Disguised Vices: Theories of Virtue in Early Modern French Thought

Hardcover | October 26, 2011

byMichael Moriarty

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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 deedsbecause 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 countsas 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 therestatement 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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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 deedsbecause they stand to gain in some way; they de...

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 ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:432 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:October 26, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199589372

ISBN - 13:9780199589371

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Table of Contents

Note on Translations and ReferencesList of Abbreviations1. Introduction2. Ancient Virtue3. Augustine on Pagan Virtue4. Aquinas on Pagan Virtue5. The Reformation6. Counter-Reformation Theologians7. Montaigne, Charron, Descartes8. The Inauthenticity of Pagan Virtue I: Jansenius9. Defending virtue: Sirmond and La Mothe le Vayer10. The Inauthenticity of Pagan Virtue II11. Pierre Nicole: the Psychology of the Virtues12. Reading La Rochefoucauld13. From pagan virtue to human virtue: Jacques Esprit14. La Rochefoucauld: the Reduction of the Virtues15. La Rochefoucauld: Agents and Patients16. La Rochefoucauld: problems of interpretation17. ConclusionBibliography