Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet's Defense of Absolute Monarchy
G. Stolyarov II
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 5,100 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page. This essay should be read as an exposition, not an endorsement, of Bossuet's views.
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) was a theologian at the court of the French "Sun King" Louis XIV; Bossuet was one of history's most fervent defenders of absolute monarchy. For him, only God stands above the person of the king, and the king's authority cannot be challenged by any other human being.
According to Bossuet's treatise, "On the Nature and Properties of Royal Authority," the greatest crime is to attack the person of the king, since the king is not a mere man, but the representative of God on Earth, whose life individuals must guard above their own so as to obtain the grace of God.
Bossuet quotes biblical figures as stating that obedience to rulers is necessary so that those rulers may have the ability to exercise God's moral judgment on Earth. Though Bossuet claims that kings are responsible to God for using their power to advance the public good, he twists this argument to justify absolute authority for kings, since no man should be able to intervene with the king's ability to pass judgment on matters of good and evil and thus be accountable to God for this judgment.
Because the king is directly accountable to God, according to Bossuet, he cannot be held liable to any man for his judgment. Bossuet also compares a king to a father for his subjects, and thus grounds the belief in absolute authority in the Ten Commandments, which include obedience to one's parents. He justifies a king's immense material power as a gift from God so that the king's attention would not need (in theory) to be occupied with the pursuit of further material gains, thus able to be directed for the public purpose that he was intended to fulfill by God.
Bossuet claims, moreover, that, though the king is vulnerable to God, he is vulnerable to God alone, and that it is not moral for mortal individuals to violate any royal command, no matter how unjust, or to resist a king's rule with anything but peaceful criticisms and prayers. The king's divine purpose additionally justifies State intervention in religious matters, since enforcing God's purpose necessarily involves crushing "heathen" religions or ideologies, such as atheism, which doubt or reject God.
Though the king, in Bossuet's view, was supposed to adhere to God's laws and be bound by Christian ethical considerations, there was, in practice, no way to ensure that this would happen, since the king's earthly rule was absolute and no mortal power could serve as a check against his ambitions. Thus, Bossuet's theological defense of absolute monarchy essentially amounts to giving the monarch absolute free rein to do as he pleases.
Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress.
In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage Right, Rebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas,
Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently
the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until
Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout
Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its
Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s
selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.
Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).
Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology, a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.Statement of Policy.
Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.