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"Nevertheless: Machiavelli, Pascal" — An online discussion with Carlo Ginzburg

April 3, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
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Online event

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Machiavelli’s repeated use of the adverb nondimanco (“nevertheless”) indicated he thought that there was an exception to every rule. This may seem to confirm the traditional image of Machiavelli as a cynical, “Machiavellian” thinker. But Carlo Ginzburg’s close analysis of Machiavelli the reader throws a different light on Machiavelli the writer. The same hermeneutic strategy inspires Ginzburg’s essays on the Provinciales, Pascal’s ferocious attack against Jesuitical casuistry, or case-based ethical reasoning. Casuistry versus anti-casuistry; Machiavelli’s secular attitude towards religion versus Pascal’s deep religiosity. These seem to be two completely different worlds. But Pascal read Machiavelli and reflected deeply upon his work. Ginzburg’s book unveils the complex relationship between Machiavelli and Pascal—their divergences as well as their unexpected convergences.

Carlo Ginzburg is an Italian historian and pioneer of micro-history. He is best known for The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller, which examined the beliefs of an Italian heretic, Menocchio, from Montereale Valcellina. His many other books include The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries and Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath.

Pierre Force is Professor of French and History and Emmanuelle Saada is Professor of French and History at Columbia University. Raphaëlle Burns is Assistant Professor at UCLA where she teaches and writes about the literatures and cultures of medieval and early modern Europe, with secondary specializations in the history of journalism, medicine, and law.

This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, and the Department of History.