Civility and government
Virtuous discipline in the mutable world
in Spenser’s ethics
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While Spenser is firmly rooted in the virtue ethics premise that the telos of moral life is action oriented towards the production of flourishing, Chapter 5 offers an account of the often radically un-Aristotelian shape this vision of flourishing assumes in Spenser’s ethics. This chapter considers the disciplinary agendas of Spenser’s ethical imagination as a projection of the Garden of Adonis’s metaphysical concerns into the realm of political agency. Through readings of Neostoic thought in the ‘Mutability Cantos’, of Guyon’s destruction of the Bower of Bliss, and of the image of the colonial market town near the close of Spenser’s prose dialogue, A View of the Present State of Ireland, it examines the relationship of this central marker of Spenserian political virtue to broader questions of moral subjectivity, of virtuous action, and of the possibility of a flourishing life in the mutable world. Spenser’s program of ‘vertuous and gentle discipline’ describes how structures of normative behavior and personal comportment are ultimately concerned with marshalling the mutable body, its needs, and its desires towards generating a social order within a disordered, and potentially disordering, world.

Spenser’s ethics

Empire, mutability, and moral philosophy in early modernity

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