Advertisement

Conclusion

The Modern Reversal
Chapter
  • 75 Downloads
Part of the Recovering Political Philosophy book series (REPOPH)

Abstract

As Edmund Burke suggests, the ancient Epicureans were far less enterprising than their modern counterparts. We are now in a position to judge the truth of Burke’s reflection and what Lucretius might have made of his more enterprising cousins. The following remarks are intended only as a prelude to a more thoroughgoing investigation of Enlightenment rationalism. What follows is only a thumbnail sketch of what it is that unites the principal architects of modern rationalism, notwithstanding the profound differences and disagreements between them. While one can appreciate the influence of classical Epicureanism in early modernity, there are political, theological, and philosophic motives that lead the moderns to reject the classical understanding of philosophy and modify the original Epicurean motive of sought-after soulful tranquility.

Keywords

Political Life Violent Death Philosophic Life Religious Opinion Modern Counterpart 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    See Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, 3.2 and The Prince, trans. Harvey Mansfield (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), Ch. xv.Google Scholar
  2. See also, Harvey C. Mansfield, Machiavelli’s New Modes and Orders (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 307–308.Google Scholar
  3. For the transformation, and corruption, of the Lucretian ideal by Machiavelli see Paul Rahe’s “In the Shadow of Lucretius,” History of Political Thought 28, no.1 (Spring 2007): 30–55. What Machiavelli sees as a contradiction in Lucretius’s teaching is in fact necessity. Rahe suggests that Machiavelli renders the Lucretian teaching consistent.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    See Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), Introduction, 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 43–44, “By Machiavelli’s time the classical tradition had undergone profound changes. The contemplative life had found its home in monasteries.”Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Francis Bacon, Essays (London: A. L. Burt Company Publishers, 1883), 49.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Francis Bacon, The New Organon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 6.
    Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise (New York: Dover Publications, 1951), 11.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 107, n.33. Commenting on Halevi’s perception of Socratic irony in Socrates’ polite denial of his grasp of Divine Wisdom Strauss remarks that “the attitude of the philosophers is not altered if the people of Socrates’ time are replaced by the adherents of revealed religion.”Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Montaigne, The Complete Essays of Montaigne, trans. Donald Frame (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958), 379–380.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 127. Christopher Nadon’s analysis of this passage is particularly instructive.Google Scholar
  12. Christopher Nadon “Leo Strauss’ Restatement on Why Xenophon,” Perspectives on Political Science 39, no. 2 (Apr.–June 2010): 77–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 10.
    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 463. Hobbes’s confrontation with the “schooles” and their devotion to Aristotle would seem to follow Descartes.Google Scholar
  14. See, Descartes Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy (Ind ianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1980), Pt. VI, 33, and “Preface.”Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    Pierre Bayle, The Dictionary of Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle , trans. Pierre Des Maizeaux, vol. 3 (London: J.J. and P. Knapton, 1735), 923. Bayle’s characterization of the nature of religious devotion in Rome is shared by Fustel de Coulanges in The Ancient City (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 138–139.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    Montesquieu, Pensées (Bordeaux: Imprimerie De G. Gounouilhou, 1901), No. 2097, 491;Google Scholar
  17. Descartes, Discourse on Method, trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2000), 39.Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    Gassendi, Vie et Moeurs D’Epicure, trans. Sylvie Taussig, vol. 2, pt. 4.4 (Paris: Les Belle Lettres, 2006), 239–240.Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Richard Kennington, On Modern Origins (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004), 106–107.Google Scholar
  20. 18.
    Bacon, “The Refutation of Philosophies,” The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, ed. Benjamin Farrington (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1964), 115.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See Hobbes, Leviathan, 46, and John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 291, 372.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Maimonides, “Guide for the Perplexed,” Medieval Political Philosophy, ed. Ralph Lerner and Mushin Mahdi (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 204.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Compare Republic, trans., G. M. A. Grube (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1998), 497b, and Apology, 32e.Google Scholar
  24. 30.
    See Leo Strauss, Spinoza’s Critique of Religion (New York: Schocken Books, 1982), 86; and Philosophy and Law , trans. Eve Adler (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995), 35–36.Google Scholar
  25. 34.
    Hobbes, De Corpore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 189.Google Scholar
  26. 38.
    Compare Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2001), 55,Google Scholar
  27. with Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, trans., W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1992) Book II, 1–13.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    See Thomas Pangle, Montesquieu’s Philosophy of Liberalism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1973), 238.Google Scholar
  29. 49.
    See Robert Bartlett “On Politics of Faith and Reason: The Project of Enlightenment in Pierre Bayle and Montesquieu,” Journal of Politics 63, no. 1 (Feb. 2001): 25.Google Scholar
  30. See also Thomas Pangle, The Theological Basis of Liberal Modernity in Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 144–146. “In his fullest statement of the effect of the classical rationalists’ open, public insistence on the primacy of the theoretical or speculative over the political or practical virtues, Montesquieu makes it quite clear that he sees in that insistence a slippery slop towards religious asceticism and in particular Christianity… In order to do what he thought he had to do to liberate the life of the mind, Montesquieu found himself impelled to obfuscate profoundly the meaning of the life of the mind.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© John Colman 2012

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations