By Susan Schreiner

The subject of certitude is way debated this day. On one aspect, commentators resembling Charles Krauthammer urge us to accomplish "moral clarity." at the different, these like George Will contend that the best current danger to civilization is an far more than certitude. to deal with this uncomfortable debate, Susan Schreiner turns to the intellectuals of early glossy Europe, a interval whilst concept was once nonetheless fluid and had no longer but been reified into the shape of rationality demanded through the eighteenth and 19th centuries.Schreiner argues that Europe within the 16th century was once preoccupied with issues just like ours; either the need for simple task -- specially non secular walk in the park -- and warnings opposed to walk in the park permeated the sooner period. Digging underneath overt theological and philosophical difficulties, she tackles the underlying fears of the interval as she addresses questions of salvation, authority, the increase of skepticism, the outbreak of non secular violence, the discernment of spirits, and the ambiguous dating among visual appeal and truth. In her exam of the historical past of theological polemics and debates (as good as different genres), Schreiner sheds gentle at the repeated review of sure bet and the routine worry of deception. one of the texts she attracts on are Montaigne's Essays, the magical writings of Teresa of Avila, the works of Reformation fathers William of Occam, Luther, Thomas Muntzer, and Thomas extra; and the dramas of Shakespeare. the result's now not a ebook approximately theology, yet relatively concerning the method during which the fear with certitude made up our minds the theology, polemics and literature of an age.

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Extra info for Are You Alone Wise?: The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology)

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In the narratives that attempt to account for the origin or nature of modernity, Nominalism plays a central role. For Blumenberg, the value of self-assertion could be re-evaluated only when the medieval synthesis unraveled. This occurred with Ockham’s Nominalism. The decisive change occurred when Nominalism called into question the provident, intelligible, and essentially rational cosmos of the Scholastics. According to Blumenberg, Nominalism 16 ARE YOU ALONE WISE? 64 Such voluntarism meant that the cosmos was not grounded in a divine rationality in which the human mind could participate.

81 This theory became the standard explanation both for the understanding of perception and the knowledge based on perception. Put simply, the species were posited as a way to explain how the object became united with the intellect. ”82 By repudiating the necessity of species in each of these cases, Ockham rejected all species, be they in the medium, in the senses, or in the intellect. ” For example, experience teaches that if species existed we would know them by an intuitive cognition. 83 However, it is Ockham’s purpose for eliminating species that is crucial.

The transitional nature of this period also accounts for one recurring theme: namely, the concern for certitude. Scholars have usually characterized the seventeenth century as that age most concerned with certainty. 42 William Bouwsma’s recent book, The Waning of the Renaissance, 1550–1640, covers much of the same time period and many of the same figures and issues discussed by Toulmin. ”43 According to Bouwsma, the forces of freedom included a number of “liberations” from the customary ways of thinking about self, knowledge, time, space, politics, and religion.

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