The concept of probable opinion in rhetoric and the law from Montaigne to Pascal

Auteur: Almquist, Katherine
Titre: The concept of probable opinion in rhetoric and the law from Montaigne to Pascal
Lieu èdition: New York
Éditeur: Columbia University, Department of French and Romance Philology
Annèe edition: 2000
Pages: III, 551
Mots-clès: Héritage - Fortuna - Legacy, Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy
Description: [Author’s Abstract] Thesis (Ph. D.) In this dissertation I ask how the concept of probable opinion shifts from probity to plausibility in sixteenth and early seventeenth-century French civil and canonic jurisprudence. Through rhetorical analysis of the discourse on opinions in commentaries on French customary law, in Montaigne’s Apologie de Raimond Sebond and in Pascal’s Lettres Provinciales , I trace the rise of Skeptical relativism in legal opinion. I show how authoritative opinion shifts to personal opinion over three generations of legal thought. I argue that the shift in the notion of probable opinion occurs as a result of the acceptance of Skeptical epistemology by sixteenth and seventeenth-century jurists, both civil and canonic. Montaigne and Pascal respond to relativism in legal opinions by advocating a moderate skepticism, that of the Academy. I explain the potential for jurists to slip into radical skepticism from a combination of historical causes and ambiguity present in one of the main sources for French legal thought, Cicero. Cicero slips between Stoic and Skeptical epistemology in a way that is misread by utilitarian jurists who are reforming French civil law. My study culminates in the critique of the Jesuit use of probable opinions in Pascal’s Lettres provinciales . Pascal recognizes the extreme skepticism of Jesuit casuists. Unwilling to combat their doctrine of probable opinion by a return to dogmatism, he finds a middle ground. He concedes to the verisimilar notion of opinion which is held by his opponent and his audience alike. By restricting himself to arguments common to civil and canonic jurists, Pascal casts sufficient doubt on the epistemological foundation of Jesuit probable opinions without destroying the concept itself.
Sigle auteur: Almquist 2000