weber thesis: that Calvinist theology
uniquely produced the mental conditions necessary for the rise and triumph of
the modern capitalist ethic. This ethic consisted of qualities such as frugality, moderation,
discipline, hard work, and sobriety. It also encompassed a disposition to
value hard work simply for its own sake, rather than for the rewards it brings.
Thus, despite material success, people will not rest on their laurels and enjoy the
EIGHTEEN ~ Intellectual Life: The Quest for Certainty
the key figures here was the Flemish humanist and writer Justus Lipsius
(1547-1606). Lipsius was able to do for Stoicism what Gassendi would for
Epicureanism, that is, to make it safe for Christian consumption. Admittedly, this
was a less onerous task, for much of Stoic philosophy accorded reasonably well
with Christian theology, and there was a long tradition, going back to St,
Augustine, of incorporating Stoic thought into Christianity. Lipsius argued that
what we see as ill fortune is in fact part of God's providential activity and should
be met with equanimity and constancy (constantia). He did, however, have to
modify Stoic natural philosophy to make it consonant with Christianity. He saw
fate as the expression of God's will, rather than a natural force to which even God
or the gods are subject. The Stoics had taught that events have only natural causes,
which ruled out miracles, and that the universe is deterministic in nature and does
not permit the operation of free will, positions that Lipsius rejected.
The influences of Stoicism on natural philosophy are oblique rather than
direct. Stoic physics was mechanistic, as was Epicurean, although in a different
way. The Stoic pneuma was an explanation for the transmission of movement
from body to body. So, for example, Johannes Kepler displayed some Stoic influence
when he postulated that the movement of the planets could be explained by
the transmission of the Sun's magnetic attraction through something very much
like the Stoic pneuma. Isaac Newton was also heavily influenced by the Stoic
revival. He believed that the universe was filled with an invisible and insensible
cether. At one time, he believed that this was the vehicle through which gravity
exerted its force. He eventually discarded its role in gravitation but maintained
his belief in cether, which for him became the medium through which God sustained
and preserved the universe.
* * *
It is extremely hazardous to generalize about the thought of any period, let
alone one so fertile and diverse as early modern Europe. If there was any unifying
principle, it was the quest for order and certainty in an age when all order and
certainty seemed lost, in politics, religion, and philosophy. The old certainties had
been discarded, but not yet replaced. By the end of the seventeenth century, the
calm and harmonious answers supplied by Newton and Locke would come to be
accepted, laying the foundation for the Enlightenment. As the poet Alexander
Pope would write in the eighteenth century,
Nature and Nature's laws
lay hid in night;
God said, Let Newton be!
and all was light.
In the meantime however, different thinkers sought certainty in a variety of
places. For some, such as Bacon and Locke, the experience of the senses was
342 EARLY MODERN EUROPE
paramount. For others, such as Descartes, certainty was to be found in the
processes of the mind. Those such as Montaigne denied that certainty was possible
at all, while Pascal found it in the embrace of a loving and beneficent God.
Still others sought refuge in mysticism and religious enthusiasm, or in revivals of
ancient philosophies, some made compatible with Christian doctrine, others not.
European thought in this period is a rich and varied tapestry that defies easy
analysis and labelling.
In the period under examination in this book, European society and culture
changed a great deal. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of intellectuallife
where the foundations were laid for modern science. By 1715, the educated
elites of Europe were living in a different mental universe than a century and
a half earlier. To them, based on the discoveries and philosophies of Locke and
Newton, the universe was rational and orderly, with little room for the "superstitious"
beliefs of earlier generations. As we have seen, this shift in mental outlook
is perhaps the most important single explanation for the disappearance of the
great witch hunts that punctuated the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Bythe
early eighteenth century, however, the full implications of this mental and intellectual
shift were apparent only in vague outline. Indeed, much of the intellectual
and cultural history of the eighteenth century can be seen as the working out of
these implications, in the intellectual and cultural movement of the Enlightenment.
In the realms of politics and government, too, this period saw important
developments, though not as precedent-shattering as those in intellectual life.
Indeed, these developments built upon patterns and precedents inherited from the
Middle Ages. The two key themes here are centralization and absolutism, that is,
the tendency of central governments to amass greater and greater control over
their territory and inhabitants, and within that central government for rulers to
increasingly concentrate power in their hands alone. Indeed, it is probably no
exaggeration to say that at some point during this period, the point of no return
was passed. That is, in 1559, it is possible to imagine that the political development
of Europe could have evolved differently, that the future could have looked
more like decentralized and noble-dominated Poland or the Holy Roman Empire
than France or Great BritainGreat Britain. By 1715, though, large, centrally controlled monarchies
had won the day. The apparent and important differences between France,
Great BritainGreat Britain, Brandenburg-Prussia, the Habsburg monarchy, and Russia should
not blind usus to their commonalities. Likewise, the apparent and important differences
between the various absolute monarchies (primarily France, Brandenburg-
Prussia, the Habsburg monarchy, and Russia) and the limited governments of
Great BritainGreat Britain and the Dutch Republic should not obscure the fact that in all these
states, central governments were in more effective control in 1715 than they had
been in 1559.
In diplomacy and international relations, the key feature of this period is the
impact of religious division on relations between states and rulers. As we have
seen, at least until the latter stages of the Thirty Years' War, religion was the single
most important factor in diplomacy and warfare. This period of nearly continual
EIGHTEEN ~ Intellectual Life: The Quest for Certainty 343
war interacted directly with the evolution of governments discussed above. The
constant need for more and more money in order to pay for this warfare is an
extremely important factor in the continuing processes of centralization and absolutism,
in creating the "warfare state" where the rights and liberties of the society
of orders are'subjected to the onslaught of the ruler and his tax collectors. By the
later stages of the Thirty Years' War, religious passion had lost its central role in
international affairs. Yet the influence of religious conflict lingered in several different
ways. First, religious division and the concomitant warfare did result in the
"warfare state," which lasted beyond the period of religious warfare, and in the
sustained attack on the rights and privileges of the society of orders. Although no
one can say for certain, without the religious division resulting from the
Reformation and the subsequent century of religious war, it is very likely that
European states would have developed very differently than was actually the case.
Second, even after religion ceased to be the driving factor in diplomacy, the residue
of religious warfare still complicated international relations, dividing potential
allies and bringing together potential enemies. Thus, as we have seen, England and
the Dutch Republic were commercial and naval rivals but found themselves on the
same side of the religious divide, while France and England had a common interest
in weakening Dutch commerce but were divided by deep religious hostility.
Other facets of history do not fit quite as neatly into the relatively short timeframe
of this book. Economic life did not change dramatically in this period. In
1715 as in 1559, the vast majority of people continued to derive their livelihood
from agriculture. Most manufactured goods continued to be made on a handicraft
basis for local consumption. On the other hand, important changes continued
beneath the surface. The most important was the continuing and growing
importance of the market in agriculture. By 1715 it was much more common for
peasants to grow food for sale on the open market than for their own subsistence
alone. During the course of the eighteenth century, this development would ultimately
lead to a transformation in European agriculture that would lay the foundation
for the Industrial Revolution.
European society also seemed to change very little in this period. The daily
lives of most people and the routines of birth, marriage, family, and death
remained essentially the same. The demographic pattern of early modern Europe
was established in the wake of the Black Death of the fourteenth century and persisted
until the impact of the Industrial Revolution was widely felt in the nineteenth.
In 1715, as in 1559, a society composed overwhelmingly of agrarian
peasants was dominated by an aristocracy whose power was based on their control
of the land and was supported by the twin pillars of monarchy and the
Church. Beneath the surface, however, important changes were taking place. For
one thing, the nature of the aristocracy was changing, due largely to greater social
mobility. That is, increasing numbers of bourgeois were either becoming noble,
mostly through royal bureaucracies, or were living the leisurely life of a rentier.
At the same time, the increasing importance of the market in agriculture changed
the way that aristocratic landowners and peasants related to each other. In western
344 EARLY MODERN EUROPE
Europe, these relations became more impersonal and commercial, while in eastern
Europe serfdom was imposed and strengthened as a way of guaranteeing a cheap
and captive labour force. Changing agricultural economics, increased taxation,
and the depredations of war combined to produce social tension and frequent
In religious life, as we have seen, the key feature of this period was the religious
division produced by the Protestant Reformation. Yet this division between
the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant churches should not blind
usus to some important common trends and developments. First, even as religion
receded as a force in international relations, most rulers and governments continued
to stress the vital importance of religious uniformity within their territories. At
the same time, there was a concerted effort to "improve" the religious lives and
devotion of ordinary people. This project was many-faceted. It involved better
education for clergy and laity alike, teaching people the essential tenets of their
faith. It involved the reform of popular culture, purging it of what the reformers
saw as pagan vestiges as well as immoral and impious practices.
This endeavour to "improve" the religious lives of ordinary people had consequences
very different from those envisioned by governments and the "godly"
reformers. At one level, these efforts were quite successful in teaching more people
than ever before to read and write. On the other hand, ordinary people, once literate,
put this literacy to work in ways that had not been foreseen. At the same
time, efforts to "clean up" popular culture drove a wedge between ordinary people
and cultural elites. As long as rulers and elites remained committed to enforcing
religious uniformity, ordinary people could be made to conform, but nothing
could make them like it. Once this commitment began to waver, as happened in
the course of the eighteenth century, the seemingly solid foundations of European
churches were shown to be rather weak.
So, there is no doubt that European society was more secular in 1715 than
in 1559, although this would become apparent only in the years to come. It is
somewhat ironic, then, that the outcome of a century and a half of largely religious
war, of efforts to impose religious uniformity and to educate people in the
basic tenets of their faith, was ultimately a society and culture in which
Christianity would be much less central to people's lives than it had been for over
a thousand years before.
John Henry, The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (New York: St, Martin's,
2 Theodore K, Rabb, The Struggle for Stability in Early Modern Europe (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1975) 114-15,
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