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Where Philosophy meets Bureaucracy. Cesare Beccaria’s Social Contract from Page to Practice

Dates:
  • Thu 14 Dec 2017 17.00 - 19.00
  Add to Calendar 2017-12-14 17:00 2017-12-14 19:00 Europe/Paris Where Philosophy meets Bureaucracy. Cesare Beccaria’s Social Contract from Page to Practice

Cesare Beccaria, renowned author of the 1764 Enlightenment treatise Dei delitti e delle pene, has long been celebrated as the voice of the abolitionist movement against the death penalty, the founding father of modern criminology, and the go-to source on penal reform. These personalities have been fuelled by the instant global success of Beccaria’s text, however this celebrity trajectory has clouded many of his less sensational identities in its wake: Beccaria, reluctant man of letters, enlightened Habsburg bureaucrat and practical philosopher. This thesis recovers these entangled personas and, in so doing, provides an intellectual history of Cesare Beccaria that emphasises his substantial contribution as a philosopher, not just on the page, but in practice. Beccaria envisioned an ambitious social project. Proposing a vision of society in which the social contract served to protect the greatest happiness divided between the greater number and which was based upon a hedonistic calculation of human nature, Beccaria concluded that individuals had the equal right to pursue pleasure and that government was obliged to provide this opportunity. Interpreting this in economic terms, Beccaria presented a case for the removal of all institutionalised obstacles to the pursuit of wealth: while not everyone could achieve riches, all had the equal chance at improving their lot. His philosophy was the product of both a rich reading culture and intellectual network, which were simultaneously patriotic and cosmopolitan. On the one hand, local, specialised and concerned with matters of public utility, on the other, internationally, intellectually and socially diverse. However, the social contract was no utopian vision, but rather a blueprint for the political classes. In the field of public health in particular, Beccaria demonstrated his commitment to providing equal access to the pursuit of pleasure, abiding by the tenets of his contract at all costs. It is this practically inclined philosophy that the thesis argues is Beccaria’s most important contribution to the Enlightenment.

Seminar Room 4 - Badia Fiesolana DD/MM/YYYY
  Seminar Room 4 - Badia Fiesolana

Cesare Beccaria, renowned author of the 1764 Enlightenment treatise Dei delitti e delle pene, has long been celebrated as the voice of the abolitionist movement against the death penalty, the founding father of modern criminology, and the go-to source on penal reform. These personalities have been fuelled by the instant global success of Beccaria’s text, however this celebrity trajectory has clouded many of his less sensational identities in its wake: Beccaria, reluctant man of letters, enlightened Habsburg bureaucrat and practical philosopher. This thesis recovers these entangled personas and, in so doing, provides an intellectual history of Cesare Beccaria that emphasises his substantial contribution as a philosopher, not just on the page, but in practice. Beccaria envisioned an ambitious social project. Proposing a vision of society in which the social contract served to protect the greatest happiness divided between the greater number and which was based upon a hedonistic calculation of human nature, Beccaria concluded that individuals had the equal right to pursue pleasure and that government was obliged to provide this opportunity. Interpreting this in economic terms, Beccaria presented a case for the removal of all institutionalised obstacles to the pursuit of wealth: while not everyone could achieve riches, all had the equal chance at improving their lot. His philosophy was the product of both a rich reading culture and intellectual network, which were simultaneously patriotic and cosmopolitan. On the one hand, local, specialised and concerned with matters of public utility, on the other, internationally, intellectually and socially diverse. However, the social contract was no utopian vision, but rather a blueprint for the political classes. In the field of public health in particular, Beccaria demonstrated his commitment to providing equal access to the pursuit of pleasure, abiding by the tenets of his contract at all costs. It is this practically inclined philosophy that the thesis argues is Beccaria’s most important contribution to the Enlightenment.


Location:
Seminar Room 4 - Badia Fiesolana

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Francesca Parenti - Send a mail

Examiner:
Pavel Kolar (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Prof. Clorinda Donato (University of california, Long Beach)
Richard Whatmore (University of Saint Andrews)

Defendant:
Alexandra Kattrin Ortolja-Baird (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)

Supervisor:
Prof. Ann Thomson (EUI - HEC)

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