ńňđ. 5
(âńĺăî 14)



Sidney, Apology, pp. 7, 6.
Ibid., p. 26, on comedy.
Rosemund Tuve, Elizabethan Metaphysical Imagery (Chicago, 1972 edn), p. 245.
116 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
philosophy and the examples of history.50 Thus it is the office of the poet
to secure reformed religion; poetry can be an idiom of proper devotion.51
This vision of the poet is further associated with the personae of office by
reference to Cicero, by comparisons with the standard social offices of
lawyer and physician and above all by the Petrarchan metaphor of the
poet as monarch, so having the office of creating social office. Poetry, he
had remarked at the outset, is ‘my own elected vocation’.52
In Timber, Jonson was reflecting as much on his own chosen vocation of
poetic critic as on poetry itself. Poetry is the queen of the arts, supreme in
status, above even oratory.53 This standing had made sound criticism all
the more important. It was Aristotle, he remarked, the greatest of phil-
osophers, who taught the offices of proper criticism, judgement and the
imitation of virtue. This ‘office of a true critic’ is no mere tinkering, nor
legislating. It is rather a matter of sincere judgement of the poet and
subject.54 Effectively the poetic critic is the mediator, the priest of the
poet’s divine order.

With the authority for such a responsibility drawn from Aristotle’s Poet-
ics, we have a cue for a further identity hovering behind the arras, though
in one sense the philosopher has been on stage all along, for defences of
poetry and rhetoric made specific claims to wisdom. As philosophy was
love of wisdom, or the possession of all knowledge, this could be to
appropriate philosophy to other offices.55 Sidney, Puttenham and Wilson
all exploited the almost indiscriminate range of the word philosophy in
this way, revealing how it could refer not to content, method or procedure
but to the end of any activity. Philosophical eclecticism encouraged the
potential instability. The philosopher could be a hunter and gatherer of
others’ gems, adhering to no stable propositional doctrine. And, though
largely filtered out of professional philosophy’s own sense of its past,
during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, eclecticism was prominent.
So, in another sense of the word philosophy, it could be all the more
important to establish the philosopher as having a distinct persona.
Plato had made the most ambitious claims for the intellectual authority
of the philosopher. Aristotle had muted them and Aquinas had argued

50 51
Sidney, Apology, pp. 11–14, 19–24. Targoff, Common Prayer, pp. 73–4.
52 53
Sidney, Apology, pp. 15, 21, 2. Jonson, Timber, p. 218.
Ibid., p. 220.
Goslicius, De optimo senatore (1593), p. 107 for philosophy as any knowledge under
Offices of the intellect 117
explicitly that metaphysics in particular had an office, conceived of in
virtually platonic terms as a duty of the highest wisdom to rule other
disciplines and lesser claims to knowledge.56 Sidney’s poetic office had a
long-standing and formidable opponent. For others, philosophy, more or
less precisely understood, offered a guide for the active or the contem-
plative life. This was the case for Bacon: as the office of the stomach was to
nourish the whole body, so philosophy made sense of all other profes-
sions.57 His was a restatement of long-standing arguments; it is the duty of
philosophy to make other realms of duty clear. Additionally, this provided
a rationale for the most eclectic of philosophers; and, as it were, modelled
the office of the philosopher (like that of the rhetor or the poet) on the
metaphorical projection of the office of God, to create and order all
subordinate offices in the natural and human world. By the same token
it was to make philosophers kings.
Philosophical identity was thus protean in a double sense. It had an
unstable relationship with rhetoric and poetry, and for some writers it
offered a vision of human potential, not unlike the picture of invention
painted by the apologists of rhetoric.58 The shared vocabulary of office
used to define differences and priorities did much to confuse them. The
philosopher as living the highest form of contemplation or as the instru-
ment of the life of social engagement persistently treads on the toes of the
poet and rhetor.59 Directly or indirectly, he serves the commonwealth,
although always the immediate end of his office is the quest for truth and
wisdom. For Bacon it was the specific means to this end that principally
gave the philosopher distinction. He was obliged to pursue free and
thorough enquiry, and this had the attendant duty of taking nothing on
authority and having a preparedness to dismiss even the most elevated
quacks of antiquity.60 Informing this decisive liberty of office was a
sceptical demeanour, and for philosophers in Bacon’s increasingly fash-
ionable idiom, dogmatism was inimical to the office. Boyle’s Skeptical
Chymist would have Carneades as its spokesman.61 Just as with rhetoric,

Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, pp. xxix–xxxi, as discussed in Johnson,
‘Early Modern Natural Law’, p. 41.
Bacon, Advancement, pt. 2, p. 93; for a succinct discussion of Bacon’s counter-claims to
Sidney’s poet, see Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, pp. 48–57.
W. G. Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Symbol of his Age (Geneva, 1981), for a
valuable discussion.
Bacon, Advancement, pp. 229ff; Goslicius, De optimo, pp. 57–9.
Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, pp. 105–110; Julian Martin, Francis Bacon, the State and the
Reform of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 147–50.
Robert Boyle, The Skeptical Chymist (1661).
118 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
however, intellectual status was tied to the reassuring display of a
socialised and decorous persona, the peripatetic image of the office.
The early modern world inherited the view that the office of the
philosopher involved a way of life.62 If, as Harvey famously put it, Bacon
wrote philosophy like a Lord Chancellor, it was in no small part because
the lawyer and the philosopher were alike forms of intellectual office in
service to mankind.63 Even for Hobbes, a most procedurally minded
defender of a discipline of philosophy, there should be a style of life fit
to the calling: ‘My Life and Writings speak one Congruous Sense’, a rough
translation of the more litotic ‘Nam mea vita meis non est incongrua
scriptis.’ In his aphorism that he and fear were born twins, a central
explanatory concept of Hobbesian philosophy was given a poetically
autobiographical origin.64 Hobbes’s critics saw this unity in a different
light. He was accused of arrogance, singularity and libertine atheism,
allowing his philosophy to be attacked through the persona. Although
Hobbes appeared to lack the decorous modesty usually signifying the true
philosopher, he was at least suitably melancholic. In this light, it seems
likely that Aubrey’s elaborate ‘Life’ took a cue from the asserted unity of
life and doctrine; it was itself ‘the last Office’ to his dear friend. Fittingly, it
was a defence of philosophy through exemplification of virtuous conduct,
an indirect rebuttal of Hobbes’s critics. Hobbes, the philosopher of
motion, had a mind, remarked Aubrey, that was never still, but always
controlled by the perpetual quest for aetiological understanding. The
personal qualities Aubrey attributed to his friend – his curiosity, openness,
generosity and charity, his energy, enjoyment of good company, discip-
line, consideration and abstemiousness – were all qualities echoing those
attributed to Socrates, and they were appropriate to the Epicurean persona
Aubrey defends. He noted in his ‘Life’ that Hobbes would not wear
a beard, wanting his reputation to depend upon his wit not the self-
advertising symbol of the sage.65 This probably alluded to the beard-
wearers derided by Lucian, and Hobbes certainly made a Lucianic
commitment explicit in De corpore, although, as Butler maintained,
whether with Hobbes in mind or not, nowadays philosophers have to
shave to maintain their reputations.66 The fusion of proposition and

Gaukroger, Francis Bacon, pp. 50–1, 44–56; Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life; Hunter,
Rival Enlightenments, ch .1, are all studies recapturing this point.
Martin, Francis Bacon, at length, for a detailed study of this relationship.
Hobbes, Life of Mr. Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (1680), p. 18, Thomae Hobbesii
Malmesburiensis Vita (1679), pp. 14, 2.
Aubrey, Brief Lives, pp. 83, 233.
Hobbes, De corpore (1655), in English Works, ed. Sir William Molesworth (1839–45),
vol. I, p. ix; Butler, Characters, p. 95.
Offices of the intellect 119
persona helps explain the ease with which philosophers like Hobbes shifted
into satire and ad hominem argument and could be treated in the same
fashion. Attacking a persona was hardly the irrelevance it might now seem
when occupation of the office not just the proposition was at issue.
Hobbes was also capable of running poetry and philosophy together in
a way that Sidney had made thoroughly familiar.67 In praising Davenant’s
Gondibert, he discussed the poet’s office by elaborating on a counterpoint
between the responsibilities of the ancient and the Christian poet, and by
stressing the dangers in the abuse of the powers of eloquence and figura-
tive creativity. Initially distinguishing poetry from philosophy, he then
went on to suggest that, where philosophy has failed in its responsibilities,
poetic fancy must take its place.68 The reference to office here is so reified
that it overrides the procedures that Hobbes normally took to define
philosophy to the exclusion of poetry’s reliance on metaphor. At the same
time that Hobbes was writing Leviathan, and still pondering the strict
regulae of the philosopher’s office that would appear in De corpore, he
was extolling the almost primeval mystery of the poet’s calling, a voice in
unison with Sidney, Puttenham and Jonson and conjured from antiquity.
During the seventeenth century, the philosopher and the natural phil-
osopher became more distinct. Daniel superficially sounds like a prophet:
‘of one science’ another was indeed ‘born’.69 There was no single or simple
reason for this. Charles Schmitt, for example, has suggested that it had
much to do with the logistics of text-book production.70 But Bacon’s re-
orientation of the office of the philosopher and then the momentous work
in natural philosophy by figures such as Boyle and Newton are also
crucial. Their work, together with the energies and controlled image of
the Royal Society (and others established in its train), could, retrospect-
ively, be seen as vindications of Baconian procedure.71 Irrespective of
achievements, Bacon’s insistence on natural philosophy as an inductive
communal endeavour of public importance seemed to be borne out in the
development of networks of scholars communicating problems, experi-
ments and discoveries in a way that distinguished them from the more
isolated and text-based work of deductive metaphysics, theology and

On Sidney and Hobbes, see Raia Prokhovnik, Rhetoric and Philosophy in Hobbes’s
Leviathan (New York, 1991), ch. 3.
Hobbes, Answer, p. 450.
Daniel, Defence, p. 63.
Charles B. Schmitt, ‘The Rise of the Philosophical Textbook’, in Charles B. Schmitt and
Quentin Skinner, eds., The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge,
1988), pp. 792–804.
L. Boschiero, ‘Natural Philosophizing inside the Late Seventeenth-Century Tuscan
Court’, British Journal for the History of Science, 35, 4 (2002), pp. 383–410.
120 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
logic, and from the restrictive conventions of court culture. In the courtly
environment, the scientist was accepted on the precedent of the artist or
even courtier, to bestow honour on his patron by doing as required; the
ethos was hierarchical and often combative.72 The Royal Society pre-
sented a contrasting Baconian group persona at odds with the evidence
of activity.73 Moreover, by establishing an organisation under the patron-
age of that highest social office-holder, the king, having rules of conduct, a
selective membership, oaths of initiation and an advertised ethos of shared
endeavour, the Society assimilated itself to established, institutionalised
patterns of official expectation in a way that was denied the poet, or the
philosopher outside the university or monastery.
By the end of the century there has been a partial change of focus, from
the relationships between the offices of poet, rhetor and philosopher to
those between philosopher, natural philosopher and mathematician, but
these remained relationships of office specified through its resilient vo-
cabulary. Stephen Shapin has inferred an intimate relationship between
the emerging image of natural science and the development of modern
‘selfhood’. Because the new science was a communal enterprise among
gentlemen, it required modesty and respect for the arguments and experi-
ments of fellows, the openness to attend to all relevant evidence and for
hypotheses to be tested in a public forum, sustained by the technologies of
print. He is right to stress the relationship between proposition and
persona, and that the shift away from this conjunction constitutes a change
of ethical perspective.74 It is clear, however, that the presentation of a
persona was hardly a singular achievement. In taking over the philosoph-
ical dialogue, for example, scientists like Boyle worked with canons of
civility that had been characteristic of its functioning from antiquity to the
Renaissance. In The Republic, even Thrasymachus is tamed. Neither was a
gentlemanly preoccupation with civil conversation in any way new when
Boyle emphasised its importance. It had been an aspect of aristocratic and
courtly offices for sufficiently long for the duelling provoked by its break-
down to be seen as native.75 Boyle further adapted the aristocratic virtue
of liberality to the ends of enquiry – it was an undogmatic generosity
towards the work of others in the scientific community. His chastity was a

Peter Burke, The Italian Renaissance: Culture and Society in Italy (Princeton, 1986), ch. 3.
John A. Schuster and Alan H. B. Taylor, ‘Organising the “Experimental Life” at the
Early Royal Society: The Production and Communication of Experimentally Based
Knowledge’, Princeton University, History and Philosophy of Science Seminar, 2003. I
am grateful to Professor Schuster for access to this.
Stephen Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century
England (Chicago, 1994), e.g. pp. 409–10.
Peltonen, The Duel, pp. 178–9.
Offices of the intellect 121
virtue appropriate to the true Epicurean’s love of knowledge. There
was also an insistently Christian dimension to this.76 The Pauline injunc-
tion (2 Timothy 2: 24, 25) was a familiar text concerning heresy. Those in
error should be treated with gentleness, patience and meekness, as the
similarly chaste Hobbes reminded his critics in an attack on dogmatism.77
Here are dicta of the utmost civility that are anything but the preserve of
the new men of science, issuing from one of the old, too easily accused
of incivility and not neatly to be tied to the honour-driven competitiveness
of court science.78 The continuing vitality of a register is uncertain evi-
dence of a new ideology. So it seems misleading to see a persona like
Boyle’s as fashioning a modern self.79 Natural science and philosophy
might well be diverging activities, but no more than with poetry, or
rhetoric at the end of the sixteenth century, was one persona denied the
authenticating clothing of the other.
Robert Boyle lived the scientific persona with conspicuous success, to be
sure, and his critiques of Hobbes were an effective way of presenting the
openness of eclecticism, labouring in the interests of wisdom as an alter-
native to the prioristic over-reaching of untrammelled speculation. Locke
went further in calling philosophy a matter of under-labouring for natural
philosophy.80 In some ways, we have come a long way from the world of
Sidney and ‘the poet Collingbourne’, but Locke’s image of philosophy still
draws on the promotional rhetorics of office. The philosopher’s modesty is
the humility of knowing an office and its limits; his argument is cast in the
language of duty and responsibility, of ends and what has impeded
their fulfilment. The answer is cut and stitched with much the same
materials of intellectual office and its abuse as Bacon and Hobbes had
used: the over-reaching obfuscation of past philosophy and the delusions
of rhetoric which are attacked tout court by ad hominem accounts of
motivation, so stigmatising the persona of the rhetorician as the enemy
of the under-labourer.

See above all Boyle, The Christian Virtuoso, in Works, vol. V, pp. 508–40; vol. VI, pp.
673–716, 717–96.
Thomas Hobbes, An Historical Narration concerning Heresy and the Punishment thereof
(c. 1668), in English Works, vol. IV, pp. 407–8.
Hobbes did operate largely within the courtly Cavendish circle and for most of his life
was a servant of the Cavendish family. He enjoyed the eristics of courtly debate; but his
employers were in many ways his fellows and friends. He drove his own agenda of
enquiry which William Cavendish facilitated rather than directed.
See Shapin, Social History, pp. 160–8; for systematic discussions, see John H. Schuster
and Alan H. B. Taylor, ‘Blind Trust: The Gentlemanly Origins of Experimental Science’,
Social Studies of Science, 27 (1997), pp. 503–36; Michael Hunter, Robert Boyle (1627–
91): Scrupulosity and Science (Woodbridge, 2000), at length.
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Epistle.
122 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
As Locke’s under-labouring efforts amounted to an argument about
what and how anything in the world can be studied and knowledge
communicated, his philosophical vision can be encompassed by Bacon’s
analogy of the stomach and by Ciceronian priorities. And for Locke also,
this was not just a matter of digesting dry doctrine but of knowing enough
to live as we should.81 In this respect Locke’s revised image of philosoph-
ical responsibility is at one with Shaftesbury’s reassuring echo of Platonic
eudemonia: the purpose of philosophy is to make us happy; it is tied to and
is an expression of character.82
Office, then, provided a currency of advertisement, defence and critique
for intellectual activity, a vocabulary to be co-opted to the extent that it
kept fluid, or could blur substantively different intellectual endeavours.
Fuller disciplinary demarcation perhaps required a diminution of the
status of the language of office; or perhaps an increasing differentiation
in the minutiae of practice gradually over-stretched the common resources
of advocacy and demonisation. Either way, we now live in a world in
which the promotional rhetoric of office has a less certain place and a
lower threshold of plausibility when applied to intellectual life.

One consequence of this change is that it has become easy to overlook the
persona of the philosopher and put in its stead the somewhat evasive
‘selfhood’ of the modern individual. Discriminate claims have been uni-
versalised, philosophy is over-simplified and a premature modernity is
invented. To an extent all this is understandable. As I have laboured
sufficiently, philosophy was a particularly unstable term, and the ubiquity
of the vocabulary of office hardly assisted in fixing a discursively insu-
lated discipline. Nevertheless, the philosopher, even as the more general
scholar or man of letters, was well short of the modern individual. Since
Burckhardt’s search for nascent individualism in the Renaissance, Pico
della Mirandola’s seminal Oration on the Dignity of Man has largely been
read as an unrestricted argument about human individuality, a joyous
indulgence in Man’s protean capacity. Yet, as Bill Craven has shown, Pico
uses the notion of Man as a metaphor for philosophic creativity.83 In

John Locke, ‘Thus I think’, in King, The Life of John Locke, vol. II, pp. 126–7.
Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury, The Characteristics of Men, Manners,
Opinions and Times (1711), ed. Philip J. Ayres (Oxford, 1999), vol. II, p. 207.
Craven, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, esp. ch. 5; cf. Trinkhaus, In our Image and
Likeness, vol. II, pp. 753–60.
Offices of the intellect 123
overlooking this, connotation is mistaken for denotation and so the frame
of reference greatly expanded past the rhetorical exercise of praising
philosophy. Pico claimed for the philosopher what Wilson, Puttenham
and Sidney would use to vindicate poets and orators; the protean nature of
philosophy is to be celebrated, because the philosopher’s is an office of
such weighty responsibility. Discussion of Pico, then, should be placed in
the context of the shared resources of contested intellectual modality, not
in that of a projected definition of modern individualism. The clothing of
office was torn in the mutual attempts to rip it from the backs of intellec-
tual competitors; the tatters get stitched by the latter-day tailor into
something else.
Similarly, it is unduly modernising to read More’s ‘Dialogue of Council’
as a debate about a private individual and public life, an inner self
confronting the dangers of a public role, freedom versus obligation or
constraint. It is, rather, a debate about the tensions between the responsi-
bilities involved respectively in the active and contemplative lives as pat-
terns of conduct that might best fulfil the office of the philosopher. To this
end, as Catherine Curtis has argued, More drew on complementary figures
from Menippean and Lucianic philosophical satire: Hythlodaeus the trav-
eller, ‘the latter-day Menippus, caped and bearded’, free of social burdens
that he may serve knowledge, considering only issues of honestas; and
Morus, the man tied to the practicalities of the offices of lawyer and
counsellor, who must be circumspect and always consider the conse-
quences, utilitas. Eric Nelson has related this distinction specifically to
More’s use of a Greek conception of the superiority of contemplative
philosophy to counter-point a Roman requirement that philosophy
engage with the commonwealth.84 The questions explicitly raised by More
are whether the contemplative philosopher, Hythlodaeus, whose Greek is
better than his Latin, can become a councillor to any good effect; and
whether the man of practical engagements is morally and philosophically
compromised in trying to be helpful. To fulfil one sort of office seems to
involve failure by the standards of another, for the ethics and liberties of
each are discordant. Contested philosophy is, as it were, stretched across a
moral modality. Certainly, there is a dialogue between these personified
positions, but the dramatic delineation is well served by More’s resisting a
resolution, and thus leaving in the air the question, to be answered so
emphatically by Bacon, of what really is true wisdom.85 That indetermin-
acy inviting the reader’s active participation, however, is more congruent

Curtis, ‘Richard Pace’, p. 277; Nelson, ‘The Greek Tradition’, ch. 1.
Thomas More, Utopia, ed. George Logan, Robert Adams and Clarence Miller
(Cambridge, 1995), bk. 1.
124 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
with the office of the rhetor whose dress the author More was wearing,
than with the philosopher about whom he was writing. For the rhetor had
perforce, as Bacon would also insist, always to adapt a case according to
audience and circumstances and it was, according to the ancient Quintilian
and the modern Machiavelli, not always possible to argue from honestas
or to reconcile it with utilitas.86 To lose sight of this interplay between and
with intellectual office is to drain the personae from the text and leave us
only with the misplaced voices of individuality. More significant than the
twisting of the protean philosopher into the Self, however, has been
the secularisation of the soul, and it is to this illusive essence, sometimes
the inner philosopher, that I shall now turn.

Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, trans. H. E. Butler (Cambridge, Mass., 1920–2), vol. III, 8.
30–7; Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1513), trans. Russell Price, introduction by
Quentin Skinner (Cambridge, 1988), pp. xvii–xx; see also Fitzmaurice, Humanism and
America, pp. 118–19.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _Soul___________ _ _ _ _and_________ _ _ _ conscience______________________________ __________________________________________________________________________

For my Soul, I confess I have heard very much of Souls, but what they
are, or whom they are for, God knows.
(Nathaniel Brent, The Last Will and Testament of the Earl of Pembroke, 1681)

One sympathises: it was hard not to hear much of souls in seventeenth-
century England, but what they were was indeed debatable. Since an-
tiquity, the soul (psyche) could refer both to the moving principle inherent
in all living things and to the conjunction of will and intellect in humans,
usually considered immortal. This chapter is mainly concerned with the
second, intellective understanding of the soul, but initially it is important
to disengage what were often confusing patterns of meaning.
Plato had used psyche in both senses in the Timaeus, a somewhat
Pythagorean dialogue that became a touchstone in Renaissance discus-
sions.1 To these he added the notion of a world soul to explain the
apparent coherence of creation itself. Aristotle’s De anima provided sem-
inal material for scholasticism and Reformation theology, but it seemed to
have no use for a world soul, while from Epicurus and Lucretius came a
notion of a material soul, the intellective soul conceived as mortal and
composed of atoms. Varieties of Stoicism qualified and continued to mix
theories of the psyche as principle of life, divine spark of humanity, with
the psyche tou pantos, or world soul.2 A full account of the understandings
of the psyche found in the seventeenth century would also need to include
postulated animal spirits that could affect it; to say nothing of folkloric
survivals from Greek and Germanic mythology, of transmogrifying and
separable souls, hidden talismans of power, like the purple hair on the

Plato, Timaeus, 34a–37c; 41a–44, trans. H. D. P. Lee (Harmondsworth, 1965), pp. 44–9,
F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (New York, 1967), pp.

126 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
head of King Nisus of Megara, a soul plucked out by his daughter Scylla
to his and his city’s destruction.3
When psychologia was coined around 1575, to refer to the study of the
soul, it had, predictably, no exclusive disciplinary location, being used
from theology, metaphysics and morality to natural philosophy, medicine
and what is now called psychology.4 Elaborate taxonomies of study
stemming from the soul as vegetative and/or sensitive, or as intellective
gave an indication of the ground psychologia had to cover.5 Superficially,
it might seem that these understandings could be kept separate, given that
only the human intellective soul was taken as a defining principle of
immortality.6 Indeed, during the pontificate of Leo X it was deemed
heretical to deny human immortality.7 This unique soul continued to be
affirmed in Protestant speculation. Melanchthon’s much printed Liber de
anima was largely at one with Thomistic belief; Aristotelian authority was
a common grounding. To paraphrase Melanchthon’s definition, the ra-
tional soul was the immortal part of man.8 Such an apparently clear point
of demarcation, however, could nevertheless be compromised, and by the
seventeenth century some diminished form of immortality could be
accorded souls in animals.9
Irrespective of degrees of immortality, there was a more fundamental
reason for the continuing slippage between the varieties of soul-talk. In all
uses the soul was intangible, an inaccessible essence that had to be ex-
pressed in a publicly shared language. This was a business that doomed
discussion to metaphorical inadequacy, exemplifying the limitations char-
acteristic of reference to divinity itself. The concept of God as beyond
human comprehension was a consequence of the postulate of divine

For a detailed account of the interactions of ancient uses of psyche, anima and their
survivals, see Onians, Origins, pp. 93–122, 169–73.
Katharine Park and Eckhard Kessler, ‘The Concept of Psychology’, in Schmitt and
Skinner, The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, pp. 355–7.
Katharine Park, ‘The Organic Soul’, in ibid., pp. 465–6; Elyot, The Book Named the
Governor, 3.24, pp. 224–5.
See, for example, Hale, Primitive Origination, pp. 27–8.
Donne, The Pseudo-Martyr, ch. 12, p. 375; Pietro Pomponazzi (1452–1525) provoked
extensive controversy over his De immortalitate animae (1516), defended in his Apologia
(1518), arguing, to put it bluntly, that philosophically speaking the soul was mortal,
theologically, immortal. This had severe ramifications for the relationships of the office
of theologian and philosopher; see Charles H. Lohr, ‘Metaphysics’, in Schmitt and
Skinner, The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, pp. 602–7; Eckhard Kessler,
‘The Intellective Soul’, in ibid., pp. 500–7.
Kessler, ‘The Intellective Soul’, pp. 517–18, and n. 233, quoting Philipp Melanchthon,
Liber de Anima.
See Samuel Haworth, Anthropologia: or a Philosophic Discourse Concerning Man (1680),
discussing Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, pp. 40–1.
Soul and conscience 127
omnipotence, and it was a commonplace by the seventeenth century.10
Omnipotence could not be contained in any single definition, and so
comprehension might only be grasped at by complementary predications.
This led at once to a sort of theological scepticism which could be as pious
as polemical, and to a metaphorical fecundity that could be as disturbing
as it was devout.11 Such a God was a model for understanding the putative
spirit realm and the unknown within the physical; so ‘the forms of things
unknown’ are named, and ‘airy nothing’ given ‘A local habitation’.12 The
spiritual, argued Cotta, is only conjectured in mundane terms, its likely
marks and manifestations matters of ‘prudent ghesse’.13 But sensibility to
human inadequacy also allowed scope for paradoxical play with words,
tumbling different conceptions of the soul into one. The soul, claimed
Samuel Haworth, is so far above sense that only the soul can explicate its
nature – an assertion that approaches intelligibility only because he pro-
ceeded to reduce the soul to an incorporeal cogitant, to wit, an immortal
rational faculty with a ruling function.14
As one common way of glimpsing God’s nature was to see Him as
having the office of ruling, expectations of office gave a predictable form
to any postulated angelic host. Devoid of their reciprocal offices, wrote
Christoph Scheibler, the angels of the republic of Heaven would be but a
common herd.15 If office secured angels from plummeting into the bestial,
we can expect the relationship of soul to God to be conjectured in similar
fashion. To allude to Marsilius of Padua’s prescient distinction, we are
habitually confronted with a world of intransient (non transeunt) acts
between God and soul, grasped only through the transient language of
human social interaction.16 Hobbes commented of Walter Warner, ‘I wish
he could giue good reasons for ye facultyes & passions of ye soule, such as
may be expressed in playne English. If he can, he is the first (that I ever
heard) speake sense in that subiect.’17 Again one sympathises, but plain

Browne, Religio Medici, pp. 74, 94; Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 3, p. 21; ch. 34, p. 271.
Browne, Religio Medici, pp. 23–5, K n. 25.
Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1.
Cotta, The Assured Witch, pp. 21, 2, 7; John Cotta, A Short Discovery of the unobserved
Dangers of . . . Physicke in England (1612), p. 7. Such awareness of the limitations of
human knowledge naturally fuelled the sort of rigorous scepticism of Hobbes, who could
take a Cotta-like understanding of the spiritual to the totality of the external material
Haworth, Anthropologia, pp. 14, 21.
Christoph Scheibler, Metaphysica duobus libris, universum hujus scientiae systema
(Giessen, 1617, Oxford, 1665), lib. 2, punctum II, p. 638. I am most grateful to Ian
Hunter for bringing this to my attention, if not with quite the gravitas it deserves.
Marsilius of Padua, Defensor pacis (1324), ed. H. Kusch (Berlin, 1958), 1.5.4.
Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1994), vol. I, 15/
25 August 1635, p. 29.
128 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
English, being approximate English, was part of the problem, and plain
English was infused with the vocabulary of office. So, if it could be used of
God, it could become an almost irresistible resource for prudent guesses
about the soul. Metaphors of office, then, persistently offered hope of a
higher understanding. On close inspection, however, these frequently
collapse into circular affirmations of office-talk itself, at once a language
of morality and explanation. They could even coalesce the ostensible
polarities of divine inner essence and the outer protean persona of the
philosopher. For the remainder of this chapter I propose only to illustrate
permutations on this common theme of soul and soul–God relations given
‘local habitation’ through office.
In antiquity Cicero and Epictetus had defined human beings in terms
of four personae or realms of duty, one of which is the essential
shared rationality of all humanity, that is, in some sense a soul.18 The
vocabulary of office continued to be available in this way from the
Church Fathers to beyond the medieval scholastics. Thomas More’s
Dialogue of Comfort illustrates some of the intricacies that could
result. A. D. Cousins has shown that More presented a series of personae,
to construct a lasting composite image of himself that was then pro-
pagated by family and disciples. The first is that of the father, whose
duty is to leave an ideal of morality to guide his family; the last is the
persona of the Boethian and Silenic philosopher who has discovered
that true knowledge is found in subordination to Christ. True philo-
sophy is, then, an expression of the soul’s proper demeanour to the
supreme office-holder; the true philosopher is thus an exemplum for any
When, towards the end of the sixteenth century, writers such as Mon-
taigne and Charron redefined the intellective soul in exploring notions of
inner identity, the language and exempla of office were to hand. For the
figuratively inventive Montaigne, the soul, the inner self, the conscience,
was, most simply, a judge, a court assessing the vanities of the world; for
Charron it could even be a republic.20 As for More, the object of the
enquiry was to define the duties of the true philosopher, so the language of
office is used to reconcile notions of inner being and philosophical judge-
ment; the result gained familiarity and authority through the force of the

Epictetus, Discourses, trans. W. A. Oldfather (Cambridge, Mass., 1925), 2.10.
A. D. Cousins, ‘Role-Play and Self-Portrayal in More’s A Dialogue of Comfort Against
Tribulation’, Christianity and Literature, 52, 4 (2003), pp. 457–70.
Carol Clark, ‘Talking about Souls: Montaigne and Human Psychology’, in I. D.
MacFarlane and Ian Maclean, eds., Montaigne, Essays in Memory of Richard Sayce
(Oxford, 1982), pp. 67–9.
Soul and conscience 129
descriptive terms themselves.21 There is, then, nothing strained in William
Perkins writing of Christianity as a general calling, and seeing the Chris-
tian soul as in an official relationship with God. This image, passing into
common usage, was studiously developed by George Herbert as a doctrine
about the relationships between the calling of a Christian and, within this,
the vocation of the priest, whose office was devoted to assisting the soul in
its relationship to God.22
Donne played paradoxically with the need to rely upon the familiar
image for the inscrutable in a sermon in which he suggested that as
prophets penned scripture through metaphors drawn from their prior
professions, so, as the sinful soul turns fully to God, its prior passion
shapes its new relationship. His argument is thus a variation on Cotta’s
problem of inference from the indescribable. The covetous, urges Donne,
will be spiritually covetous, for as a servant of God, he will have his
wages.23 Although the term soul functioned as an abstract noun, above
all it expressed a relational identity of total subjection to God, an office of
constant exercise. Ideally, wrote Donne, the soul is so thoroughly turned
towards God, that it prays even in ignorance of its activity.24 Yet precisely
because no single description touching divinity was adequate, total, pri-
vate subjection did not exclude liberty – quite the contrary; as the Church
of England liturgy insisted, God is he whose service is perfect freedom. At
one point, using the model of the equally mysterious Trinity, Sir Thomas
Browne elaborated a triple vision of the soul comprising affection, faith
and reason, all related through the vocabulary of office and rule.25 For
Matthew Hale, it was altogether more simple: the soul was a microcosm of
God’s rule over the universe.26 Hale’s conventional formulation embraces
the soul as divine human essence and principle of life. It resides in the
noble faculties of head and heart, where it governs, but ‘pervades’ the
‘Body and exerciseth vital Offices’.27 So, too, the pathology of the physical
world, the failure of the soul as life principle, could be styled a failure

Pierre Charron, De la Sargesse (1601), trans. S. Lennard, Of Wisdome Three Bookes,
n.d.; cf. also David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1745), ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge;
second edn P. H. Niddich (Oxford, 1978), p. 261.
Malcolmson, Heart Work, at length.
Donne, Sermon 18, in Sermons (1660).
Donne, Sermon 9, in Sermons (1640); Robert Boyle, ‘Of Piety’ (1645–7), in John T.
Harwood ed., The Early Essays and Ethics of Robert Boyle (Carbondale and
Edwardsville, 1991), p. 173; cf. Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire, p. 363, citing
Diogenes Laertius, claiming that the good person is always using his soul.
Browne, Religio Medici, pp. 51–2; not to be confused with Reisch’s tripartite soul.
Hale, Primitive Origination, p. 33.
Ibid., p. 23; see also Haworth, Anthropologia, p. 61, on the analogy of the vacuum to
prove extension of the immaterial.
130 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
of office.28 This also had been intimated in antiquity where the soul’s
function was sometimes depicted as vitalising and governing.29
Covenant theology figuratively imagined a solemnity of passage by
which the Christian soul came into a new relationship of office with
God, accepting a moral responsibility of total subjection. And even those
who rejected the imagery of covenant might turn to that of office to
express the relationship between Christ and the souls he saved. Hobbes,
for example, insistent enough on God’s incomprehensibility, deemed
Christ to have an office.30 Sir Harry Vane the younger (no conspicuous
Hobbesian) was fully cognisant of the metaphorical and paradoxical
nature of soul descriptions, and relied on the vocabulary of office to
affirm a spiritual tutelage, a freedom in captivity, and a harmony of liberty
and necessity.31 Referring to the inner obligations of the soul to God,
George Lawson remarked on how hard it was not to speak in tropes; the
very notion of an obligation was a metaphorical approximation.32 The
expression of inner being needed the resources of official relationships.

Understanding the obligations, of course, was a further issue and knowing
one’s duty to God was a matter of conscience. Theories of conscience,
intricate and highly speculative as they could become, were grounded in
the Latin conscientia combining the meanings of inner awareness and
consciousness.33 A standard starting place was Aquinas’s De obligatione
conscientiae, treating conscience as a mental operation, both a form of
knowing and an application of principles to conduct – a specification
already trailing intimations of intellectual office.34 Compressing this
understanding, conscience was also the principle of movement, or judge-
ment in the soul: a natural power of the soul, as Christopher St German

See also Charleton, Enquiries into Human Nature, p. 394; Booth, ‘A Subtle and
Mysterious Machine’, p. 155.
Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms, p. 175, citing Plotinus; more generally, Onians,
Origins, pp. 93–123.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 41, p. 332; cf. Ames, Conscience, p. 73.
Sir Harry Vane the Younger, Two Treatises (1662), quoted in David Parnham, Sir
Henry Vane, Theologian: A Study in Seventeenth-Century Religious and Political
Discourse (London, 1997), p. 145.
George Lawson, ‘Amica dissertatio’, Baxter Treatises, Dr Williams’s Library, London,
1, fols. 99–130b, item 9.
Lewis, Studies in Words, pp. 181–3.
Ames, Conscience, pp. 2–4; Robert Boyle, ‘The Aretology’ (1645), in Harwood, Early
Essays, pp. 46–7.
Soul and conscience 131
put it.35 Thus the conscience could become a synecdoche for the soul, for
each was a matter of intellect and will subordinated to God. Similarly, the
mind from the same root in conscientia could be the seat of consciousness.
The OED cites usage of this sort from the fourteenth century, so the word
mind could function as a synonym for the intellective human soul. A
preamble to an act of 1512 refers to the will and mind (OED), suggesting
the very distinction made with respect to the conscience, knowledge and
the will to apply it. By the sixteenth century mind could refer to the whole
social being – ‘To humble broken minds, this Lord is ever, ever neare’36 –
and could become synonymous with soul and conscience. The verb to
mind was to care, or take responsibility for, and the OED cites the impera-
tive to be mindful as being strongly associated with that most prominent
of offices, counsel. Much of the diverse usage of the terms conscience,
mind and soul is strung on a thread of associations with office.
The metaphors of conscience and those of the soul could be much the
same, but the conscience was taken to be a source of knowledge of what
was right with respect to external offices as well: of what people needed to
be mindful of. For Jeremy Taylor, it was a kind of Platonic or Ciceronian
philosopher, or priest, its offices being to dictate, testify, bear witness,
excuse, accuse, loose and bind.37 On scriptural authority, Taylor equated
conscience and heart, then with spirit ministered by the offices of the body.
The conscience is the mind of God, ruling in men.38 The description of
conscience, like that of God and soul, was driven by metaphor frequently
derived from but also feeding back into understandings of office. Henry
Mason, for example, used the terms soul and conscience as synonyms in
his exploration of the importance of self-examination. Conscience is an
inner tribunal, judging and passing sentence. It is analogous to that
similarly clear case of relationships of social office, that of the physician
and patient. Both general and particular callings, he argued, have their
characteristic failings and need regular scrutiny.39 The result of this con-
stant subjection of offices to office, the self-examination before one’s own
inner court, is greater awareness of duty and enhanced preparedness of
the soul for God. ‘[E]very man’, wrote the Quaker Samuel Fisher, ‘is a
little world within himself, and in this little world there is a court of

Christopher St German, A Dyaloge in Englysshe bytwyxt a Doctoure of Dyvynyte and a
Student in the Lawes of England: of the groundes of the sayd lawes and of Conscyence
(1530); see Jones, Conscience and Allegiance, pp. 38–9.
Sidney-Pembroke, Psalter, 34.9 quoted in OED; see Targoff, Common Prayer, pp. 77–
Taylor, Ductor dubitantium, p. 11; see also Anstey, The Philosophy of Robert Boyle, pp.
74, 188–90, on Robert Boyle’s elision of rational soul and mind.
Taylor, Ductor, pp. 4–5.
Mason, Tribunal of Conscience, pp. 2, 12, 36ff, 31, 40, 53.
132 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
judicature erected, wherein next under God the Conscience sits as
the supream judge . . . that passeth sentence upon all our actions.’40
Ecumenical as such formulations were, adequate preparation for judge-
ment was known to be no easy matter: as Browne put it, the ‘inward
opticks and crystalline of [the] soul’ was the hardest sort of vision.
‘Conscience only, that can see without light, sits in the Areopagy and
dark tribunal of our hearts surveying our thoughts and condemning their
The conscience rarely escaped images of perception, seeing and know-
ing. The analogies between sense and intellection to be found, for example,
in Plato’s Republic, where sight is used synaesthetically, and Aristotle’s De
Anima, III, had become so established that sense, especially vision, pro-
vided both the standardised metaphorical vocabulary for understanding,
and a model of expectation in the early modern world.42 As ideally the
conscience directed us to duty, and the soul towards God, so too there was
a responsibility to follow its beckoning. Applying the knowledge of the
conscience was, then, effectively an office of the soul, the duty of following
what was seen in the dark.
I have already discussed the relationships between public and private
being at odds with modern concepts, and in the light of metaphors of
office used for the conscience of the soul we can also appreciate contra-
dictory understandings of the private: as inaccessible and in a relationship
of total subordination to God, the soul was private; but it was also
possible to reduce the inner conscience to nothing more than doing the
duties required of public office. James VI&I insisted on this conjunction of
conscience and duty over and above any private conscience.43 As Kevin
Sharpe has shown, a similar collapse of a knowing conscience into the
exercise of office helps explain why Charles I’s conscience had to override
the consciences of those he governed. As God ruled the soul, so Charles
ruled in God’s place. God was the king of men’s consciences and Charles
was his vicegerent. The conscience was also God’s vicegerent. It was
around this contentious office-shaped rock of conscience that the contro-
versies surrounding the Eikon Basilike would flow.44 Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Fisher, The Bishop Busied beside the Businesses, Epistle, quoted in Jones,
Conscience and Allegiance, p. 188; Clarendon, ‘Of Conscience’ (1670) in Essays, vol. I, p.
Browne, Christian Morals, pp. 331–2; see also Bohun, The Justice of the Peace, p. 124,
tying this visual imagery to Matthew 6: 23.
Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, 1979), introduction,
ch. 1; Richard Tuck, ‘Optics and Sceptics’, in Edmund Lietes, ed., Conscience and
Casuistry in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1998), at length.
Sharpe, Re-mapping, pp. 158–60.
Ibid., pp. 183, 194, 178; Charles I (?), Eikon Basilike, p. 78.
Soul and conscience 133
had already disputed Charles’s conception of his authoritative conscience
with metaphors of his own: ‘the people Have a natural throne of policy in
their conscience to give warning . . . against the king as a tyrant’.45 Yet the
two men drew alike on the standard vocabulary of rationality, knowledge
and office.
Such fluid language makes the notion of a public conscience, whether
the king’s or the people’s, quite plausible. It could be a shorthand way of
affirming knowledge of one’s duty to maintain the integrity of one’s office.
Thus Heneage Finch, in 1674: ‘there is a twofold conscience, viz conscien-
tia politica et civilis et conscientia naturalis et interna. Many things are
against natural and inward conscience which cannot be reformed by the
regular and political administration of equity.’46 In a closely related way,
James Harrington, then John Toland, used the analogical patterns of soul-
talk and government, both equally informed by an overtly Ciceronian
awareness of office, to speak of government as the soul of the nation, and
to use this, as Finch would have approved, to restrict the office of the
priest from government and law.47
The practical consequence of this sort of metaphorical circularity was
that, however insubordinate it might seem, following one’s conscience
could be presented as a paramount duty sprung fully armed from know-
ledge of one’s office.48 Indeed, it may have been that only when cloaked in
relationships of office could conscience carry authority. This can be seen
slightly differently from a suggestive argument put forward by Bishop
John Sharp. Rather than objectifying soul and conscience as definable and
almost perceptible objects and independent authorities, Sharp dismisses
the importance of definitions to ask the Wittgensteinian question of how
we use the word conscience, for what purposes and in what forms of
discourse. It is employed, he answers, to insist upon rule-following in
contexts of moral discourse.49 Conscience is a recognition of duty, a
function of understanding offices.
Regardless, then, of whether conscience is typically defined through the
nomenclature of office, or is seen as a usage about office, it is to be
expected that the question of whether any other person could direct it,

Samuel Rutherford, Lex, Rex (Edinburgh, 1644), Q.24.
Heneage Finch, ‘Treatise of Chancery Learning’, in D. E. C. Yale, ed., Lord
Nottingham’s ‘Manual of Chancery Practice’ and ‘Prolegomena of Chancery and Equity’
(Cambridge, 1965), p. 194. I am grateful to Professor David Saunders for bringing this
to my attention and for a copy of his unpublished paper ‘Our Artificial Conscience:
Lord Nottingham, Judicial Impartiality, and the “conscientia politica et civilis”’.
Champion, Pillars of Priestcraft, pp. 198–210.
Ames, Conscience, ch. 3, p. 7; Taylor, Ductor dubitantium, pp. 111–13.
John Sharp, ‘A Discourse of Conscience’, in Works, vol. II, pp. 172–3, 181.
134 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
of whether the voice, the judge, the eye, could be represented and con-
trolled, became a highly controverted issue. The arguments surrounding
the consequences of the postulate of a conscience became, not arguments
about selves, but about personae, not least that of the priest as putative
mediator, and souls as office-holders. A shared faith in the imperative of
subordination of the soul to God was highly divisive. At one extreme, a
humanly directed conscience lost the Christian liberty of direct subordin-
ation, which was why papal or priestly authority could be seen as inimical
to the health of the soul. At the other, the Christian liberty of the soul
without informed mediation could be a sort of anarchy, every man be-
coming his own pope.50 So, typically, Hobbes had cut to the quick chal-
lenging the long-standing ecumenical appeals to conscience: it could not
be a matter of knowing. Either (in the Marsilian idiom) it is a matter of
purely intransient belief, thus definitionally lacking social consequence, or
it was only a matter of privileged opinion.51 Hobbes diminished con-
science by erasing associations with office. By the end of the century,
although the older uses retain a vibrancy in pulpit literature, the Hobbes-
ian view is endorsed and made palatable by Locke’s Essay, and almost
made orthodox by the latitudinarian Sharp. Conscience is an opinion
about the moral propriety of our own behaviour. If every man is his
own pope, the papacy is no more; even heresy can be of positive value in
the quest after truth.52
The multivalence of the word soul casts light on the relationships
between those projections from the vocabulary of office, natural and
divine law. Broadly, one can say that divine law had provided a context
of posited relationships for the immortal soul, natural for the animate
soul. So, too, one may say that until the seventeenth century God was a
necessary postulate of natural law subordinated to divine. In one way or
another, the soul could be seen as suspended in the context of either.
Gradually, during the seventeenth century, there were attempts to desa-
cralise natural law. In this context Grotius and Hobbes have attracted
considerable attention. As Haakonssen synoptically expresses it, both
assumed a theistic world, but wanted an understanding of morality that
was independent of a concept of divinity and so less reliant upon priestly
mediation. God is an occasional and ghostly intruder into Hobbes’s
discussions of natural law, yet as he insisted in De cive, natural law is
subsumed by divine, and he concludes Leviathan leaving much the same

Charles I, Eikon Basilike, p. 114.
Hobbes, Elements, 2.6.3; 2.6.12.
Locke, Human Understanding, 1.2.8; Sharp, ‘On Heresy’, in Works, vol. VI, pp. 11–15.
Soul and conscience 135
impression.53 For Grotius the moral being became a person as a constel-
lation of apparently subjective rights in a natural order. But the natural
rights bearer could easily dissolve into a soul with divinely ordained
duties.54 Richard Johnson has pointed out that when Grotius cashes in
his purely abstract or provisional notion of subjective rights, he does so
entirely in terms of offices.55 Gradually, from the late seventeenth to the
eighteenth century, the loosening of the ties to divine law effectively
allowed natural law to function as an explanatory and metaphysical
context for understanding the human; a hierarchical relationship between
divine and natural law was gradually reconfigured into a parallel one.56
Yet throughout this time, the residual shadow of the divine remained
significant, and this was partly because human individuation continued
to be predicated in terms of the soul.57 A full secularisation of natural law
probably had to await the replacement of the soul by the individual or the
self, or for the reduction of the soul to its naturalistic dimension, allowing
natural law to be re-conceived as an abstracted context of universal drives
and needs that gradually decontaminated self-interest.58

It was, wrote Lord Ellesmere in Calvin’s Case (1608), always dangerous to
separate man from office, king from crown.59 In such contexts of argu-
ment the notion of someone, a ‘man’ distinct from an ‘office’, should not
be taken as a stable moral category but as an underspecified residuum,
which when given attention resolves into further patterns of office. This is
when man is not a synonym for a persona. When Thomas Fuller etched in
his elegiac image of the yeoman, he remarked that ‘as he is called Good-
man, he desires to answer to the name, and to be so indeed’. The man is the
yeoman and the yeoman is a description of the responsibilities, attitudes
and demeanour of ‘a gentleman in ore’.60 Moral identity, then, was
multiform just as it was being discovered, corporeal identity was a layering

Hobbes, Philosophicall Rudiments Concerning Government and Society (1651), ch. 4, p.
58; Leviathan, p. 491; Selden, Table Talk, finds it incomprehensible that natural law is
not subsumed by divine; paras. 70, 78, which would seem to suggest that relationship
could not be taken for granted, pp. 55, 60.
Haakonssen, Natural Law, pp. 31, 28.
Grotius, De jure, I.i.4–5; Johnson, ‘Early Modern Natural Law’, pp. 102–5.
See, for example, Tooke, The Whole Duty of Man.
This is especially so of Richard Cumberland’s riposte to Hobbes, De legibus naturae
Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation, pp. 328–31.
Cited in Russell, Causes of the English Civil War, pp. 157–8.
Thomas Fuller, ‘The Good Yeoman,’ in The Holy State and the Profane State (1642).
136 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
of complementary systems, skeletal and muscular, nervous and circula-
tory, themselves hardly immune from the vocabulary of office. Similarly,
the naked corporeal identity would have social presence through layers of
clothes. Indeed, as I have illustrated, corporeal and sartorial metaphors
were pervasive in dealing with the elusive complexity of social identity.
This helps reinforce a point made in chapter 3 that the higher the social
status the more complex the official identity was likely to be; and the more
privileged, the more vulnerable to critical examination. I want to reiterate
that there is no need to assume some inner moral, psychological agent to
adopt self-consciously the social roles it played, other than the soul
impressed with its own official identity.61 Both these matters may be
illustrated by reference to Shakespeare’s emblem of social being, Prince
Hal, then king Henry. When, at the outset of Henry V we are introduced to
‘one man imagined into a thousand parts’, we must, I think, take Lord
Ellesmere’s understanding of king and crown to the assertion. It is a
physical man imagined into his constituent social offices and the ethics
of each.62 Henry is in turn son, friend, brother, king, judge, soldier, soul
before God and lover. The notion of some autonomous moral agent
playing, then shifting between these roles either heroically or hypocritic-
ally is purely the creature of modern expectations of psychological unity.63
And these, I think, simply miss the point that the Henriad as a whole is an
exercise in the interplay and problematics of office-holding. Henry V is his
offices, not some prior flawed person taking them up. He is defined in the
drama in relationship to other emblematic figures: his father the troubled
usurping king, Hotspur the honour-driven aristocrat, Falstaff his riotous
inversion whose only merit lies in the joy of irresponsible friendship.64
All the scenes concerning Hal, then Henry, are explorations of official
decorum, and the apparent inconsistencies – what Stephen Greenblatt
refers to as the juggling – are the consequences of the differing require-
ments of office. There is, in short, no sign that the ‘me’ on whom ‘This new
and gorgeous garment Majesty sits’ is anything other than the layered
offices on the corporeal body.65 Indeed, in the same scene he affirms his

Cf. Goffman, The Presentation of the Self.
Philip Edwards, ‘Person and Office in Shakespeare’s Plays’, Proceedings of the British
Academy, 56 (1970), pp. 93–109.
Phyllis Racken, Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles (New York, 1990),
e.g. p. 235; Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social
Energy (Berkeley, 1988); cf. Edwards, ‘Person and Office’, pp. 94ff. The main target is
the tragic division between inner self and social role imagined by Terry Eagleton, in
Shakespeare and Society (1967).
John Dover Wilson, The Fortunes of Falstaff (Cambridge, 1970), at length.
Shakespeare, 2Henry IV 3.2; Edwards, ‘Person and Office’, pp. 103–7.
Soul and conscience 137
identity as more than a ruler, in terms of standard official personae: ‘Not
Amurath an Amurath succeeds, but Harry, Harry . . . I’ll be your father
and your brother too’. The peremptory rejection of Falstaff, ‘I know you
not, old man’, often eliciting such sympathy for the victim, was something
of which Hal had forewarned his friend, knowing full well that the boyish
identity of tavern carouser in Falstaff ’s court manque would be super-
seded by the behaviour fitting the ruling prince. The rejection when it
comes is an immediate response to Falstaff ’s consistent lack of decorum;
he is a fraud who aims to use friendship to exploit the new monarch.66 The
injunction that immediately follows the dismissal, ‘fall to your prayers’,
brutally reminds Falstaff that he is an old man, shortly to be a naked soul
before God. As King Henry, he then proves his worth by taking to his
counsel the man who had exercised his own office fearlessly by imprison-
ing the young wayward Hal. For the young king to have complied with
Falstaff’s imprecations would have been a form of corruption, of rule by
cronies and flatterers which had been precisely the failing of the king
Harry’s father replaced. And Richard II is also little more than an emblem
of office, explored through the confusions of affection and conduct unbe-
coming to his royal identity, all of which contradicted his high sense of the
ceremonies of office. But crucially, in Richard II, ceremony is not the
substance of office; and when Richard sits in his cell deprived of his ‘care’
and the respect that shored up his being, he is almost literally deprived of a
social identity. He tries vainly to people his world with images and they
dissolve before him.67 To lift Goffman’s expression, there is always,
explicit or implicit, some frame of office in which to analyse identity.68
The irony, presumably intended, is that Richard is nothing if not a king
but, like some gorgeous courtier, he was really only a ceremonial husk of
the office that requires a Henry to wear majesty to full effect. Henry V is a
triumphant resolution of the inadequate aspects of office personified in his
father and the man whose throne he took.69
These brief comments on Shakespeare have been made in part because
he has proved such a happy hunting ground for those in search of modern
individuality, and what Harold Bloom has flatulently dubbed the inven-
tion of the human.70 Shakespeare, however, no less than his contemporar-
ies, inhabited a world permeated by assumptions of office. This, of course,

Dover Wilson, The Fortunes of Falstaff, pp. 61–81, 120–1.
Shakespeare, Richard II 5.5.
Goffman, Frame Analysis, ch. 1.
Edward Hall, Chronicles (1809), pp. 46–7; cited in Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric, pp. 170–
1, 308.
Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (London, 1999).
138 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
is not to criticise modern requirements for performance, and it is probable
that a greater attention to historicity makes Shakespeare decidedly more
difficult to stage. Post-Stanislavski theatrical expectations of intimacy and
psychological realism would have been impossible given the physical
context and limitations of the early modern theatre, but have been crucial
in cutting it into a dramatic shape.71 Theatrical practices, however, are
part of a broader pattern of assumptions about human identity, and, to
list the slippery semi-synonyms, modern individuality, self-hood, subject-
ivity, moral autonomy have to be read into the early modern world in
order to assimilate it to our own: perfectly proper for the boards, not so
for books purporting to be about the past.

The mechanisms by which modernity is prematurely applauded indicate
that a rather high price of historical understanding is being paid, and
because so much study is presented with the garnish of historicity this
requires brief comment. If, despite all the references to primary sources,
we can triumphantly proclaim that Falstaff’s character is one of demystifi-
cation threatening freedom, something does need explaining.72 In the
previous chapter, I noted the modernising replacement of Man for phil-
osopher and I want now to turn to the replacement of persona with person,
or rather the autonomous, free individual, or Self. As Katherine Eisaman
Mous has indicated, selves are most readily discovered simply by secular-
ising the notion of the soul.73 Paradoxically, some early modern uses of
soul, or anima, for corporeal beings has encouraged much the same
translation into modern creative individuality as did Pico’s celebration
of the philosopher.74 The use of the soul as a shorthand for office-holders
and abusers alike also makes the conversion superficially plausible. The
king might be called a soul, those plotting against him guilty souls.75 What

Geoffrey Borny, ‘Direct Address and the Fourth Wall: The Then and Now of
Shakespearean Performance’, in Philippa Kelly, ed., The Touch of the Real: Essays in
Early Modern Culture (Perth, 2002), pp. 221–38.
Racken, Stages of History, pp. 235, 238; Brian Vickers provides a bracing polemic on
such forced readings in Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels
(New Haven, 1993).
Mous, Inwardness and Theater, pp. 27–8.
Lohr, ‘Metaphysics’, p. 573, specifically on Ficino, De vita, libri tres (1576), bk. 3, for
whom the human soul has the duty or office of mediating between the divine and
material. This remains much closer to the protean rhetor, poet or philosopher than the
individualistic genius Lohr sees it as anticipating, p. 574.
Ponet, Shorte Treatise, pp. 40–1, 50; Anon., A Poem to His Sacred Majesty on the Plot,
by a Gentleman (November 1678); Hunton, Treatise, p. 2.
Soul and conscience 139
does it matter if we think of them all as individuals? They can all be
counted individually. This sort of abridgement makes it easier to slip
modernity into the evidence, and half-noticed offices get reduced to roles
that selves assume. Because such roles compromise the projected moral
autonomy of the self, they become, to use Phyllis Racken’s tiresome term,
mystifications of the reality, that is of our own projected theoretical
vision.76 Stephen Greenblatt’s elegant and influential study Renaissance
Self-Fashioning established a clear agenda of enquiry in these terms under
the auspices of ‘new historicism’. Although strongly indebted to Foucault
for the belief that power curtails the proper development of individualism,
Greenblatt concluded his study with an almost Burckhardtian peroration
about the Renaissance self doing its own fashioning, making its auton-
omy, craving its own freedom.77 Studies in his idiom have been legion,
from Stanley Fish reading Herbert as an autonomous agent who retreated
from the implications of his own autonomy, or Deborah Shuger seeing in
Herbert a strict dichotomy between social office and the ‘autonomous,
ethical’ self, to Annabel Patterson who, by dint of describing people in
Rawlsian terms, is quite sanguine about finding modern liberal selves in
the sixteenth century – as one would.78
As I suggested at the outset of this chapter, such studies have hit on
something important, but, as attention to the range of the vocabulary of
office shows, have done so in historically inappropriate terms. Keeping in
mind what has already been said about the distinction between public and
private, the following might be added. The need for an inner psychological
and moral agent, a self to fashion, fail to fashion or otherwise don the
raiment of office, sounds like a Rylean category mistake. In analogy with
the concept of mind, Ryle gave the example of the visitor to Oxford who
asks to be shown the university, not realising that the university is the
organisation of colleges.79 So too with moral agency and office. We might
now need to postulate some inner self as a moving explanans for the
diversity of social identity, but there is little to suggest people in the early
modern world actually did so. Rather, what was taken to be a moral
person was the constitution of offices. This may seem to us now suggestive
of a moral schizophrenia, but to think of it in such terms is itself a case of

Racken, Stages of History. The term is sprinkled throughout.
Wesley Morris, Towards a New Historicism (Chicago, 1972); Greenblatt, Renaissance
Self-Fashioning, pp. 256–7.
Stanley Fish, Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley: 1972), pp. 156–8; Deborah Shuger,
Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics, and the Dominant
Culture (Berkeley, 1990), pp. 93, 95; Annabel Patterson, Reading Hollingshed’s
Chronicles (Chicago, 1994), pp. x–xii.
Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (London, 1949), p. 16.
140 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
petitio principe: it presupposes the very unity we now routinely expect;
even if it is a moral schizophrenia, that, historically, is what we need to
Moreover, from what I have outlined of the way in which people wrote
of the soul, they left little or no space for selves, or individuals to provide
sites for this unity, or to occupy zones of moral autonomy.81 What was
regarded as licit action within the bounds of an office was no more
autonomy in a modern sense than it was private, and to see moving
constellations of personae as subjective rights-holders and standard-
bearers for Grotius, and Grotius for a world after Kant, requires detach-
ing natural from divine law and again replacing soul with person.82 A
plausible emblem of nascent individuality like Girolamo Cardano in the
sixteenth century, writing extensively in a personal and autobiographical
fashion, remarks that when we look in a mirror, or read our own books,
we are confronting the exteriority of the soul. As even that emblem of
modern individualism Bernard de Mandeville put it in the early eighteenth
century, ‘when we speak of our own selves, and mean our own persons,
Socrates tells us in Plato nothing is understood but the soul’.83
Such notions of malleable identity variably relating official personae to
a soul became highly problematic when entangled with the soul as a
general principle of life, sometimes material and mortal. Matters were
complicated by the neo-Platonic tendency to posit the soul as somehow
located between the material and spiritual, investing animals and the
world at large with some sort of soul, in the resilient idiom of the Timaeus
and the Stoic psyche tou pantos.84 Conversely, discussions of the soul could
take place in a context of reductive materialism. Hobbes, the most famous
voice in this respect, came from a sufficiently substantial and Christian
tradition for it to be necessary throughout the seventeenth century to
reaffirm the soul as life principle and as spark of immortality.85 Thomas
Willis was probably typical of most natural scientists in sticking with a
form of dualism. He situated the organic soul in the brain and insisted on

Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, for a subtle if convoluted exploration of the dimensions of
malleable personal identity consistent with an identity in office.
Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, pp. 66–9, 327–9.
See Johnson, ‘Early Modern Natural Law’, ch. 3.
Girolamo Cardano, De libris propriis (1562), ed. Ian Maclean (Milan, 2004), p. 329,
Maclean, ‘Introduction’, pp. 34–5; Bernard de Mandeville, A Treatise of the
Hypochondriack and Hysterick Passions (1711, 1730), pp. 50–1.
Ficino, De vita libri tres; Pietro Pomonazzi, De immortalitate animae (1516), discussed in
Kessler, ‘The Intellective Soul’, pp. 500–4; Lohr, ‘Metaphysics’, pp. 570–4.
R. O., Man’s Mortalitie (1643), who regarded the immortal and immaterial soul as a
heathen and ‘ridiculous invention’, pp. 10–11.
Soul and conscience 141
its being responsive to external stimuli. To a soul still comprehensible in
terms of office to God, he added something very suggestive of the Lockean
personality.86 Locke studied under Willis and the potential ambiguities
created by the dual soul provide some context for Locke’s understanding
of a person and his use of the term ‘self ’, a significant point in a shift away
from identity in office towards identities taking office.
In tackling the issue of human non-corporeal identity, Locke took a
person to be the whole ensemble of perceptible characteristics, which he
explicitly referred to as a Self.87 This sounds like Willis’s material or
organic soul, but it was an answer to a number of entangled problems.
It was partly an attempt to deal with what has since been called Leibniz’s
law of identity: the assurance with which we can say x has a given identity
is a function of the covering terms, in Locke’s expression, ‘sortal concepts’
through which it is discussed.88 So we can be the same, or a different
person (or especially persona) depending on the aspects of existence con-
sidered. Less directly, his theory was also a response to one of the per-
ceived consequences of a thorough-going materialism. If the soul is an
inner core of identity, how can it be hypothesised and where can it be
found? Cartesian dualism, with the soul in the pineal gland linking mater-
ial and spiritual reality, was hardly satisfactory; the Hobbesian, Miltonic
and Muggletonian material soul was theologically disturbing.89 Willis’s
conventional embrace of a range of possibilities under the auspices of the
term soul remained in need of more adequate discrimination. Locke’s re-
specification of the person, or Self, plausibly but only partially bypassed
such issues by treating it not as a fixed inner identity, or an inner moral
agent, but as a whole ‘personality’ shaped through time and in space,
sustained and circumscribed by the stability and limits of consciousness.
This consciousness, however, remained inhabited by a soul and it is this

Thomas Willis, Two Discourses Concerning the Soul of Brutes, trans. S. Pordage (1683);
see Philip Hilton, ‘Bitter Honey: The Disillusioned Philosophy of Mandeville’s Treatise’
(Ph. D. thesis, University of New South Wales, 1999), pt. 2, ch. 1; see also Seth Ward, A
Philosophical Essay (1652), pp. 35–42, where the understanding of the soul as an
incorporeal substance covers the indiscriminate range of the terms from spiritual essence
to self-consciousness and physical perception shared with animals; also M. S., A
Philosophical Discourse on the Nature of Immaterial Souls (1695), defending Willis and
Bacon, attacking Ralph Cudworth. The understanding of the immaterial soul is
accepted as being dependent upon Scripture, and thus remains within the ambit of duties
to God.
Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 16, pp. 111–12; Locke, Essay, bk. 2, chs. 27–9.
Wiggins, Identity and Spatio-Temporal Continuity, pp. 1–5; Udo Thiel, ‘Individuation’,
in Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers, eds., The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-
Century Philosophy (Cambridge, 1998), pp. 212–52, esp. 245–9, for a valuable survey.
Haworth, Anthropologia, pp. 31–40; Glanvill, Philosophia pia on the Sadducism of
modern atheists, pp. 23–8, and numerous others on Hobbesian materialism.
142 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
soul, on most aspects of which Locke could afford some scepticism, that is
still an inner essence confronted by God at the resurrection.90
The whole argument was to set a troubling agenda of debate in moral-
ity, theology, natural science and psychology. It was satirised by the
Scriblerians and Laurence Sterne and taken to sceptical extremes by
Anthony Collins, David Hume and Dugald Stewart who would see the
soul as only an inference from consciousness.91 Roy Porter has argued
that in this way soul became a concept of psychology as well as a postulate
of theology, but the soul had always had this among its functions.92 If
anything, Locke’s partial accommodation of the soul to the personality, as
inhabiting it for the purposes of having something to be resurrected,
suggests that the soul’s usefulness was being constrained to theology. With
Locke we are a long way from a prototype of Kantian moral agency,
requiring a concept of the noumenal, but we do have the abstract language
of the Self as personality weakening a reliance on persona and so of office.
The difficulty, however, of reading the modern self back into Locke
underlines the implausibility of more distant projections into the deep
This brings me directly to the central question of how the word self was
used before Locke converted it to the abstract precondition for such
modern locutions as ‘Selfhood’. It existed as a term of emphasis, as in
‘one self-same commonweale’, ‘self same instrument’;94 occasionally it
could mean something close to same or specific: ‘Hell hath no limits, nor
is circumscribed/ In one self place, for where we are is hell’.95 Usually,
however, it is found as a pronoun and so anaphorically tied to a given
identity.96 When, in that most famous of lines, Polonius instructs Laertes
‘to thine own self be true’, we should not look forward to modern

Locke, Essay, bk. 2, ch. 27, esp. paras. 15–23, and 15 for the soul inhabiting
consciousness; Thiel, ‘Personal Identity’, in The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-
Century Philosophy, pp. 888–93.
Christopher Fox, Locke and the Scriblerians (Los Angeles, 1988); Anthony Collins, An
Answer to Mr Clarke’s Third Defence (1708); Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, pp.
246–53; Thiel, ‘Personal Identity’, pp. 897–904; Porter, Enlightenment Britain, pp. 256–7.
Porter Enlightenment Britain, p. 170.
Baldwin, ‘Individual and Self ’, is a partial corrective, p. 364, but nevertheless identifies
proto-modern concepts of the self by restricting office to a ‘public sphere’, and by taking
evidence explicitly about souls to mean selves, and some of that evidence is about the
persona of the true philosopher.
Beacon, Solon his Follie, p. 64; Browne, Religio Medici, p. 41.
Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, lines 568–9.
A rare partial exception is to be found in Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and the Turtle
(1601), stanza 10: ‘Property was thus appalled/ That the self was not the same’. Although
this is anaphoric, the definite article gives an intimation of the later abstraction; see also
Richard III 4.4.
Soul and conscience 143
‘selfhood’ but back to what he has just specified as the ambit of action
proper for an aspiring young courtier. In fact, it is usually a denial
of what we might see as ‘autonomy’ that is found in a positive register.
‘Self-denial’, ‘self-control’ (the soul’s), ‘self-humiliation’ to God, ‘self-
command’ and ‘self-government’ as designating of inner discipline are all
expressions of subordination to something else. Self-government was an
internalisation of the expectations of office in the hallowed idiom of
Plato’s metaphors of the psyche, the inner or microcosmic regimen of
the polis. To speak of government of the soul was, whatever its precise
rules, to evoke a relationship in office.97 For Kant, self-government would
cohere with his Lutheran understanding of office as obedience to a
moral law. Reflexive uses such as ‘self-conscious’ and ‘self-knowing’,
‘self-distrust’,98 ‘self conversation’,99 are apt to be strongly associated with
knowing limits and duties, echoes perhaps of the scholastic notion that
in reflexivity lay a vital part of human identity.100 Marlowe’s apparently
odd usage about hell not being in ‘one self place’ is related exactly to a
Conversely, negative compounds connote indifference to the responsi-
bilities of office, as with the widely used ‘self love’, ‘self-conceite’,101
‘self-credulity’, ‘self idolatry’,102 ‘self-ended’,103 ‘self-made authority,’104
‘self-centred’, ‘self-glorious’, ‘self-tempted’, ‘self-deprav’d’.105 Self-will is
nothing but a will that ‘usurps the place and office of reason’.106 Similar
patterns of association are found in the generally less accommodating
pronouns of French and Italian. The importance of reference to self-willed
behaviour explaining office-abuse is long-standing, as the seminal texts of
Machiavelli and Guicciardini attest, but it is probably not until the eight-
eenth century that, on the initially disturbing basis of Hobbesian and
Mandevillian psychology, we find the calm acceptance, or celebration of
Similarly in aesthetics, a vogue for singularity, individuality, originality
and enthusiasm is not firmly established before the late eighteenth century.

See, for example, Baldwin, Treatise (unpaginated but p. 77v).
Daniel, Defence of Rhyme, p. 62.
Browne, Christian Morals, p. 230.
Annabel Brett, Liberty, Right and Nature: Individual Rights in Later Scholastic Thought
(Cambridge, 1997), p. 16.
Tuvill, The Doue, proem; John Wing, The Crown Conjugal (1620), p. 57.
Browne, Christian Morals, p. 264.
Winstanley, Law of Freedom, p. 85.
T. B., Logoi apologetikoi (1649), sub-title.
John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), in The Poems of John Milton, ed. Helen Darbishire
(London, 1960 edn), bk. 3, line 130, p. 56.
Cavendish, ‘Of Self Will, Horae subsecivae’, p. 27.
144 Argument and Authority in Early Modern England
Some form of originality was given a legitimate place in the world
depending on the nature of the intellectual office under consideration.
The impropriety of argument from authority in philosophy and natural
science made it difficult to condemn intellectual novelty out of hand.
Browne distinguished novelty in science from novelty in theology; and at
the end of the century, a hagiographic biography of Descartes lists his
questing after the new as among his greatest virtues.107 In religion and
morality, however, newness retained its opprobrium. But gradually ori-
ginality as a virtue of a specific office becomes a more general expectation
for the poet, a sign of a modal ethics changing. The craftsman in office
became the authentic individual creator whose sensitivity, according to
Porter, eventually ‘validated the inner self’.108 Before then, selves ap-
proaching autonomy are likely not to be expressions of self-fashioning at
all, but moral accusations levelled by others. Autonomy is probably about
the worst term we can find to describe this most particular projection of
The most autonomous and protean identities in Shakespeare’s or
Jonson’s plays (they are in this respect typical) are the quintessentially
villainous. Free of all sense of being bound to an office, they fulfil the stage
office of villain. When that self-obsessed chameleon Richard III remarked
that ‘I am myself alone’, he had just abandoned the office of brother that
Henry V affirmed on becoming king. He was free of all constraints on his
tyrannous quest for rule, just as a thorough-going tyrant should be. The
pointed repetitions of the word ‘self ’ in the latter stages of Richard III
emphasise the tyrant’s moral isolation in another way: he has wronged so
much he can only swear on himself; there is nothing but evil to which the
pronoun can relate.109 Similarly Iago is a moving tableau of evil. Othello
involves taking the different dimensions of the office of the soldier and
imagining them into separate parts.110 Each is subject to fortune, the great


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