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Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 7, Issue 2, Fall 2018

Kevin Delapp
Pages 31-54
DOI: 10.5840/jems20187212

Philosophical Duelism: Fencing in Early Modern Thought

This essay explores the parallel development of fencing theory and philosophy in early modern Europe, and suggests that each field significantly influenced the other. Arguably, neither philosophy nor fencing would be the same today had the two not been engaged in this particular cultural symbiosis. An analysis is given of the philosophic content within several historical fencing treatises and of the position of fencing in seventeenth and eighteenth-century education and courtly life. Two case studies are then examined: the influence of the fencing master Charles Besnard on the intellectual development of Descartes, and the fencing master William Hope’s appropriation of the ideas of John Locke.