The aim of the article is to examine and evaluate the social ethics aspects of the pamphlet Pro vindiciis contra tyrannos oratio by the scholar and rector of Prague University Jan Jesenský - Jessenius (1566-1621); first published in Frankfurt in 1614 and for the second time in Prague in 1620 during the Czech Estate Revolt. Therefore, the broader intellectual context of the time is introduced, specifically the conflict between two theories of ruling power correlating with that between the ruler and the Estates after the ideas of the Protestant reformation started to spread. The first theory supported the idea of a sovereign ruler whose authority would stand above the estates to be able to keep the kingdom under control. On the contrary, the so-called resistance theory strived to limit the monarch’s power and to justify a possible intervention against a malevolent ruler - the tyrant. I intend to show that Jessenius´ social ethics which refers to the latter resistance theory was of a premodern nature since its conception of State and its reign remained in a denominationally limited framework. Nevertheless; Jessenius’ polemics with the supporters of ruling sovereignty, which seem to be his original contribution, makes his writing a unique political work in Central Europe. Moreover, the second edition of Jessenius’ text (1620, Prague), which for a long time had disappeared from public view, can rightly be considered a remarkable projection of resistance theory toward actual political struggle at the very beginning of the Thirty Years War.
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The word “utopia” was coined by Thomas More and refers to the unreal and ideal state described in his Utopia, first published in 1516. Following the example of Plato’s Republic, More as well as other thinkers and writers of the 16th and 17th century reflect on the political relevance of utopia and provide unique accounts of ideal, just, and perfect “no places”, as paradigms and standards of social, political, and religious reformation of the coeval world. However, the political significance of utopia relies on a basic anthropological feature, which incidentally is already underlined by More: the relationship between imagination and experience. This means that: 1) the human being’s “eidetic” freedom is characterised by the inseparable relationship between imagination, reflection, experience and action; 2) utopia is capable of disclosing the transformative and normative features related to the human being’s constitution; 3) utopia can be fruitfully used to motivate human will and mobilise support for human flourishing. In this article I endeavour to show that among contemporary philosophers it is Hans Jonas who most fully develops the anthropological significance of utopia by investigating the very relationship between imagination and experience, and by underlining how the eidetic and reflective constitution of the human being leads to ethics. As a further goal, I wish to highlight that the anthropological relevance of utopia can shed light on our imaginative and ambivalent nature, and provide a practical and educational basis for the achievement of an “ethics of images” for the current digital era. For this purpose I shall draw on the thinking of Marie-José Mondzain and Jean-Jacques Wunenburger, among other scholars.