The Centre for the History of European Discourses was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

In this groundbreaking collection of essays the history of philosophy appears in a fresh light, not as reason's progressive discovery of its universal conditions, but as a series of unreconciled disputes over the proper way to conduct oneself as a philosopher. By shifting focus from the philosopher as proxy for the universal subject of reason to the philosopher as a special persona arising from rival forms of self-cultivation, philosophy is approached in terms of the social office and intellectual deportment of the philosopher, as a personage with a definite moral physiognomy and institutional setting. In so doing, this collection of essays by leading figures in the fields of both philosophy and the history of ideas provides access to key early modern disputes over what it meant to be a philosopher, and to the institutional and larger political and religious contexts in which such disputes took place.



  • 1. The persona of the natural philosopher - Stephen Gaukroger
  • 2. The university philosopher in early modern Germany - Ian Hunter
  • 3. The persona of the philosopher and the rhetorics of office in early modern England - Conal Condren
  • 4. From Sir Thomas More to Robert Burton: the laughing philosopher in the early modern period - Catherine Curtis
  • 5. 'Vaine philosophy': Thomas Hobbes and the philosophy of the Schools - Richard Serjeantson
  • 6. The judicial persona in historical context: the case of Matthew Hale - David Saunders
  • 7. Persona and office: Althusius on the formation of magistrates and councillors - Robert von Friedeburg
  • 8. Descartes as sage: spiritual askesis in Cartesian philosophy - John Cottingham
  • 9. The natural philosopher and the virtues - Peter Harrison
  • 10. Fictions of a feminine philosophical persona: Christine de Pizan, Margaret Cavendish, and philosophia lost - Karen Green and Jacqueline Broad
  • 11. John Locke and polite philosophy - Richard Yeo




“This is a thought-provoking collection. It fits a now-familiar scholarly mold of seeing knowledge as embedded in particular societies and their histories. In this case, contributors show how what counts as ‘philosophy’ in any time and place depends on these local particularities, detailing the assertion, for Early Modern Europe, via arguments both of wider temporal sweep and of intricate analysis of particular figures and their writings. At the same time, and for this reader more interestingly, some of its contributors explore how those who then carried out the tasks of philosophy did so within a context of changing experiences of personhood…This work is a major contribution to such a project.”  -Timothy J. Reiss, Metascience


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