chapter  6
15 Pages

Human Grandiosity/Human Responsibility

WithRebecca Ann Bach

In the creaturely world, the inequality of bodies and souls was a given, and human grandiosity, perhaps Descartes's gift that appeals most to us, was an anti-Christian menace. Andrew Marvell's poem "A Dialogue, Between the Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure" is a beautiful example of the menace of grandiosity in the Renaissance. Human equality as part of Descartes's package belongs to that grandiosity—humans are all equal and superior as opposed to other creatures. However, Descartes's fantasy of human equality has hardly compensated for the many costs of the rest of the Cartesian package. Responsibility in the face of inequality seems preferable to denying inequality and practicing oppression whether that denial and oppression involves people or other creatures. Some humans in the Renaissance could choose to ally themselves with humanity. But some, including those who were naturally stupid like the character Andrew, could not. Andrew's natural foolishness is signaled by his mistakes about human relations with God.