By Lambert van Velthuysen, 1622-1685 (author) ; Malcolm de Mowbray (Editor and translator), Catherine Secretan (introduction)
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Additional resources for A Letter on the Principles of Justness and Decency, Containing a Defence of the Treatise De Cive of the Learned Mr Hobbes
57 By borrowing Hobbes’s idea of basing natural law upon the principle of self-preservation, Van Velthuysen discovered the possibility of deducing moral obligation on a purely immanent basis. It was this immanentism of the first principle that clearly seduced the author of the Epistolica dissertatio. 58 Like Grotius, Van Velthuysen’s ‘defence’ of Hobbes is presented as a treatise on practical and secularized morality. Van Velthuysen becomes the open defender of a morality that is independent from biblical revelation and founded on a world order that God is unable to change: ‘God cannot now render any of these laws powerless’ (p.
42 By 1651, when Van Velthuysen was engaged in his defence of De Cive, the debate had still only given rise to two real controversies in scholarly circles. The first incident centred on the argument that pitted Hobbes against Descartes with regard to certain metaphysical questions, particularly those concerning doubt, the human spirit and God. 43 The second controversy occurred during the debate—organized in France by the Marquis of Newcastle—between Hobbes and bishop John Bramhall, both living in exile on account of the English Civil War.
Otherwise it is impossible to avoid a state of war, which, since it is ruinous and destructive to both sides, I am bound to avoid. (p. 112) The political state is part of the divine plan and belongs to the reordering of nature after original sin. It then derives from the principle of selfpreservation. Furthermore, Van Velthuysen’s criticism of political absolutism is based on the Calvinist line of argument which considered this form of power to be the mere expression of a potentially arbitrary personal power: 32 introduction … it is clear that the people did not wish to entrust all things relating to the well-being of society to the decision of one king, but has withheld a part of them for its own management and administration, so that it is important to the people that the sovereignty of the king does not grow to such an extent that he considers himself to be above the laws.