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Les idealites casuistiques: Aux origines de la psychanalyse.

Cariou analyzes a collection of "cases of conscience" as they were solved by a moral theologian of the 17th century, Jacques de Saintebeuve (1613-1677), professor at the Sorbonne. The collection was published posthumously by the theologian's brother. After presenting Saintebeuve and his work, C. analyses a number of cases relating to marriage, ecclesiastical authority, the use and value of money, especially for religious and clergy, and the nature of work and the obligation of Sunday rest. A conclusion tries to assess the importance of the cases of conscience for an assessment of the classical intellectuality of the 17th century. C. discusses the social dimension of Saintebeuve's solutions of the problems he dealt with, but he does not evaluate them theologically.

In fact, Saintebeuve turns out to be a legalist of the extreme kind, with no interest in subjective motivations. He assesses every case only in terms of law. The only standard of behavior is provided by rules of the Church. These rules are found in the Old and the New Testament, in a selected number of Church Fathers, notably Augustine and Jerome, in conciliar decisions and papal decrees. Once a rule has been determined, it is absolute and admits of exception or suspension only in cases of extreme necessity, as when a poor farmer would starve if he did not hunt illegally in the king's forests.

The subtitle of the book is entirely misleading. C. nowhere refers to psychoanalysis and its origins. Saintebeuve in fact leaves no initiative to the conscience, and he would certainly deny any value to unconscious motivations if he suspected their existence. Saintebeuve's ethics help explain the rejection of the Church by the French philosophers of the Enlightenment. One could possibly argue that the strict heteronomy of his principles made psychoanalysis unavoidable.
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Author:Tavard, George H.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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