The essays in this volume constitute a series of investigations into the limitations on thought and power as conceived by thinkers in the medieval West and they draw on material ranging from law to literature. The author deals with limits on the human desire for knowledge, the passion with which knowledge could legitimately be pursued, and the propriety of the knowledge sought, as well as the limits that might be tolerable and tolerated in the case of royal incapacity or misbehaviour. One particular focus is the work of Dante Alighieri, and these ideas are traced across a wide range of his thought. Chronologically the essays run from Augustine and the Gnostics through to Shakespeare.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; The Vices and Virtues of Curiosity: What was God doing before He created the Heavens and the Earth?; Aenigma Salomonis: Manichaean anti-Genesis polemic and the vitium curiositatis in Confessions III.6; Transgressing the limits set by the Fathers: authority and impious exegesis in medieval thought; Libertas inquirendi and the vitium curiositatis in medieval thought; Rex curiosus: a preface to Prospero; Useless Kings and Irregular Statebuilding: Roi fainéant: the origins of an historian's commonplace; Rex inutilis: Sancho II of Portugal and 13th-century deposition theory; Non legitur in historia Francorum: Stephen of Tournai, the last Merovingians, and the Capetian dynasty; Henry II of Cyprus, rex inutilis: a footnote to Decameron I.9; Limits of Thought and Power in the World of Dante: The failure of the Church and Empire: Paradiso, 30; I principi negligenti di Dante e la concezione medioevale del rex inutilis; Pars, parte: Dante and an urban contribution to political thought; The frowning pages: Scythians, Garamantes, Florentines, and the two laws; Human diversity and civil society in Paradiso, VIII; The shadowy, violent perimeter: Dante enters Florentine political life; The voyage of Ulysses and the wisdom of Solomon: Dante and the vitium curiositatis; Index.