Traversino Di Cristo, Massimiliano (2016) Against the Backdrop of Sovereignty and Absolutism: The Theology of God's Power and Its Bearing on the Western Legal Tradition, 1100-1600. PhD thesis, University of Trento, Birkbeck College, University of London, University of Geneva.
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In focusing on the theology of God's power, this dissertation neither presents an exhaustive historical biography of political theology nor exalts its career in the Western history of ideas. Rather, it attempts to determine the degree to which the modern fate of this field depended on the dialectic of the distinction between two separate types of God's power. To this end, I explore employments and embodiments of this power over a number of centuries. The mediaeval investigation into God's attributes was originally concerned with the problem of divine almightiness, but underwent a slow but steady displacement from the territory of theology to the freshly emerging proceedings of legal analysis. Here, based on the distinction between potentia Dei absoluta and ordinata (God's absolute and ordered power), late-mediaeval lawyers worked out a new terminology to define the extent of the power-holder's authority. This effort would give rise, during the early modern era, to the gradual establishment of the legal-political framework represented by the concepts of the prince and sovereignty. In covering the time from Peter Damian (d. 1072) to Alberico Gentili (d. 1608), I demarcate the limits of this evolution as well as its thematic direction. Damian illustrates how mediaeval theologians' introduction of the distinction potentia Dei absoluta/ordinata extended the horizon of what is feasible for God, while Gentili confronts us by placing the most spectacular consequences of the emerging question in the normative realms of law and politics. I conclude that the question of potentia Dei finally emerges as the Archimedean point from which the account of the history of the European legal tradition is supplemented with its structuring twofoldness - through, for example, such binomial conceptual tensions as centralism/authonomy, legislative/judicial authority, and written/unwritten law.
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