Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought

By Pat Duffy Hutcheon | Go to book overview
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Pioneers of Modern Social Science Montaigne, Hobbes and Hume

Michel de Montaigne (1533-92)

This is an excellent foppery of the world that, when we are sick in fortune -- often the surfeit of our own behaviour -- we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion...and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

-- William Shakespeare, King Lear

E rasmus had been right in feeling pessimistic about his world, for he died on the eve of one of the grimmest periods in European history. With Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, and his consequent purging of loyal Catholics like Thomas More, England officially broke with the Church of Rome. Yet the new religion seemed Protestant in little more than name, for its rituals were largely unaltered, and reading the Bible was still forbidden. Meantime, across the channel, King Francis I of France remained with Rome. So, too, did that other great power, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. However, Francis, in his ongoing war with Charles, took advantage of the growing schism in Christendom by manoeuvering for aid from Protestants as well as from the Turks who were threatening central Europe from the south.

The war for political supremacy between these two Catholic monarchs ( Charles, a last vestige of the old order, and Francis, a harbinger of the new) was to last for almost forty years. Massive social destruction was its legacy. It was followed almost immediately by the onset of the Huguenot religious wars within France. This civil strife took the form of ferocious outbreaks between Catholics and Protestants that were to continue sporadically for another thirty years. The worst of these was the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, when two thousand Protestant Huguenots were slain by a Paris mob.

Outside of France religious strife was similarly endemic. No sooner had Protestantism been established in Scandinavia and the northern German states than it began to disintegrate into warring factions, each with its own doctrinal interpretations "writ in stone." Although Lutheranism prevailed in the north,

References for this chapter are on p. 55-56.


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