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Through Narcissus' Glass Darkly

The Modern Religion of Conscience

By David S. Pacini

Publication Year: 2012

Through Narcissus’ Glass Darkly presents a genealogy and critique of the ideal of conscience in modern philosophical theology, particularly in the writings of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant. It shows why the apparently emancipatory rejection of heteronomy compromised the ideal of self-legislated freedom. Left to itself, the conscientious individual has only the world it legitimates through self-relating. But given that any other world is inconceivable, the conscientious individual can never know whether its world is just or merely the expression of self-interest. Paradoxically, Pacini argues, the most formidable proponents of the modern religion of conscience share with their critics a common problem: the self-legislating self has become both indispensable and impossible within much of modern philosophy and theology. This unique and interdisciplinary interpretation of conscience makes an important contribution for scholars and students of modern philosophy, Christian theology, psychoanalytic theory, and literary criticism.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. iv-iv

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pp. xi-xii

‘‘Friends,’’ wrote the poet Stéphane Mallarme´, ‘‘mysterious finger shown, appeared, chasing a‘ ‘Friends,’’ wrote the poet Stéphane Mallarme´, ‘‘mysterious finger shown, appeared, chasing away the false.’’ I have been graced by many such friends in the course of writing this book. Thomas Altizer, Karl Ameriks ...

Notes and Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xv

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Prologue: The Looking Glass Religion

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pp. 1-17

Opposing the encroachments of others on individual liberties is a recurring theme in Western intellectual thought. More often than not, it has meant opposing various forms of political and/or religious zealotry and fanaticism while ...

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One Unscaffolding Religious "Madness"

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pp. 18-47

J. C. Lavater, the Swiss poet, mystic, and renowned physiognomist, wrote to Kant in 1775, seeking Kant’s opinion of his book on faith and prayer, Vermischte Schriften (1774). An ardent admirer of ...

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Two Disenchantment and the Religion of Conscience

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pp. 48-92

To say that the modern subject is, as Hobbes and Rousseau hinted and Kant explicitly claimed, a citizen neither of the sensible realm nor of the intelligible realm, but finds itself somewhere ‘in between,’ seems harmless ...

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Three Disfiguring the Soul

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pp. 93-131

Parmigianino’s sixteenth-century painting Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (Figure 5) is the subject of John Ashbery’s poem. In this portion, Ashbery portrays vividly the sequestering effect of reflection. To the mirrored gaze, ...

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Four Life Without Enigmatic Remainder

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pp. 132-182

Everything in the modern religion of conscience turns on the belief that the ends to which conscience directs us are not illusory, but can and will be realized. This belief, set within the conflict between the rationalities of ...

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Epilogue: The Shattered Mirror

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pp. 183-188

It has become a commonplace in many philosophical, theological, and literary circles to depict the ‘modern subject’ as the self-conscious activity of self-assertion that issues in strategies of domination. The picture looks ...


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pp. 189-200

Name Index

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pp. 201-203

Subject Index

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pp. 204-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246540
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823229642

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 7
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 867784563
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Through Narcissus' Glass Darkly

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Conscience -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- History.
  • Philosophical theology -- History.
  • Hobbes, Thomas, 1588-1679.
  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1712-1778.
  • Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804.
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