Visions of the Empire: religion, ontology and the 'international' in early modernity

Visions of the Empire: religion, ontology and the 'international' in early modernity

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Lucas G. Freire

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Graduate in Economics (UFMG) and in International Relations (PUC-Minas), Master in International Relations (Exon.) and currently completing his PhD in Politics at the University of Exeter, where he is an Associate Lecturer. His thesis focuses on metatheoretical issues in International Relations.


This paper analyzes the relation between basic religious motifs of theoretical thought, general ontology and their specific use in 'international' political theory at the onset on the Modern Era. The analysis is based on Herman Dooyeweerd's reformational philosophy in identifying the basic assumptions on the origin of life, coherence and diversity of reality in several trends of thought. The Greek and Roman classical legacy, in combination with ancient Christian concepts, is emphasized, namely in terms of motifs such as Nature and Grace, guidelines of scholastic worldview, thus influencing its perspective of Christianity, of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Papacy. Reformed Protestantism adopted a more radically Biblical set of assumptions which culminated in a ontologically plural perspective of social authority and political community, as well as of the empire. Christian humanism, and some Protestant thinkers, was also heavily influenced by the motifs of Nature and Grace, but now with a strict separation between both 'logics'. The theorization of an 'internal logic' for each of these spheres gave origin to a reinterpretation of Nature in classical Humanism, according to a 'mechanistic' perspective of reality with its ideal of control. Another religious motif of this secularized form of humanism was the concept of Liberty and of personality. This geometrical theoretical mode influenced ideas on the social contract and its international analogy, leading theoricians to fiery debates on the classification of the Empire.


Religion; Ontology; Modern Era; Political Theory Internationalist

How to cite this article

Freire, Lucas G. (2012). "Visions of the Empire: religion, ontology and the 'international' in early modernity". JANUS.NET e-journal of International Relations, Vol. 3, N.º 2, fall 2012. retrieved [online] date accessed,

Article received on 1st August 2012; accepted for publication on 8th October 2012