The Morality of Self-Acceptance: La Rochefoucauld and the Augustinian Challenge

Early Modern French Studies 1 (1):1-19 (2022)
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This article argues that the reception of Augustinian ideas in Pascal and Nicole can be used to clarify what is distinctive in La Rochefoucauld’s treatment of self-relations. La Rochefoucauld does not share the Augustinian dichotomy between self-love at the price of forgetting God and love of God at the price of self-contempt that is prominent in both Pascal and Nicole. Rather, La Rochefoucauld develops a conception of an attitude towards the self that could be described as self-acceptance. As he describes it, being open about one’s character faults falls short of self-esteem, if self-esteem is understood as involving a positive evaluation of one’s own character traits. However, it counterbalances these faults and can enhance the esteem in which we are held. And it offers a remedy for competing for social esteem which can be detrimental to our lives because the sincere person does not seek to be esteemed for qualities that are only pretended. At the same time, it overcomes an inflated self-image, thereby improving both social relations and the relation to the self.

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Andreas Blank
Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt


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