Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Filmer, Sir Robert

Born: East Sutton, Kent 1588
Died: East Sutton, Kent 1653
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_487-1


Victim of John Locke’s late seventeenth-century searing attack aimed to dismantle his patriarchalist political ideas, Sir Robert Filmer (1588–1653) was for a long time considered the villain par excellence in the history of political thought. His works were seen as containing archaic, obsolete, and authoritarian principles. However, thanks to new scholarly approaches based on the methodology of contextualism, Filmer’s writings have been studied in connection with the polemics of the time during which they were composed. His political ideas have thus been analyzed as a powerful – even though in the long term unsuccessful – theoretical attempt to shape an absolutist vision of sovereignty at the center of which stands the king as father of the fatherland. This revisiting of Filmerian works has also cast light on his less-known tracts on important early modern issues such as theology, women and the household, witchcraft, and usury. Ultimately, Filmer has nowadays acquired a different – that is, finer – reputation as a thinker whose contribution to the history of ideas deserves a place only a level lower than that of high-caliber authors like Hobbes and his archenemy Locke.


Political Thought Political Idea Modern Thinker Filmerian Idea Scholarly Approach 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


Primary Sources

  1. Sommerville, J.P. (Ed.). 1991a. Filmer: ‘Patriarcha’ and other writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

  1. Cuttica, C. 2012. Sir Robert Filmer (1588–1653) and the patriotic monarch: Patriarchalism in seventeenth-century political thought. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Daly, J. 1979. Sir Robert Filmer and English political thought. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  3. Schochet, G. 1975. Patriarchalism in political thought. The authoritarian family and political speculation and attitudes especially in seventeenth-century England. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Sommerville, J.P. 1991b. Introduction. Filmer: ‘Patriarcha’ and other writings, ed. J.P. Sommerville, vii–xxxvii. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Paris 8ParisFrance

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marco Sgarbi
    • 1
  1. 1.University Ca' Foscari VeniceVeniceItaly