Self-knowledge and varieties of human excellence in the French moralists

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (3):513-534 (2019)
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ABSTRACTContemporary accounts of knowing one’s own mental states can be instructively supplemented by early modern accounts that understand self-knowledge as an important factor for flourishing human life. This article argues that in the early modern French moralists, one finds diverging conceptions of how knowing one’s own personal qualities could constitute a kind of human excellence: François de la Rochefoucauld argues that the value of knowing one’s own character faults could contribute to an attitude of self-acceptance that liberates one from the effort of deceiving oneself and others. Madeleine de Scudéry argues that knowing one’s own character faults could be an incentive for self-cultivation that leads to the development of character traits that are naturally good. Anne-Thérèse de Lambert concurs with Scudéry’s insight and develops it further. According to Lambert, self-knowledge is crucial for developing character traits that give rise to the natural right of bei...

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Andreas Blank
Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt


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