Special Issue: The Care of the Self in Early Modern Philosophy and Science
Editor: SORANA CORNEANU
ANNALISA CERON, Leon Battista Alberti’s Care of the Self as Medicine of the Mind: A First Glance at Theogenius, Profugiorum ab erumna libri III, and Two Related Intercenales
Abstract: This article sheds new light on the Theogenius and the Profugiorum ab erumna libri III, two Italian dialogues in which Leon Battista Alberti was influenced by Seneca’s On the Tranquillity of the Mind and Petrarch’s De remediis utriusque fortunae, but developed an innovative reflection on the care of the self as medicine of the mind. The novelty hinged not on his pessimistic diagnosis of the human condition, which linked the disquiet caused by the inconstancy of fortune with the natural instability of the mind, but rather on his ironic conception of therapy, which challenged the Stoic belief in the possibility of finding a definitive cure for hardship. To what extent and in what sense Alberti’s therapy exhibits an ironic stance is clarified by the analysis of two Intercenales, the Latin work which aimed to relieve the mind’s maladies through laughter. While Erumna made the case that the way of life championed by the Stoics as well as the choice of living the life of another man cannot alleviate human misery, Patientia mocked the effi cacy of Stoic remedies such as patience and time. People can only hope to come to terms with the mind’s maladies and should bear their burdens cheerfully rather than despair of them: this is one of the most intriguing aspects of Alberti’s medicine of the mind.
MATTHEW SHARPE, “Not for personal gratification, or for contention, or to look down on others, or for convenience, reputation, or power”: Cultura Animi in Bacon’s 1605 Apology for the Proficiency and Advancement of Learning
Abstract: This paper examines the apology for the life of the mind Francis Bacon gives in Book I of his 1605 text The Advancement of Learning. Like recent work on Bacon led by the ground-breaking studies of Corneanu, Harrison and Gaukroger, I argue that Bacon’s conception and defence of intellectual inquiry in this extraordinary text is framed by reference to the classical model, which had conceived and justifi ed philosophising as a way of life or means to the care of the inquirer’s soul or psyche. In particular, Bacon’s proximities and debts to the Platonic Apology and Cicero’s defence of intellectual pursuits in Rome are stressed, alongside the acuity and eloquence of Bacon’s descriptions of the intellectual virtues and their advertised contributions to the theologically and civically virtuous life.
PATRICK BRISSEY, Reflections on Descartes’ Vocation as an Early Theory of Happiness
Abstract: In this paper, I argue that Descartes developed an early theory of happiness, which he rhetorically claimed to have stemmed from his choice of vocation in 1619. I provide a sketch of his theory in the Discours, noting, however, some problems with the historicity of the text. I then turn to his Olympica and associated writings that date from this period, where he literally asked, “What way in life shall I follow?” I take Descartes’ dreams as allegorical and provide an interpretation of his curious claim that poets are better equipped to discover truth than philosophers, made at a time when he chose to become a philosopher and not a poet. My way out of this conundrum is to identify in this text a philosophical psychology that I argue is consistent with the Regulae and the Discours, is part of what he took to be his “foundation of the wonderful science,” and is the essence of his early theory of happiness.
TAREK R. DIKA, Method, Practice, and the Unity of Scientia in Descartes’s Regulae
Abstract: For most commentators, the universality of Descartes’s method goes hand in hand with the uniformity with which it must be applied to any problem in any science. I will henceforth refer to this as the Uniformity Thesis. Finding themselves unable to identify such a uniformly applied method in any of Descartes’s extant treatises, many readers of Descartes have been led to conclude that Descartes’s method played little or no role in Cartesian science. My principle argument will be that Descartes did not, in fact, accept the Uniformity Thesis, and that the relevant textual evidence strongly suggests that he denied it. For Descartes, the method is universal, and can be employed to discover scientia, not because it can or ought to be uniformly applied to any problem in any science, but rather because practice in the method habituates the human ingenium to be sensitive to different kinds of problem, such that the procedure for constructing and resolving a problem can, within definable limits, vary from application to application.
CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON, Spinoza as an Exemplar of Foucault’s Spirituality and Technologies of the Self
Abstract: Practices of the self are prominent in Spinoza, both in the Ethics and On the Emendation of the Intellect. The same can be said of Descartes, e.g., his Discourse on the Method. What, if anything, distinguishes their practices of the self? Michel Foucault’s concept of “spirituality” isolates how Spinoza’s practices are relatively unusual in the early modern era. Spirituality, as defined by Foucault in The Hermeneutics of the Subject, requires changes in the ethical subject before one can begin philosophizing, and claims to result in a complete transfiguration or perfection of the subject. Both these characteristics are present in Spinoza’s Emendation while both are lacking in Descartes’ Discourse. Turning to the Ethics’ practices of the self, I show how affects can be moderated through other aff ects, and that this text establishes a thorough training of the self which will strengthen one’s overall power well into the future. My treatment of the Ethics differs in emphasis from many other readings which focus on reason’s power over aff ects, or on cognitive therapy which moderates individual aff ects to lessen current sadness. In both works, Spinoza’s practices of the self promise signifi cant changes to those who undergo them.
SERGIUS KODERA, Dialogues between the Art of Healing and the Art of Persuasion in the Early Modern Period
DANIEL DERRIN, Rhetoric and the Familiar in Francis Bacon and John Donne, Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2013 (James A.T. Lancaster)
RONAN DE CALAN, Généalogie de la sensation. Physique, physiologie et psychologie en Europe, de Fernel à Locke, Paris : Honoré Champion, 2012 (Charles T. Wolfe)
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