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The Differentiation of Authority

the medieval turn toward existence

James Greenaway

Publication Year: 2012

In this study, James Greenaway explores the philosophical continuity between contemporary Western society and the Middle Ages. Allowing for genuinely modern innovations, he makes the claim that the medieval search for order remains fundamentally unbroken in our search for order today.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Books mean different things to different people. For me, the manuscript in its final appearance as a book is not unlike the lifetime of a beloved pet: messy, frustrating, but eminently worth it in the end, it also functions as something of a chronicle of one’s own life. And much has happened since its inception as a discussion with Brendan Purcell...

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pp. 1-17

There are things we take for granted. There is an ocean seething with meaning just under the skin, always moving us. We raise our sails on it, sink our tiller into it, and upon it we navigate for better or worse. In the routine of daily living, there is much that we assume to be palpably obvious, and we wonder at the struggles of generations past to arrive at what...

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1. The Medieval Political Order to 1150

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pp. 19-50

Legal historian Harold Berman points to an “axis-time” in the development of Western medieval order. He has postulated that “there was a radical discontinuity between the Europe of the period before the years 1050–1150 and the Europe of the period after [these] years.”1 Norman Cantor, in another context, agrees, stating that this period was...

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2. The Emergence of the Individual

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pp. 51-82

The emphasis on existence had reached an influential point by the twelfth century. Moreover, this new emphasis was not a merely legal, political, or philosophical movement, but affected every aspect of medieval civilization. To demonstrate some of this universality, this chapter concerns itself with the development of law and its glosses...

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3. Constitutionality and Existence in Medieval England

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pp. 83-116

The existence of a parliament is arguably the most obvious indicator of a constitutional government, or perhaps provides a cover of constitutionality for tyranny. Either way, parliamentarism is a technical device for government that suggests a well-integrated and functioning political society. Michael Oakeshott gives an account of the earliest...

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4. Crisis and Closure 1: The Isolation of the Sovereign Individual

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pp. 117-145

Eric Voegelin has argued that the evocation of a sacrum imperium had the “effect of weakening the sentiment of distinction between the world and the realm of what is not of this world.” He suggests that the eschatological expectation of the temporal world sinking into oblivion, prevalent in the early Christian experience, had receded rapidly in the...

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5. Crisis and Closure 2: The Submergence of Existence

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pp. 146-178

If the absolutizing of existential authority and the consequent corruption of the triad of authorities was the theme of the last chapter, then this chapter looks at the inverse of the individual sovereignty through the work of Siger of Brabant, Dante, and Marsilius of Padua. What emerges is, of course, another form of closure to reality with...

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6. Continental Problems in Political Order

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pp. 179-203

Existential authority was the new civilizational factor with which both political and spiritual institutional authorities had to grapple. The problem for the church was the rise of heretical new pieties outside the traditional orthodoxy which will be examined in the next chapter. However, the problem that the political authorities had to face was the...

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7. The Medieval Papacy and the Overreach of Authority

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pp. 204-234

After considering the development of political authority in the crisis of meaning in medieval society, the church—as the institutional carrier of transcendental substance and the eminent spiritual authority of the medieval West—must now be considered. The spiritual authority of the church will be discussed in the context of the differentiation of...

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8. Toward the Future

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pp. 235-268

The future of Western society beyond the medieval cosmion involved the integration of the existential into the orbit of authorities. With obvious exceptions—such as absolutism in early modern kingship and the horrors inflicted by modern ideologists who claimed to possess the collectivist spirit of the age/race/nation/class/liberation and...

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Concluding Remarks: The Contemporary West and Islam

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pp. 269-293

How did it come about that a small group of peoples in Western Europe should in a relatively short space of time acquire the power to transform the world and to emancipate themselves from man’s age-long dependence on the forces of nature? . . . Why is it that Europe alone among the civilizations of the world has been continually shaken and transformed by an energy of...


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pp. 295-302


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pp. 303-309

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219578
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813219561

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Power (Social sciences) -- History -- To 1500.
  • Authority -- History -- To 1500.
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