Disguised Vices: Theories of Virtue in Early Modern French Thought

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OUP Oxford, Sep 8, 2011 - Literary Criticism - 409 pages
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The notions of virtue and vice are essential components of the Western ethical tradition. But in early modern France they were called into question, as writers, most famously La Rochefoucauld, argued that what appears as virtue is in fact disguised vice: people carry out praiseworthy deeds because they stand to gain in some way; they deserve no credit for their behaviour because they have no control over it; they are governed by feelings and motives of which they may not be aware. Disguised Vices analyses the underlying logic of these arguments, and investigates what is at stake in them. It traces the arguments back to their sources in earlier writers, showing how ancient philosophers, particularly Aristotle and Seneca, formulated the distinction between behaviour that counts as virtuous and behaviour that only seems so. It explains how St Augustine reinterpreted the distinction in the light of the difference between pagans and Christians, and how medieval and early modern theologians strove to reconcile Augustine's position with that of Aristotle. It examines the restatement of Augustine's position by his hard-line early modern followers (especially the Jansenists), and the controversy to which this gave rise. Finally, it examines La Rochefoucauld's critique of virtue and assesses the extent of its links with the Augustinian current of thought.
 

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Contents

1 Introduction
1
2 Ancient Virtue
21
3 Augustine on Pagan Virtue
61
4 Aquinas on Pagan Virtue
83
5 The Reformation
93
6 CounterReformation Theologians
103
7 Montaigne Charron Descartes
131
Jansenius
151
The Psychology of the Virtues
241
12 Reading La Rochefoucauld
253
Jacques Esprit
277
The Reduction of the Virtues
317
Agents and Patients
343
Problems of Interpretation
359
17 Conclusion
383
Bibliography
385

Sirmond and La Mothe Le Vayer
169
10 The Inauthenticity of Pagan Virtue II
211

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About the author (2011)


Michael Moriarty read Modern and Medieval Languages at St John's College, Cambridge. He became a Research Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1982, and a College Lecturer in French and Director of Studies in Modern Languages in 1985. He was appointed to an Assistant Lectureship in the Cambridge University Department of French in 1986. In 1990, he became a University Lecturer. In 1995, he was appointed by Queen Mary, University of London, to a Chair in French Literature and Thought (renamed the Centenary Chair in 2005). He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques.

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