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TocquevilleThe Aristocratic Sources of Liberty$
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Lucien Jaume

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152042

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152042.001.0001

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Tocqueville’s Relation to Jansenism

Tocqueville’s Relation to Jansenism

(p.159) 9 Tocqueville’s Relation to Jansenism

Lucien Jaume

, Arthur Goldhammer
Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the supposed Jansenist leanings of Tocqueville. For generations, scholars have been arguing that Tocqueville had deep sympathy for Pascal and perhaps for Jansenism. However, it remains to be seen what effects meditation on Pascal had on Tocqueville's writing. Furthermore, we cannot speak of “Jansenism” without examining what the public image of Jansenism (one of the most controversial schools of thought in French intellectual history) was in the 1830s and 1840s. And finally, we will need to say something about Tocqueville's stance with respect to that image. The chapter argues that Tocqueville was neither devout nor militant. He had no intention of publicly advocating a religious dogma, although he was in favor of publicly censuring materialism. For those who would like to enlist Tocqueville in the cause of religious revival, a letter to Kergorlay will set things straight. In it he explains that, from the standpoint of civic virtue, a book like L'Imitation de Jésus-Christ is useless and even dangerous.

Keywords:   Alexis de Tocqueville, Jansenism, Jansenist, Blaise Pascal, French intellectual history

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