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Are You Alone Wise?The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era$
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Susan Schreiner

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195313420

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195313420.001.0001

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(p.391) Conclusion
Are You Alone Wise?

Susan E. Schreiner

Oxford University Press

This concluding chapter addresses those voices that questioned the value and access to the various 16th-century claims to certainty. The focus is on only those protests that argued for the impossibility and dangers of certitude as well as the salutary effects of doubt. However, the thesis that skepticism led to toleration has been seriously challenged by historians such as Geoffrey Elton and R. Tuck. The field of toleration studies is a growing one and beyond the scope of this study. The discussion does not claim that 16th-century skepticism was a part of some triumphant march toward the victory of toleration. In fact, any such claim overestimates the effects of all pleas for toleration. Rather, it demonstrates that there were significant voices in the 16th century that saw the dangers involved in certainty. Such voices called for toleration because of the limitations of human knowledge. The “skepticism” of this age functioned as a corrective and a warning, but not as a “doctrine” for toleration. Such warnings were not ultimately successful. They were, however, eloquent voices that once again brought the problem of certitude to the fore.

Keywords:   certitude, certainly, toleration, skepticism, Geoffrey Elton, R. Tuck

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