Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern by Jon R. Snyder

By Jon R. Snyder


1. now not Empty Silence
2. Taking One’s Distance
3. self assurance Games
4. the govt of Designs
5. The Writing at the Walls

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It was meant to be a rhetorical act that was “hard NO T E M P T Y S I L E N C E 7 to follow”: balancing precariously on an intersubjective tightrope, the dissimulator attempted to detach from the conversation without disappearing from it entirely. ”10 Dissimulation was a finely woven cultural covering that allowed its user to avoid appearing to others either as a statue, like those stone-faced Stoics mocked by Erasmus, or as a blatant hypocrite, while little more than marginally engaged in the present exchange of words and emotions.

There was relatively broad consensus that prudence was a matter of practical conduct and practical reason, as Aristotle had argued in book 6 of the Nicomachean Ethics (1140A–1145A). 53), setting it over and against theoretical or philosophical knowledge of universal truths. 18 Concerned as it was with the ever-changing affairs of the individual, prudence required, above all else, relativism and flexibility in the application of moral and ethical principles to any given situation in which there was a choice to be made.

Augustine was still indebted here to the discourse on the classical virtue of parrhesia, according to which one must say everything that one thinks. Parrhesia—literally pan (all) + rhema (that which is said)—is concerned not so much with the formal correctness of discourse as with the right or duty to tell the truth to others, and to put it into frank and sincere words, no matter what the cost may be. 57 Augustine’s rigorous doctrinal position was to become the reigning orthodoxy for many centuries to come, yet it was not unconditionally endorsed by the medieval Church.

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