Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Liberty in the Renaissance: Political

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_605-1
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Abstract

Liberty is an important issue in the Renaissance political thinking, yet it often remains implicit in the texts or, when explicit, is not addressed directly. The main contributions on this topic are those by Coluccio Salutati, Leonardo Bruni, Alamanno Rinuccini, Étienne de La Boétie, and, above all, Niccolò Machiavelli. These contributions are developed in works where history, politics, and literature are intertwined. The deepest roots of such contributions can be found in Greek authors, such as Aristides, Aristotle, Plato, Polybius, and Xenophon, as well as in Roman ones, such as Cicero and Livy. More recent roots can be found in Cola di Rienzo and Francis Petrarch. Liberty is conceived as city-state autonomy, and a free people is one that is sibi princeps, i.e., not under the jurisdiction of foreign powers and is living under its own laws. To maintain its freedom, a community needs to defend itself from foreign enemies. Salutati and Bruni defend Florence by celebrating its liberty and virtue as heir of the Roman republic. Liberty must be defended also from domestic enemies, i.e., from tyrants. Their works and those of others point to an intense Renaissance discussion of what a tyrant is and whether it is right to kill him. Within the discussion on liberty, an important role was played by Machiavelli. For Machiavelli, liberty consists in the ability of the people to make their own laws and to consent to government policy, promoting the common good. Liberty occurs within a republic, but not necessarily, and should be preserved at all costs.

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References

Primary Literature

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    Further Reading

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PaduaUdineItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • David A. Lines
    • 1
  1. 1.Italian Studies, School of Modern Languages and CulturesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK