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NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS 501 the practical problems of daily life by providing an explanation for misfortune and a source of guidance in times of uncertainty. There were also attempts to use it for divination and supernatural healing" (p. 151). Along these same lines, one should also cite a number of articles by Natalie Zemon Davis and, above all, the work of Robert Mandl 'ou. 17 To conclude these remarks, I must stress once again that Cassirer's program, in its pure form, is not only impossible for any but the mystic to follow; it is fundamentally anti~ historical. Peter Gay himself, a great admirer of Cassker, and a historian who has a penchant for such neo--idealist hocus-pocus, has tended to follow Cassirer's dictum in his interpretation of the Enlightenment as a whole (to his grid, one is tempted to add).TM Earlier, in Voltaire's Politics (1959), Gay had made a most convincing case for a radically different approach, which he calls "the social history of ideas." Instead of "searching for a dynamic center of thought," "a single point of view," of which each pamphlet, poem or tale was but another facet, Gay presented Voltaire's works as responses to specific situatiom--a series of positions which, if not discrete, were at least sufficientlydiverse as to be incomprehensible without intimate knowledge of the peculiar circumstances of each. I am not suggestinghere that the historian of philosophy abandon his traditional m6tier in a mad search for more fashionable methods. There will always be a need for insightful, penetrating analyses of individual thinkers, and probing essays into internal consistencies or contradictions. Febvre readily conceded that the historian concerned only with "placing" Descartes in his century has not thereby come to grips with Cartesianism. But abstract analysis cannot safelybe divorced from its natural collateral disciplines. It is time to stop studying philosophical ideas as if they were statements propounded in a void. If we neglect the rhetorical situation of philosophy, if we forget the particular audience to which an idea was addressed, we run the risk of forgetting what it is we mean by an idea in the first place. ALeaev SOMA~ Par/~ COMPLEMENTARY METHODOLOGIES IN THE HISTORY OF IDEAS Alfred Soman doses his article with the modest statement, "I am not suggesting here that the historian of philosophy abandon his traditional metier in a mad search for more fashionable methods. There will always be a need for insightful, penetrating analyses of 1T N. Z. Davis, "The Reasons of Misrule: Youth Groups and Charivaris in Sixteenth-Century France.,"Past and Present, No. 50 (February, 1971), 41-75; "The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France," ibid., No. 59 (May, 1973), 51-91. Mandrou's recent Des humaniatea au.r hommea de science: XVI 9 et XVIIe si~cles (1973) is by far the most coherent and systematic synthesisof the new historiography of ideas for this period. Specialistswill of course findroom to quarrel over some of the details;but as an initial outline and as a program for future research, the virtues of Mandrou's book are, I think, indisputable. is E.g., P. Gay, The Enlightenment, an Interpretation, 2 vols. (New York, 1966-1969). Gay's s~lmmaryremarks on Charron (I, 303) are so typical of his verbal sleights of hand that I cannot resist the following quotation: "While Charron was not a philosophe before his time---he was a priest and a theologian---the values he celebrates, in open dcfcren~ to his Romans, are the v~u of tl~ Eallghtc~m~nt." 502 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY individual thinkers, and probing essays into internal consistencies or contradictions.''t Yet what else might his intent be when he tacks on to a critique of an article explicitly designed as a textual analysis of De la Sagesse a glowing !audation of the new trends in the social history of ideas. The second half of his article is in fact an attack on many of the textual studies that fill this journal. The new trends in historiography that have so greatly affected eighteenth-century studies do indeed look most promising,2 hut in our concern for the social milieu in which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 501-509
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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