The Modernity of Early Modernity

in Rhetoric, Modality, Modernity

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226777481
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226777504 | DOI:
The Modernity of Early Modernity

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This chapter makes a case for the modernity of Early Modernity. Thomas Hobbes and Giovanni Battista Vico are secessionist thinkers, seceding from the normative, moralistic, prescriptive program of Classical political philosophy, repudiating the terms and arguments that dominated medieval and Renaissance as well as ancient thought, jettisoning the dubious transcendental assumptions underpinning its moralistic speculation. While Hobbes and Vico's work can be read as an actualization of the Aristotelian rhetorical possibilities, it remains, on the whole, simply possibility in modernist inquiry. It is a modernism inadequately represented, still, in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century retrievals of rhetoric. Hobbesian psychology has strong affinities of beliefs and habits with those of Aristotle's Rhetoric; and, perhaps more so than Aristotle's inquiry, it is permeated by a “sophisticated” pessimism. Vico's pessimism is expressed in his investment in irony as an explanatory thesis of great power: civility as unintended consequence. All of this, this chapter argues, is rhetorical in tone: and all easily effaced, elided.

Keywords: modernity; Early Modernity; Thomas Hobbes; Giovanni Battista Vico; political philosophy; inquiry; psychology; rhetoric; Aristotle; civility

Chapter.  23734 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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