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Bacon, Hobbes and the Aphorisms at Chatsworth House

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In my research published last year, i.e. Homo homini deus. Per un'introduzione al pensiero giuridico di Francis Bacon, I have analytically presented the Aphorismi de Jure gentium maiore sive de fontibus justiciae et iuris and I have closely studied the relationship between the legal and political philosophy of the Lord Chancellor and the civil science of Thomas Hobbes1. In the present essay I will try to summarize some of the main reasons why I think that manuscript of Chatsworth House, discovered to be Bacon's only in 1980, is so important. It clarifies, with its twenty aphorisms, some crucial principles of Bacon's civil philosophy that would probably remain otherwise shadowed. So, here I will take as an excellent example that concept of sovereignty which is presented in the Aphorismi. His famous silences - for which the Lord Chancellor has been often considered the worthy, English heir of Machiavelli: 'We're much beholden...'2, - will be better understood at the light of this 'new' text. However, there is not only this sort of silence that Baconian scholars have to face and to understand, also a historiographical tradition has been consolidated in the twentieth century that has almost forgotten Bacon's civil philosophy. Those Bacon's legal and political texts that have been still considered and analyzed by philosophical critique, have been generally misunderstood. So, in order to avoid as far as possible such a fate for the Aphorismi de Jure gentium maiore either, it is necessary to consider that historical context which, as we shall see, depends very much on separating Bacon as a political thinker from his younger contemporary, Thomas Hobbes.


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