The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.


New approaches to knowledge in the early modern period are often construed in terms of rearrangements of relationships between the traditional speculative science - metaphysics, mathematics, and natural philosophy - or as transgressions of the boundaries between the speculative, practical, and productive sciences. Often overlooked in such analyses is the fact that the Aristotelian/Thomist classifications of knowledge were informed by a parallel conception of the virtues - theological, moral, and intellectual. Scientia, for example, was both a systematic body of knowledge and a mental habit or intellectual virtue. Reclassifications of knowledge, such as that proposed by Bacon, necessarily entail a new understanding of the virtues and their mutual relations. By the same token, criticism of the Aristotelian notion of virtue as a habitus - such as that voiced by the Protestant reformers - has major implications for how various forms of knowledge are understood in relation to each other and to the virtues. This paper is concerned with these changing conceptions of the virtues in the early modern period and with how they give rise to different constructions of the philosophical persona. Particular attention is paid to Bacon and, to a lesser extent, Descartes and Pascal.

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