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Fallen Nature, Fallen SelvesEarly Modern French Thought II$
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Michael Moriarty

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199291038

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199291038.001.0001

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Self-Knowledge and Self-Ignorance in Context

Self-Knowledge and Self-Ignorance in Context

(p.305) 8 Self-Knowledge and Self-Ignorance in Context
Fallen Nature, Fallen Selves

Michael Moriarty (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Scholars have attempted to understand 17th-century writers’ interest in self-knowledge and self-deception in historical terms by linking it to ideological conflict with a class dimension (Paul Bénichou), or to the emergence of an absolutist state centred on the court (Jean Rohou). The stress on self-deception in a Jansenist writer like Nicole has been linked to a Jansenist hostility to mysticism. This view is queried and it is pointed out that mystical writers themselves (St François de Sales, Fénelon) are strongly aware of the perils of self-deception. Augustinian moral theology and Cartesian dualism also nourish this awareness in different ways. There is no one school of thought, ideology, or social factor that can explain 17th-century writers’ fascination with the difficulty of self-knowledge and the risk of self-deception.

Keywords:   Jansenism, Augustinianism, Cartesianism, Nicole, St François de Sales, Fénelon

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