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Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion in Reference to Civil Society

Samuel Pufendorf

Publication Year: 2012

Samuel Pufendorf’s Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion (published in Latin in 1687) is a major work on the separation of politics and religion. Written in response to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by the French king Louis XIV, Pufendorf contests the right of the sovereign to control the religion of his subjects, because state and religion pursue wholly different ends. He concludes that, when rulers transgress their bounds, subjects have a right to defend their religion, even by the force of arms.

Pufendorf’s opposition to the French king does not demonstrate political radicalism. Instead, like John Locke and others who defended the concept of toleration, Pufendorf advocates a principled, moderate defense of toleration rather than unlimited religious liberty.

Appearing at the dawn of the Enlightenment, Pufendorf’s ideas on natural law and toleration were highly influential in both Europe and the British Isles. As Simone Zurbuchen explains in the introduction, Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion is a major contribution to the history and literature of religious toleration.

Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) was one of the most important figures in early-modern political thought. An exact contemporary of Locke and Spinoza, he transformed the natural law theories of Grotius and Hobbes, developed striking ideas of toleration and of the relationship between church and state, and wrote extensive political histories and analyses of the constitution of the German empire.

Jodocus Crull (d. 1713/14) was a German émigré to England, a medical man, and a translator and writer.

Simone Zurbuchen is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-xx

John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration, originally published in Latin in 1689, is widely known as a founding text in the history of toleration. It is usually claimed that Locke was among the first who defended a "modern" concept of toleration. This interpretation rests on the basic distinction...

Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion in reference to Civil Society

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The Introductory Epistle

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pp. 3-6

The extraordinary Character you have acquir'd by the joint Consent of those that have the Honour of your Acquaintance, Encourages me to deviate from the common Road, used by our Modern Authors; being made sufficiently sensible, how much a Mind endow'd with Genorous and Modest...

The Contents

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pp. 7-10

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Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society, &c.

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pp. 11-140

Among all those Questions, which have for many Ages past been Controverted among Christians, this may be deem'd one of the Chiefest; which Treats of the Nature, Authority, and Power of the Church; and which of the several Christian Sects ought most justly to claim the Title...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 141-143


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pp. 145-158

Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9781614878520
E-ISBN-10: 1614878528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865973718

Page Count: 178
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

OCLC Number: 61744622
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion in Reference to Civil Society

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Subject Headings

  • Church and state -- Early works to 1800.
  • Religion and civil society -- Early works to 1800.
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