The Conscience as a Syllogism

Ceri Sullivan

in The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199547845
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191720901 | DOI:
The Conscience as a Syllogism

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Meg Lota Brown and Camille Slights have considered how metaphysical poetry relates to that form of Stuart ethical discussion known as case casuistry, where individual situations are considered in detail against a moral law by a well-meaning and well-instructed judge. Early modern theologians habitually see the conscience acting as a syllogism. This chapter considers the features of the conscience operating this syllogism, including its self-reflexive qualities, its effect on the self's agency, its role as spy and recorder, and where the law it refers to is consulted. The three principal faults of the conscience (erring, seared, and blind) are explained from the point of view of Protestant Ramist casuistry rather than that of contemporary Catholic treatises. Judgement should be a practical method of mediating between human perceptions and divine attributes. The latter are a central subject of debate among theologians such as Thomas Jackson and William Ames. Describing as litotes what would be seen as hyperbole if it were not about God is one method poets and theologians alike use for this impossible task. The chapter suggests the five tropes which the book concentrates on provide other means of speaking with God.

Keywords: Camille Slights; Meg Lota Brown; casuistry; syllogism; Ramist; method; divine attributes; Thomas Jackson; William Ames; hyperbole

Chapter.  12197 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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