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Ursula Renz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190226411

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190226411.001.0001

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Socratic Self-Knowledge in Early Modern Philosophy

Socratic Self-Knowledge in Early Modern Philosophy

(p.146) Chapter eight Socratic Self-Knowledge in Early Modern Philosophy

Ursula Renz

Oxford University Press

In the second half of the seventeenth century, appeal to Socratic self-knowledge was a frequent argumentative move in philosophical texts. This chapter discusses the epistemological presuppositions of this move by discussing four well-known approaches upon several questions. To what extent does the improvement of self-knowledge exemplified in these texts rely on a posteriori considerations concerning the limitations of man’s power? What kinds of facts about herself is the ideal reader of the texts expected to acknowledge, and what relation is assumed between first-personal, second- and third-personal perspectives? How, finally, is improvement in the reader’s self-knowledge expected to contribute to her happiness? The chapter begins by drawing the attention to two seemingly incidental remarks of Descartes’ Discourse on the Method and Meditations, and examines Hobbes’ lesson in self-knowledge underlying the first part of Leviathan, before it discusses Spinoza’s Ethics and Shaftesbury’s Characteristics under the perspective of these questions.

Keywords:   first person, second person, third person, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Shaftesbury, Socratic self-knowledge, self-knowledge

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