“The Monstrous Centaur”? Joseph de Maistre on Reason, Passion and Violence

Faith and Philosophy 28 (1):71-81 (2011)
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Abstract

This essay remarks upon a seeming paradox in the philosophical anthropology of Joseph de Maistre (1753–1821). He presents a traditional Platonic asymmetry of reason and the passions. This is put to the service of an Origenistic-universalistic theology that revolves around questions of guilt, punishment and redemption and a theory of sacrifice. Maistre is far from being the irrationalist that many political theorists observe, even if he presents an antagonistic relationship between reason and passions, the rational self and its desires. The apparently grim and sanguinary Platonism of the Savoyard Count can be neatly compared with Kant and contrasted with Hume’s sanguine, if not breezy, view of reason as a slave to the passions.

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Douglas Hedley
Cambridge University

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