Thursday, June 10, 2010

Richard Hooker in the Declaration of Independence

The Founders stood on the Shoulders of Giants,
who stood on the Shoulders of Giants
by Tom Van Dyke


"This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, and beyond all question..."---John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government [1690]

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal..."---the American Declaration of Independence [1776]


Upon those very few words and that proposition, that all men are created equal, America as we know it rests.

So who is this "judicious Hooker," who died in 1600? Not a fair-minded Lady of Delight, but a philosopher-theologian named Richard Hooker, formally Rev. Richard Hooker of Exeter, England, the "Father of Anglicanism."

As a theologian, he helped negotiate a "third way" for Anglicanism [Church of England, known as "Episcopal" in the US] between the reforms of Protestantism and the Roman Catholic origins of the English Church.

As a theologian, he came down Protestant; however, in his 1593 Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, he was mellow about theological disagreements among Christians and made the theological argument for "tolerance" and against doctrinal "purity": basically, that God doesn't care all that much about which church believes what, that grace falls on all Christians, and he even planted the radical idea that non-Christians weren't necessarily Damned for All Time.

Back in 1593, Rev. Hooker was tracing the outlines of the American political theology almost 200 years later.

As a philosopher, Hooker was a follower of Aquinas' system, a "Thomist," or an "Aristotelian-Thomist," if one prefers. John Locke often used "the judicious Hooker" as his starting point in his writing. American Founder James Wilson, who signed the Declaration and was one of the major voices in the Framing, also referred to him as "the judicious Hooker."

Although Hooker opposed papism [the Roman Church], Pope Clement VIII himself said of his book: "It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning."
King James I, he of the "Divine Right of Kings" controversy: "I observe there is in Mr. Hooker no affected language; but a grave, comprehensive, clear manifestation of reason, and that backed with the authority of the Scriptures, the fathers and schoolmen, and with all law both sacred and civil."
The statue of Richard Hooker in Exeter is revered by man and beast alike, and small wonder. Here was a giant, who's still studied for his brilliance [and kindness] in the 21st century by theologian and philosopher alike, upon whose shoulders Locke and Jefferson and the Founders, and we the living, still stand.

We can't tell the story of religion and the Founding without Richard Hooker, and there's so much more work to be done: how he was in the air, his thoughts taken for granted as self-evident.

Here was a man, a giant of a man. We breathe him, and stand upon him, even to this day.

16 comments:

King of Ireland said...

well done.

King of Ireland said...

""Aristotelian-Thomist,"

I have been doing some reading on Aquinas lately and it seems that one of the ideas he condemned was "Averroism" which came to be known as excessive use of Aristotle in one's line of reasoning. Of course he was accused of partaking of this by those on the anti-reason side of this debate in the church. Much like Hooker he got it from both sides.

The point is that anyone that thinks Aquinas(and thus probably Hooker) just re-produced the thoughts of Aristotle unchanged they are crazy.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Averroës was Muslim. His name is really Ibn Rushd.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Averroes

The story of how Aristotle came together with each of the Abrahamic religions [mostly in Moorish Spain] is to me the greatest untold story in the history of Western thought.

Ibn Rushd, the Jew Maimonides, followed by Aquinas reading both via Aristotle is really how we got here today, if you want to dig back to 1250 CE.

Maimonides helped re-Hellenize Judaism, but Ibn Rushd was destroyed in the Muslim world by the more faith-based al-Ghazali's "The Incoherence of the Philosophers."

Averroës responded on behalf of reason and Aristotle [whom Muslims had called the "First Teacher"] with "The Incoherence of the Incoherence," but lost the day.

Aquinas and his Christianity came along to pick up the pieces, and that's The Rest of the Story, folks.

King of Ireland said...

"Maimonides helped re-Hellenize Judaism, but Ibn Rushd was destroyed in the Muslim world by the more faith-based al-Ghazali's "The Incoherence of the Philosophers."

Averroës responded on behalf of reason and Aristotle [whom Muslims had called the "First Teacher"] with "The Incoherence of the Incoherence," but lost the day."



I think Aquinas and Hooker were both of the middle way. I think one can make a case for Locke too. I personally like the balance between faith and reason of all three, though I do not theology agree with everything they say.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You're in the zone, Joe. That "theology" is legitimate and isn't just a fiction is enough.

The one thing I've learned from studying Protestantism [I knew little or nothing a couple of years ago, coming from a Catholic background] is that no mere man can speak for God. [Except mebbe that Jesus guy.]

And I agree that Aquinas and Richard Hooker and even Locke sought that "middle way." But I think they all agreed that man couldn't become good--decent---all on his own, by his reason alone. Man's history itself puts that to the lie, and well the Founders knew it.

Jonathan Rowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Rowe said...

What of Strauss' notion that Hooker was cited for cover? What was Hookerian about the ideas of the American Founding? (What are Hooker's quotes again on equality?)

What was not Hookerian?

Tom Van Dyke said...

A deep reading of Locke suggests this. However, it appears to me that the "Locke of the Founders" isn't the "real" Locke. Fortunately for us.


"I am equally far from believing that Mr. Locke was a friend to infidelity. But yet it is unquestionable, that the writings of Mr. Locke have facilitated the progress, and have given strength to the effects of scepticism.

The high reputation, which he deservedly acquired for his enlightened attachment to the mild and tolerating doctrines of christianity, secured to him the esteem and confidence of those, who were its friends. The same high and deserved reputation inspired others of very different views and characters, with a design to avail themselves of its splendour, and, by that means, to diffuse a fascinating kind of lustre over their own tenets of a dark and sable hue. The consequence has been, that the writings of Mr. Locke, one of the most able, most sincere, and most amiable assertors of christianity and true philosophy, have been perverted to purposes, which he would have deprecated and prevented, had he discovered or foreseen them."---James Wilson

I don't like Strauss' quote-grabbing of Locke, turning minor differences with Christian orthodoxy to turn him into a secret Hobbesian. However, Edward Feser, an Aquinas authority and author of a book on Locke, responded to my question thus:

"Re: natural law, I would say that it makes sense only within a classical metaphysical framework (whether Platonic, Aristotelian, or Thomist) and unravels -- like everything else does, IMO -- when one tries to transplant it into a modern metaphysics. My book Locke explores this theme in detail, and shows how the modern, revisionist metaphysics Locke is committed to ultimately undermines the more conservative aspects of his position, including his doctrine of natural law. "

But I'd say, as a matter of philosophical history, by the time Locke was figured out, he was bypassed by other, more radical thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau; therefore the "real" Locke is not of much relevance to the American Founding.

That's my take, anyway. Alexander Hamilton, in "The Farmer Refuted," puts Locke squarely in the traditional natural law tradition of Hugo Grotius, who followed Suarez who followed Aquinas and which Hooker followed as well.

"Apply yourself, without delay, to the study of the law of nature. I would recommend to your perusal, Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Montesquieu, and Burlemaqui. I might mention other excellent writers on this subject; but if you attend, diligently, to these, you will not require any others."

Pinky said...

.
The article is very interesting, Tom.
.
Thanks for publishing it.
.

King of Ireland said...

"But I think they all agreed that man couldn't become good--decent---all on his own, by his reason alone. Man's history itself puts that to the lie, and well the Founders knew it."

Thus the need for God. Yes they all, even Jefferson, seemed to understand this basic concept.

King of Ireland said...

"What of Strauss' notion that Hooker was cited for cover"

All I know is that as I read Locke's commentary on Romans is sounds almost exactly like something an evangelical would write today. Maybe it is the Protestant in him that allows this to come out more than in Hooker or Aquinas.

Lets keep in mind that he went even deeper than Hooker and explained man being the workmanship of God as being the foundation for equality of men.

The main difference, and Amos disputes this, is that Aquinas thought self evident meant inate given from God and Locke did not think it was inate.

Tom Van Dyke said...

If Locke used "God-talk" as cover for his radicalness, he used so much of it that it "covered" so well the Founders never penetrated it.

This is the problem with the more secular scholars who dig through Locke to find his radicalness, disregarding all the copious religious "cover." But as we see, such types existed even in the Founding era, which is why James Wilson found the need to defend Locke as a Christian.

To touch on a previous point of Pinky's: if the "secular" scholars disregard the ton of God-talk to see only what they want to see [the "real" Locke], the more Christian Founders disregarded the radical implications buried under all the God-talk [James Wilson's Locke].

Richard Hooker did a lot of work on "self-evident" so it's not necessary to trace it to Aquinas.

Locke left a longer treatise on natural law unfinished [it was only published in 1950 or so]. My own opinion is that he couldn't reconcile natural law with his previous writings on his pet philosophical idea of "no innate ideas," and so abandoned the attempt.

I see little or no evidence that the Founders saw Locke as anything but as in the school of traditional natural law theory, and that's our concern.

King of Ireland said...

"To touch on a previous point of Pinky's: if the "secular" scholars disregard the ton of God-talk to see only what they want to see [the "real" Locke], the more Christian Founders disregarded the radical implications buried under all the God-talk [James Wilson's Locke]."

I think Locke was very similar to Hooker in this regard. It was the middle way. But still solidly Christian.



"Richard Hooker did a lot of work on "self-evident" so it's not necessary to trace it to Aquinas."

Aquinas did too. It is all over his writings on natural law. This is the single greatest evidence that most of these secular scholars are hacks. They all seem to state that "self evident" was an Enlightenment term. Bull.

Most are worse than Barton.

King of Ireland said...

"Locke left a longer treatise on natural law unfinished [it was only published in 1950 or so]. My own opinion is that he couldn't reconcile natural law with his previous writings on his pet philosophical idea of "no innate ideas," and so abandoned the attempt."

Amos disputes this. I will have to try and find my book. If I do I will do a post on it. After reading Aquinas some lately what Amos was saying makes more sense to me. I am still not sure he is right though. In fact, this is so complicated I am not sure anyone knows enought to say he is right or wrong.

This is where I would like Frazer to jump in. He knows this stuff better than most. I would like to hear his take.

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