Doria, Paolo Mattia

Lorenzo Bianchi


1An Italian philosopher and man of letters (Genoa, 1667- Naples, 1746) living in Naples from 1690 on and a contemporary of Vico, with whom he maintained a solid friendship, Doria opposed, in the name of Platonism, the new ideas of Descartes, Locke, Spinoza and Newton. The author of several works, he made his reputation by composing a political treatise, the Vita civile (Frankfort, n.d. [probably Naples, 1709]; second edition, Augsburg, 1710). According to Robert Shackleton, this work of Doria that has close resemblances with certain ideas of Montesquieu might have been read and used by the President who, might also likely have gone to visit the author in Naples in 1729 during his travels in Italy. Even if the Vita civile is not among the books in the La Brède collection, according to Shackleton, Montesquieu might have read the book in the library of his Bordelais friend Barbot, who had a copy of the 1710 edition (Shackleton, 1988, p. 94).

2As early as Romains, we can read an important passage on causality: “It is not fortune that rules over the world […]. There are general causes, either moral or physical, which act” (“Ce n’est pas la fortune qui domine le monde […]. Il y a des causes générales, soit morales, soit physiques, qui agissent […]”, Romains, XVIII, OC, t. II, p. 235). This quotation recalls the text of Doria where he too speaks of physical and moral causes (Vita civile, 1710, p. 131-132). But the Vita civile also proposed novelties relating to the principles of government: besides the three traditional forms are also mentioned three different ways of living in society (forme di vivere) that differ from the types of government and are very close to Montesquieu’s three modes of government (republic, monarchy, despotism). Doria distinguishes three forms of government: the civile moderata (which he also calls the civile economica), the civile pomposa and the barbara. The “barbarian” form is characterized by the absence of laws and the caprices of a single person; the civile moderata form, on the contrary, by the presence of legislators who are also philosophers in a society where trade and equality prevail. The civile pomposa is a degeneration of the civile moderata because of excess of wealth. Like Montesquieu Doria does not speak of principles (virtue, honor, fear) but of maxims (massime), and when he speaks of virtue he does not cite honor, but he also asserts that virtue, so necessary in a republic, is no less so in a monarchy. These resemblances between the ideas of Doria and Montesquieu ought not make us forget that the Vita civile does not break from the traditional classification of governments, replaced in L’Esprit des lois by a new classification.


Paolo Mattia Doria, La vita civile, Augusta : D. Höpper, 1710.
(Naples, 1729 :

Paolo Mattia Doria, La vita civile, Naples : Istituto Universitario Orientale, 2001.

Robert Shackleton, “Montesquieu et Doria”, Revue de littérature comparée 29 (1955), p. 173-183, reprinted in Robert Shackleton, Essays on Montesquieu and on the Enlightenment, ed. David Gilson and Martin Smith, Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1988, p. 93-101.

Pierluigi Rovito, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, article “Doria, Paolo Mattia” (vol. XLI, Rome, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia italiana, 1992, p. 438-445.