Throughout the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, the Low Countries were home to a vibrant tradition of lay philosophy in Dutch. Sparks of Reason takes a detailed look at this philosophical tradition, with a special focus on the sixteenth century. During this turbulent century, several authors, such as Dirck Volkertsz Coornhert (1522-1590) and Hendrik Laurensz Spiegel (1549-1612), developed a philosophy which was founded on rationality and self-motivation. This "Vernacular Rationalism" was a dynamic melting pot of classical philosophy, Humanism, Spiritualism and popular piety. As this book shows, Vernacular Rationalism was rooted in an age-old Netherlandish tradition and was to become one of the breeding grounds for the Early Enlightenment in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. Its point of departure was the inherent goodness of humankind and the possibility of moral growth through rational knowledge. Its goal was perfect happiness.
Also available as E-book: ISBN 9789087045326
'Sparks of Reason is a thoughtful account containing interesting observations. It does not hesitate to take on the greatest challenges, such as Collegiant Pieter Balling and Coornhert himself. One question that the book fails to answer is: what was the nature and purpose of reason as seen by the book's main actors? Was it a Stoic moral guide, the Aristotelian essence of humanity, Scholastic formal logic, the rhetorician's convincing argument, the humanists' dignity of man, or the Scientific Revolution's epistemological juggernaut? Was it all, or one of these? Is there a sense in which reason in historical context can be philosophically defined? Here we find the book's greatest ans most exciting challenge. [...] In the end this excellent study is swimming with considerable success in deep waters. The real difficulty is that while medieval and early modern spiritualism can be fairly neatly defined, the same is not the case with reason. It is not one but many.' Andrew C. Fix in: Renaissance Quaerterly 70 (2017) 1, p. 291-292.
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