Sir Thomas Elyot and Renaissance Humanism

By John M. Major | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Psychology

ELYOT'S thought, while it cannot be called profound, is sometimes difficult, and it is certainly wide-ranging.The intricacies one meets- and the occasional obscurities—are for the most part a natural product of the author's expansive aims. It was Elyot's quite admirable ambition to be to his countrymen a teacher of certain sciences which were as yet either strange or imperfectly comprehended.Needless to say, his task was far from easy, particularly since scientific learning, except as it had been here and there advanced by the greatest scholars, was like a child whose growth has been arrested. For every direction which Elyot's thought took—whether toward politics or education, ethics or psychology, language or medicine—he had almost of necessity to explore for the best of his materials among the writings of Greek and Latin antiquity.In the works which he himself put together, one man, from elements of such diversity, there were bound to appear flaws and some dark places. The remarkable thing is that his structures are as sturdy and well lighted as they are. What one has finally is a body of writings essentially practical in aim which touch on a great variety of subjects; a synthesis of other men's thoughts rather than the fresh creation of an original mind; a compendium that here and there is cut too small for ample circulation.

These remarks are intended to be a prelude to our discussion of Elyot's theory of psychology—the area of his thought which more than any other, perhaps, shows the handicaps under which he labored, as well as his limited ability to handle abstract ideas.One difficulty was that no comprehensive system of psychology had as yet been formulated; the extraordinary interest in this subject and the numerous treatises it inspired were to come later, during the time of Elizabeth, when the dramatists took into their ken the full range of the human passions.For his own venture into psychology Elyot had to rely principally upon the systems drawn up by the ancients— Plato, Aristotle, and Galen—and on whatever partial approaches to the subject had been made by writers of his own day.Another difficulty was the lack

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Sir Thomas Elyot and Renaissance Humanism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Sir Thomas Elyot and Renaissance Humanism *
  • Preface v
  • Contents *
  • First Editions of the Works of Sir Thomas Elyot xii
  • Part I - The Plan of the Book Named the Governour *
  • Part II - The Governour: Background and Tradition *
  • Chapter 1 - Castiglione and Other Italians 39
  • Chapter 2 - Erasmus 77
  • Chapter 3 - Sir Thomas More 89
  • Chapter 4 - Classical Authors Other Than Plato 140
  • Part III - Elyot and Plato *
  • Chapter 5 - Introduction 173
  • Chapter 6 - Politics 178
  • Chapter 7 - Psychology 206
  • Chapter 8 - Ethics 241
  • Chapter 9 - Epilogue 262
  • Conclusion 271
  • Index 273
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