The Renaissance Conscience

The Renaissance Conscience

The Renaissance Conscience

The Renaissance Conscience

Synopsis

This book presents one of the first studies of the Renaissance notion of conscience, through examining theological manuals, legal treatises, letters and other sources of the period.
  • Represents one of the few modern studies exploring developments in scholastic and Renaissance notions of conscience
  • Synthesizes literary, theological and historical approaches
  • Presents case studies from England and the Hispanic World that reveal shared traditions, strategies, and conclusions regarding moral uncertainty
  • Sheds new light on the crises of conscience of ordinary people, as well as prominent individuals such as Thomas More
  • Offers new research on the ways practical theologians in England, Spain, and France participated in political debate and interacted with secular counsellors and princes

Excerpt

Harald E. braun and edward vallance

That American influence in the Philippines will be combated desperately by those
stealthy and malign methods of which the Spanish casuist is so consummate a
master admits of no doubt, but to meet those practises by severity and repression
would be to prove ourselves untrue to those principles which have made our
country what it is.

The contributions to this volume explore the manifold ways in which Renaissance men and women conversed with and let themselves be guided by their conscience. Drawing on a wide range of Renaissance media and strategies of communication, the authors illustrate how individuals in England and the Hispanic World often struggled to reconcile their private and public selves while establishing and protecting their spiritual and ethical identity.

The documents analysed in this collection of chapters – for instance letters, literary texts, theological manuals and mirrors of princes – seek and propagate as well as query and develop the means that allowed the Christian faithful to find their way out of the frequent convergence of personal, spiritual and political anguish. Together, they corroborate the vibrancy, diversity and fluidity of notions of conscience, moral cognition and practical judgement in the Renaissance world. They also confirm the polemical nature of much of what Protestant divines in England and elsewhere had to say about the ‘moral laxity’ and ‘sophistry’ of Catholic, mainly Jesuit or Dominican casuistry.

In the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, this highly negative presentation of casuistry often focused on its Spanish proponents. Spanish casuistry was perceived as the intellectual complement to Habsburg imperial aggression and expansion, and its malign influence was made flesh in the person of Titus Oates, the fabricator of the ‘Popish Plot’ of 1678. Known derisively as ‘the Salamanca Doctor’ (because of his spurious claims to have a degree from that university), Oates’s career as a paid perjurer seemed to sum up all that

From letters to the editor, New York Times, July 21 1902, ‘The Philippine Friars’.

On the manifestations and uses of casuistry in early modern England and continental Europe see the introduction and contributions in H. E. Braun and E. Vallance (eds.), Contexts of Conscience in Early Modern Europe, 1500–1700 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004); also S. Tutino, Law and Conscience: Catholicism in Early Modern England, 1570–1625 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007); and E. Del Río Parra, Cartographías de la conciencia española en la Edad de Oro (2008).

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