Medieval Political Ideas - Vol. 2

Medieval Political Ideas - Vol. 2

Medieval Political Ideas - Vol. 2

Medieval Political Ideas - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The strongest side of medieval political theory was that which defined what political organization ought to accomplish; its weakest side was that which dealt with the type of organization that would make such accomplishment more probable. As we have already observed in tracing the development of opinion on the structure of secular authority, medieval thought in this field never attained a systematic reconciliation of the demands emerging from medieval experience with the concepts derived from tradition and deductive speculation; in fact, it never looked quite squarely at the problem. Accordingly, in the history of political thought a particular interest attaches to the theories that developed about the government of the church. In the doctrine of the plenitude of papal power, ideas common to both ecclesiastical and secular theory were early carried to a systematic extreme which secular theory rarely emulated. But papal absolutism had to face, in the problem of the Great Schism, a test more drastic and long continued than any that ever menaced the corresponding view of secular kingship. Thus for a time the question of the means by which good government in the church might be secured became a question of compelling practical importance for many excellent minds. Its challenge required a re-examination of the basic principles of all political organization and brought into comparatively explicit statement ideas that in the realm of secular theory remained vague suggestions. And although in the end the promise of conciliar theory was frustrated both by its own intellectual difficulties and by the actual . . .

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