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Title: Are You Alone Wise?: The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era
Author: Schreiner, Susan
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Publication Date: 2010
Hardcover; ISBN: 9780195313420
Volumes: 1; Pages: 512
List Price in Cloth: $74.00 Our price: $59.99
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In present-day America, the topic of certitude is much debated. On one side, commentators like Charles Krauthammer urge us to achieve "moral clarity." On the other, those like George Will contend that the greatest present threat to civilization is an excess of certitude. In this book Susan Schreiner points out that Europe in the sixteenth century was preoccupied with similar concerns. Both the desire for certainty, especially religious certainty, and warnings against certainty permeated this earlier era. Schreiner analyzes the pervading questions about certitude and doubt in the terms and contexts of a wide variety of thinkers during this time of competing truths. The Protestant Reformation was the wellspring of this debate, which expressed itself in terms of questions about salvation, authority, the rise of skepticism, the outbreak of religious violence, the discernment of spirits, and the ambiguous relationship between appearannce and reality. Repeatedly, Schreiner says, we find the recurring fear of deception. She examines the history of theological polemics and debates as well as other genres to shed light on the progress of this controversy. Among the texts she draws on are Montaigne's Essays, the mystical writings of Teresa of Avila, the diary, letters, and treatises of St. Ignatius, and the dramas of Shakespeare. The result is not a book about theology, but rather about the way in which the concern with certitude determined the theology, polemics and literature of the age.