The Cynic Enlightenment
Diogenes in the Salon
This original study reveals the importance of ancient Cynicism in defining the Enlightenment and its legacy.
Louisa Shea explores modernity's debt to Cynicism by examining the works of thinkers who turned to the ancient Cynics as a model for reinventing philosophy and dared to imagine an alliance between a socially engaged Enlightenment and the least respectable of early Greek philosophies. While Cynicism has always resided on the fringes of philosophy, Shea argues, it remained a vital touchstone for writers committed to social change and helped define the emerging figure of the public intellectual in the 18th century.
Shea's study brings to light the rich legacy of ancient Cynicism in modern intellectual, philosophical, and literary life, both in the 18th-century works of Diderot, Rousseau, Wieland, and Sade, and in recent writings by Michel Foucault and Peter Sloterdijk.
Featuring an important new perspective on both Enlightenment thought and its current scholarly reception, The Cynic Enlightenment will interest students and scholars of the Enlightenment and its intellectual legacy, 18th-century studies, literature, and philosophy.
About the Author
Louisa Shea is an assistant professor of French and comparative studies at the Ohio State University.
"Shea's book is an impressive work of comparative literature, encompassing classical Greek philosophy, the Enlightenment in both France and Germany, and the postmodern movement... This book provides fascinating, insightful reading on a much maligned or belittled school of thought that nevertheless seems to retain the capacity to invigorate widely divergent philosophers across the centuries."
"In her appealingly ambitious study of Cynicism in the eighteenth century, Louisa Shea perceptively articulates the tensions that have long structured debates around the social effects of philosophical critique."
"Shea’s purpose is not to write an intellectual history of Cynicism, but rather, and more impressively, to perform a critical analysis of the role of Cynicism in the development of modern thought. No one else has attempted such an ambitious examination of modern philosophy’s debt toward the Cynics."
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