1. I quote from the publicity blurb for an academic lecture delivered by a visitor to my University not long ago:
The field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), integrating philosophical and rhetorical analyses of the foundations of knowledge with the social and cultural history of science, has given us critical insights into the origins and nature of scientific knowledge, However, the ‘specialized’ status of gendered science studies, and strong disciplinary legacies of anti-normativity in STS constrain its ability to articulate a sophisticated critique of the imbrications of race, gender, knowledge, and power. At the same time, Postcolonial studies has largely exempted the sciences from its critical interrogations, thus missing some of the important ways in which the construction of scientific knowledge is central to the gendered nature of colonialism and imperialism. Learning from the insights of postcolonialist, poststructuralist, and marxist feminism, I move towards a materialist feminist reading of technoscientific conflict in the global South. Drawing on my earlier work in colonial constructions of “nature,” and scientific forms of disciplinary knowledge (including academic anthropology and state-run scientific forestry), I now attempt to reformulate a technoscientific problematic specific to the contexts of twentieth-century globalization. Using the case of environmentalism and intellectual property rights, I argue for a widening of our problematic from the sciences per se to the messier entanglements of law, economics, global trade, and gendered technoscientific practices.
In the end, I disregarded the promptings of my funny-bone and, at the cost of not finding out what an imbrication is, did not accept the invitation to attend the lecture. But I am sufficiently cynical to wager a fair amount that, had I done so, two things would have been evident: 1.) the author’s ideas were reasonably simple and capable of expression in far more straightforward language than she elected to use; 2.) rendering her ideas accessible to a wide academic audience was not an important item on her agenda: she was impelled by other motivations, such as lodging a claim to what she fancied to be intellectual sophistication and proclaiming her membership in a particular academic clique (for in the modern academy the use of such lingo performs much the same function as do tribal scars in certain other human societies). For a considerable variety of reasons (only some of which, perhaps, are discreditable), discourse of this kind is very popular among contemporary intellectuals. Nowadays, lamentably, sic itur ad astra, and one can only hope that practitioners of the art are kept at a far distance from undergraduate writing courses.
2. In the late sixteenth century, John Case of Oxford won the respect and admiration of his contemporaries both in England and Europe by doing precisely the opposite, by making genuinely difficult ideas as easily understandable as possible. In the tradition of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Case was a great explainer who employed his formidable interpretative and rhetorical skills to make classical Greek philosophy comprehensible and meaningful to his own times. NOTE 1 As an Aristotelian, he faced an especial struggle. Aristotle smacked of discredited Scholasticism. To see how much university men of the English Renaissance were capable of loathing Aristotelianism and its latter-day sectaries, the reader is invited to consider Edward Forsett’s 1581 Cambridge comedy Pedantius. Although that comedy is usually considered a lampoon of Gabriel Harvey, the play’s Harvey-figure, Pedantius, is actually treated with a reasonable degree of good-natured teasing for his silly pretensions and foibles, and by comparison the treatment of another character, Dromodotus, who is Aristotelian and entirely repulsive, is savage.
3. In consequence, many academics had thrown their caps over the moon for that archetypal anti-Aristotelian, Petrus Ramus [Pierre de la Ramée, 1515 - 1572], NOTE 2 and in the introductory material to the present work Case reveals full awareness of the need to struggle against Ramism and recall University men to Aristotle. But his method of fighting this battle is a curious one. In the present work, a detailed commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, some of his favorite procedures and tactics of argumentation look more than a little like those introduced by Ramus. Each of his chapters matches a chapter in the Ethics and adheres to a standard format: first there is a discursive explanation of the main points of the chapter and the salient philosophical questions (the suppositio, which details the individual quaestiones). Then each philosophical question is recapitulated in tabular form (the distinctio quaestionis). This device of using tables is said to have been invented by Ramus. NOTE 3 Moving on, one or more objections (oppositiones) are raised to Case’s proposed solution of each quaestio, and Case rebuts every oppositio with a responsio. His favorite strategy for refuting oppositiones is to introduce a distinction. A typical example is found at III.vi.4:
OPPOSITIO Omnis virtus medium esse debet inter duo vitia: sed fortitudo non est: ergo fortitudo recte ut virtus non definitur. Minor probatur, quia audacia et timor, quae sunt eiusdem extrema, sunt affectus animi, non vitia.
RESPONSIO Timor et audacia considerantur bifariam: vel naturaliter ut constitutionem corporis sequuntur, et sic sunt affectus, vel moraliter ut consuetudine agendi acquiruntur, et sic habitus vitiosi dicuntur.
[“OBJECTION Every virtue ought to be a mean between two vices. Fortitude is not. Therefore fortitude is wrongly defined as a virtue. The minor premise is proven, since boldness and fear, which are its extremes, are passions of the mind, not vices.
RESPONSE Fear and boldness are considered in two ways, either naturally as they follow the constitution of the body, and as such they are passions, or morally, as they are acquired by customary activity, and as such they are said to be vicious habits.”]
4. In reading the Speculum, Case’s favorite rebutting strategy quickly becomes evident: he who propounds the oppositio makes a claim that something is true because of X. His refutation works by arguing that in some way X has a double aspect or nature, and that if you look at it in the way the oppositio invites you to, the objection may appear to be valid, but if you consider the other way in which X may be regarded (which is in fact better and more appropriate), it is not. In this argumentative strategy there is a strong propensity for bipolarity; this is so to the extent that even when more than two alternative possibilities are listed they are introduced by the word vel (in translating such passages I have reproduced the solecism in my use of “either”). This pronounced tendency to argue by introducing bipolar distinctions distinctly recalls the division-making so characteristic of Ramistic dialectics. Either this was a device adopted to render Aristotle attractive to contemporary readers by presenting him in Ramistic terms, or Case was more influenced by Ramus than he cared to admit. NOTE 4
5. But why exert oneself trying to recall errant University men from Ramus to Aristotle? The answer is that Case was really a moral and religious writer as much as he was a philosopher stricto sensu. When he speaks of “the old writers” (veteres) he does not mean ancient Greek commentators but rather Medieval ones, above all Aquinas, who had already given the Ethics a strong overlay of Christianity. Aristotle’s ethical thinking, after all, contains much that is congenial to Christianity, such as the heavy emphasis on virtue, the idea that the goal of human life is happiness and that supreme happiness is to be found in contemplation of the summum bonum. The identification of Aristotle’s summum bonum and First Cause with the Judaeo-Christian God had been accomplished long ago, and surely the Christian idea of sin had been imported into Aristotle long before Case’s time (the noun peccatum and the verb peccare, taken together, occur 82 times in the Speculum). Aristotle, therefore, was worth retaining not just because he is the superior philosopher but because in his works impart the best available theological and ethical wisdom. Secular philosophy and theology (sacra philosophia) support each other in providing guidance for leading a Christian life within a Christian society. NOTE 5 And so if you forsake Aristotle for Ramus you risk damaging both individual morality and social order.
6. This is probably a fair assessment of Case’s motivation, but it is painted with too broad a brush to supply any especial illumination as to his specific intentions. It is notorious that the Ethics are very plastic, and that generations of commentators have found in them elements congenial to their own outlooks and those of their times. NOTE 6 In the case of the Speculum, taken together with its immediate sequel, Case’s commentary on the Politics, the Sphaera Civitatis, the interpretational bias is specifically Anglican. In this context, it needs to be realized that, for all their differences, the ultimate goal of the Anglicans and Puritans alike was exactly the same: the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. NOTE 7 The Anglican formula for achieving this, however, was radically different, being based on the existence of a highly articulated and stoutly maintained hierarchical social order: the sovereign was God’s vicar on earth, and below the sovereign came the sovereign’s lieutenants in their various ranks (whom Case lumped together under the general heading “magistrates”), and the father within the family. Nowhere during Elizabeth’s reign, perhaps, was this vision spelled out clearly than in a volume of Certayne sermons issued by the government in 1560 (it was actually a reprint of one issued under Edward VI, and Bishop John Jewel was its evident author), with instructions that these were “to be declared and read by all parsones, vicars and curates, every Sonday and holy daye in theyr Churches, and by her Graces advyse perused and oversene, for the better understandying of the simple people,” printed cum privilegio and having the virtual status of a state document. The homily in question is entitled “An exhortation concerning good order and obedience, to rulers and magistrates.” It is too long for full quotation here, but the beginning serves to give the flavor:
Almightye God hath created and appoynted all thinges, in heaven, earth and waters, in a mooste excellente and perfecte order. In heaven, he hath appoynted distincte or severall orders and states of Archaungelies and Aungelles. In earth he hath assigned and appoynted kynges, prynces, with other governoures under them, all in good and necessarye order. The water above is kepte and raygneth downe in due time and season. The sunne, moone, sterres, raynebowe, thundre, lightnyinge, cloudes, and all byrdes of the ayre, do kepe theyr order. The earth, trees, sedes, plantes, herbes, corne, grasse, and all maner of beastes, kepe themselves in theyr order. All the partes of the whole yeare, as winter sommer, monethes, nyghtes and dayes, contynue in theyr ordre. All kyndes of fyshes in the sea, ryvers, and waters, with all fountaynes, sprynges, yea, the seas themselves, keepe thyr comelye course and order. And manne hym selfe also hath all his partes, both within and wythoute, as soule, hearte, mynde, memorye, understandyinge, reason, speache, with all and synguler corporall members of his bodye, in a profitable, necessarye, and pleasaunte order. Everye degre of people in theyr vocation, callying, and office hath appointed to them theyr duety and ordre. Some are in highe degree, some in lowe, some kynges and prynces, some inferiors and subiectes, priestes, and laye menne, maysters and servauntes, fathers and chyldren, husbandes and wives, riche and poore, and every one have nede of other: so that in all thynges is to be lauded and praysed the goodly order of God, wythoute the whiche, no house, no citie, no common wealth can continue and indure or laste. For where there is no ryght ordre, there reigneth all abuse, carnal libertie, enormitie, synne and Babilonical confsyion. Take away kinges, princes, rulers, magistrates, iudges, and such estates of Gods order, no man shall ryde or go by the hygh way unrobbed, no man shall slepe in his owne house or bed unkylled, no man shal kepe his wyfe, children and possessions in quietnes: all thinges shalbe common, and there must nedes folowe all myschief and utter destruction both of soules, bodies, goodes and common wealthes.
7. Of course, the cynical can and no doubt should have a field day pointing out that this vision, at once theological and social, is a remarkably self-serving ideology supporting the rule of Elizabeth’s government and England’s élite at every level from the sovereign down to the local squire, as well as the patriarchal head of household. But cynicism, no matter how justifiable, cannot blind us to the fact that many of Elizabeth’s subjects granted this Anglican vision not just their intellectual assent but also their passionate belief. One does not have to read very much by John Case to appreciate that he was one such individual. Since the Politics deals with larger social issues, this is more obvious in his 1588 commentary on that work, Sphaera Civitatis, than in Speculum Moralium Quaestionum, but even in the present work his monarchism and strong prejudice in favor of hierarchical social structures is manifest. This is visible, for example, in his discussion of the honor due to one’s God, sovereign and father (I.xii, where what he writes has precious little basis in Aristotle) and of the possibility of “friendship” of father and son, husband and wife, and sovereign and subject (as well, of course, as the duties owed a friend who is a social equal), all of which involve the individual’s “duty and office” in a hierarchical social relationships (VIII.vii, where Aristotle is not so concerned with “duties and offices” and more interested in the inability of the parties to such “friendships” to confer equal benefits on each other). Such hierarchical relationships go far towards shaping an individual’s proper ethical behavior and, taken together, they go to make up the smoothly-running “republic” or “commonwealth,” ordained by both God and nature. In Case’s vocabulary few words bear worse connotations than seditio, which means any movement calculated to undermine social hierarchies, which is therefore disruptive of established order. Then too, his monarchism shines out in passages such as his discussion of the inviolability of even the worst of kings at V.iii.7. His reading of Aristotle, therefore, is not just Christian, but is also a specifically Anglican one.
8. This discovery that Case is an Anglican intellectual, employing commentaries on Aristotle as a vehicle to articulate on a more sophisticated level the identical social and religious doctrine expounded for the benefit of “the simple people” in the 1560 homily (and mobilizing the massive authority of Aristotle in support of the Anglican social vision), helps us understand why Speculum Moralium Quaestionum was selected as the first book to be published by the new press at Oxford. NOTE 8 Since Henry VIII’s break with Rome, presses had been forbidden at the Universities, because the government wanted a centralized and therefore easier-controlled publishing industry at London, and also because the Universities were regarded with some suspicion as being excessively hospitable to religious deviationism. NOTE 9 In 1584 Comitia petitioned the Earl of Leicester, the Chancellor of the University, for permission to operate a press at Oxford. Permission being granted, the University loaned Joseph Barnes £100 to set up a press, and authorized him to call himself Printer to the University and to employ the University seal. Speculum Moralium Quaestionum was the first book-length work to issue from Barnes’ press. The gratulatory epigrams that preface the volume make it abundantly clear that this was regarded as a great occasion: epigrams are contributed by the Vice Chancellor of the University, eight heads of Colleges, two Professors, and two former Proctors, as well as canons, prebends, and other Church dignitaries (some men are counted twice here, since they held multiple titles). Surely the selection of the first book and its author was a matter of no little sensitivity: the pronounced Anglican bias of the book and its author, as well of course as its general morally edifying nature, learning and general high quality, made it a most suitable choice.
9. All that has been written above will inevitably encounter the objection that Case is supposed to have been a crypto-Catholic. This tradition appears to have originated in Antony à Wood’s seventeenth century biography (Athenae Oxonienses II.685f.), who wrote:
…being Popishly affected, he left his fellowship [at St. John ’s College] and married, and with leave from the chancellor and scholars of the university, he read logic and philosophy to young men (mostly of the R. C. religion) in a private house…
In this respect, as in others, the remarkably poor article on Case in the original Dictionary of National Biography merely repeats what Wood wrote. Case has not, to be sure, been the subject of any great amount of biographical research (the biographical chapter in Schmitt’s book on him, Chapter II, represents the best available study). But let us consider the improbabilities involved in the theory that he was a crypto-Catholic. First, after his resignation from St. John’s College ca. 1577 (and surely Case’s marriage provides sufficient reason for this decision), NOTE 10 the University authorities not only allowed him to continue as a tutor but allowed undergraduates, the so-called Case Scholars, to board in his house in lieu of membership in a college, thus satisfying a prerequisite for matriculation. This dispensation appears to have been a unique one, and would scarcely have been granted to anybody likely to exert a “corruptive” influence on students. Had he been Catholic, far more likely they would have run him out of town. Second, as we have just seen, Speculum Moralium Quaestionum was the first book to issue from the newly-permitted press at Oxford, and it is equally unlikely that this maiden publication would be the work of a writer with anything less than the most impeccable loyalist credentials. Third, in 1588 he received the M. B. and was licensed as an M. D. in 1589 (his medical career, such as it may have been, remains one of the unexplored areas of his biography — he served as William Camden’s personal physician). Subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England was part of the degree-gaining process as a deliberate device to prevent Catholics from taking academic degrees (indeed, subscription was also a part of the ceremonies of matriculation, a means of keeping Catholics out of the Universities altogether — the ultimate idea was to cut down on the number and influence of Catholics within the professions). Finally, in 1589 Case was appointed prebendary canon of the church of North Alton in the diocese of Salisbury. Although he was not ordained and, as Schmitt noted (p. 90) “such benefices often went to laymen more as a sinecure than as an imposition of any particular responsibility,” it seems intrinsically unlikely that a Church living would been offered to, or accepted by, a Catholic. Finally, the last quaestio dealt with in the book address the issue of control of education by "the laws," i. e. of governmental control of education, of which Case wholeheartedly approves. Elizabeth's government was very much in the business of supervising education at all levels, and largely did so in the interest of enforcing religious orthodoxy. Is it likely that a Catholic would have been in a hurry to endorse such a practice? Add all these considerations together and you will see the great improbability of Case having Catholic leanings. This is especially true because war with Spain had just broken out, so that it was doubly necessary for the author, the press, and the univerisity as a whole to parade their patriotism.
10. Certainly the present work only contains a couple of remarks that might be held as evidence to the contrary. At I.vi.4, it is said Authoritas mutavit tempus observandi sabatti, authoritas quoque mutavit tempus et modum recipiendi coenam Domini: ergo videtur esse praeferenda veritatis, quae aliter instituit [“Authority has altered the time for observing the Sabbath, authority has also altered the time and the mans of receiving the Lord’s Supper. Therefore it seems to be placed ahead of truth, which ordained otherwise.”] This statement, to be sure, invites reading as a Catholic’s criticism of Anglican reforms, but it is significant that it appears in a dialectical objectio which is promptly refuted. Then too, at III.i.2 Case writes (this time speaking in his own person about bad things done out of fear of worse) Ob metum maioris mali fiunt, exempli causa, ut rerum iactura in tempestate ne immersio, perpetua custodia principis ne hostis invasio fiat [“Because of fear of greater evil occur, for example, the abandonment of goods during a storm lest a sinking occur, or the perpetual imprisonment of a sovereign lest an enemy invasion transpire”]. Yes, this is a withering criticism of Elizabeth’s imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots. But surely this is an outspoken monarchist’s objection to the ill handling of a sovereign, not a Catholic’s complaint about the mistreatment of a coreligionist. In sum, there appears no good reason to regard Case as a crypto-Catholic, and plenty of reason to express deep skepticism about this idea.
11. Speculum Moralium Quaestionum, as I say, was printed at Oxford by Joseph Barnes in 1585 (Short Title Catalogue 4759, Early English Books, reel 1373:12), and was reprinted by Barnes in 1596 under the title Speculum Quaestionum Moralium, in a volume also containing a second work entitled Reflexus Speculi Moralis, a commentary on the Aristotelian Magna Moralia (Short Title Catalogue 4760, Early English Books, reel 189:01). The last, unnumbered, page of the 1585 edition contains a list of errata prefaced by this notice:
Correctores et compositores in hoc opere magnam dederunt operam ut sine mendis primus hic praeli foetus in lucem ederetur. Illorum industria hoc certe contigit quod paucae sint ut citius, quod leviusculae sint ut facilius corrigantur.
[“In the present work the correctors and compositors have taken great pains that this first offspring of the press might be brought forth without blemish. And thanks to their industry it has certainly occurred that they are few, so they may be corrected quickly, and trifling, so they may be corrected with ease.”]
As is often the case with Renaissance books, the list of errata provided is scarcely complete. Nevertheless, the boast is not unjustified. The 1585 edition is remarkably free from typographical problems, and is certainly a creditable maiden performance for Barnes’ press. The same cannot be said of the 1596 edition, in which a number of uncorrected 1585 errors are repeated with a considerable helping of new ones superadded, and many of these mistakes are of kinds which could only be made by printers wholly ignorant of Latin.
12. At the beginning of his short biography of Case, Anthony à Wood noted the fact that the Oxford philosopher was “more esteemed beyond, than within, the seas.” At least after the passing of the generation of Oxford men who were exposed to the influence of their amiable and charismatic teacher, this certainly appears to be true, as is shown by the fact that Speculum Moralium Quaestionum was reprinted at Frankfurt in 1598, 1591, 1594, 1597, 1604, 1611, 1616 and 1625.
NOTE 1 The fullest available study of Case is Charles B. Schmitt, John Case and Aristotelianism in Renaissance England (Kingston - Montreal, 1983). See also Schmitt’s Aristotle and the Renaissance (Cambridge, Mass., 1983) and The Aristotelian Tradition and Renaissance Universities (London, 1984). Besides Schmitt’s book on Case, the most important study is J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds, 1990), Chapter 19. Still and all, John Case and William Camden remain the most scandalously understudied writers of their age.
NOTE 2 A good introduction to Ramus and his influence on England is William Samuel Howell, Logic and Rhetoric in England, 1500 - 1700 (New York, 1961) Chapter 4. Note that in his discussion of Case, pp. 191 - 3, Howell suffered from the misconception, discussed below, that Case was a Catholic.
NOTE 3 Schmitt p. 145, citing W. J. Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, Mass., 1958) 30 - 32, 181, 199 - 202 and 300f.
NOTE 4 This latter possibility can scarcely be discounted: Howell p. 191 points out that in his 1584 Summa Veterum Interpretum in Universam Dialecticam Aristotelis Case does not display the same hostility towards Ramus.
NOTE 5 It should be noted that in the gratulatory epigram he contributed to this volume, Laurence Humphrey, the Regius Professor of Divinity, expresses visible unease about the premise that Aristotelian philosophy and Christian doctrine are in fact exactly congruent.
NOTE 6 A point most recently made by H. Stephen Brown in his review of Thomas W. Smith’s Revaluing Ethics: Aristotle’s Dialectical Pedagogy (2001).
NOTE 7 There is an excellent discussion of Anglican notions of hierarchical social order and the way these played out in the Virginia colony by David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford, 1989) 398 - 405. Fischer cites two further works on the subject, Terence R. Murphy, “The Early Tudor Concept of Order," in Emilio C. Viano and Jeffrey H. Reiman (edd.), The Police in Society (Lexington, Mass., n. d.) 75 - 87, and Keith Wrightson, “Two Concepts of Order…,” in John Brewer and John Styles (edd.), An Ungovernable People: The English and their Law in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (London, 1980) 21 - 46.
NOTE 8 For the establishment of Barnes’ press, see the account by Harry Carter, A History of the Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1975), Chapter II. I have stressed the political motivations of its establishment (most recently here), and in my view this consideration only serves to strengthen the impression that it was deemed necessary for a loyal work by a loyalist writer to be the first book issued by the press.
NOTE 9 For governmental suspicion of Universities, see Harry Culverwell Porter, Reformation and Reaction in Tudor Cambridge (1958), although of course the general issues raised by Porter applied to Oxford as well as Cambridge, and both Universities were faced with the necessity of exhibiting their corporate loyalty to Church and government. Barnes’ press was operated in a manner calculated to achieve precisely that.
NOTE 10 To be sure, the gratulatory epigram by Oliver Withington hints that Case was not without his contemporary Oxford detractors. But he gives no reason for thinking that such opposition to Case had anything to do with Catholicism or his resignation from St. John’s College. Here is an illustration of why further biographical research would be desirable.