UBC Theses and Dissertations
Hypocrisy and heresy : language and concepts in early modern England Stewart, Patricia Weightman
The two concepts of hypocrisy and heresy are completely disparate in modern use, and yet they were related in two ways during the early modern period. Firstly, both terms were prominent charges in the polemical exchanges of the English Reformation. Consequently, in this thesis they provide useful tools for studying the effects of controversy on language. The meaning of hypocrisy and of heresy was of considerable concern to many controversialists, and yet the resulting attempts at defining these terms contributed to their destabilization and incoherence. These terms were also related in a second respect throughout the early modern period. Given the universal conviction at that time that there was only one “true” church, and given the consequent pressures imposed by churches (both Catholic and Protestant) to enforce conformity to their own religions, it was inevitable that judgements had to be made concerning the convictions and internal beliefs of others. Such judgements were central in charges of heresy and hypocrisy; hence in this thesis the concepts of hypocrisy and heresy provide useful tools for studying early modern understandings of intentionality and judgement. The writings of Sir John Cheke, William Perkins, Bishop Joseph Hall and Sir Francis Bacon are shown to display concern combined with confusion and incoherence over these topics. However, Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue Concerning Heresies is shown to contain an intricate and coherent analysis of intentionality and judgement vis a vis heresy. But, More’s foundation for judgement and knowledge was the consensus fidelium, a foundation which simply was not available to the later Protestant writers. Lastly, Thomas Hobbes’s treatments of hypocrisy and heresy are examined. In effect, Hobbes negated the judgement of intentions where both concepts were concerned. He acknowledged and accepted the separation of internal belief from external profession. Likewise he accepted the impenetrable nature of the human mind and heart in a way his forebears had not. By examining Hobbes’s treatment of these concepts in light of the polemical confusion and conceptual incoherence of the preceeding century, a better understanding of Hobbes’s philosophy is obtained and the relevance of early modern theology for intellectual history is demonstrated.
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