Opinion och revolution: Upplysning i Lund 1719
Keywords:opinion, revolution, genius saeculi, taste, gustus (goût), levels of ideas in society, Latin
This article examines the words revolution and opinion in an academic dissertation written in Latin and defended at the University of Lund in 1719. The dissertation reflects the meaning of these words before they became the keywords of the Enlightenment, as modern historical scholarship has come to identify them. Revolution here retains the connotation of cyclical political change, although it is noteworthy that the author of the dissertation apparently had the ongoing change of the Swedish constitution from autocracy to parliamentary rule in mind. Opinion vacillates between the dominant values of an era and unstable popular opinion. More interesting, however, are the efforts of the author to describe the relation between opinion and society. With the help of Longinus, a connection is postulated between philosophical opinions and political systems: Greek democracy fostered salutary idealist philosophy whereas autocratic monarchy begot materialism and atheism. Still more interesting are the endeavours of the author to discern different levels of ideas in society. He makes a distinction between the articulated, explicit ideas of philosophers, or scholars, and the non-discursive opinions which are not explicit but stay hidden in the consciousness (mente) of the people. The dissertation is an academic exercise written in Latin at a peripheral university in Europe. In spite of the presumed backwardness of universities, it articulates an emerging awareness of the relation between ideas and society; in fact, it can be seen to signify a beginning of an interest in the history of ideas.
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