Joseph Da Costa (KCL) - 2015-16 Students

The place of humanism in discourses of early modern Portuguese colonialism.

This PhD project attempts to identify the core values at the heart of humanist discourse and relate them to the emergence of early modern concepts of scientific inquiry at the start of the Portuguese expansion. In the process, the project seeks to explain how humanist values and the discourse of science might endorse or critique ideologies of early modern Portuguese colonialism.

Through analysis of numerous works within four epistemic fields, I have exposed the foundational valuing principles which bring the objects of their study – words, geographies, living entities – into direct relation. In the fields of grammar, cartography, natural history, and history, this can have both a contouring and a levelling effect. By connecting these fields, the choice of practitioners to make interpretations and constructions based on flat ontology or value laden hierarchy can be analysed with both greater direction and breadth, to expose connected philosophies where they exist.

The construction of wide ranging value systems which makes each phenomena classified within it relative to an abstract ideal, is an abstraction process widely used in the discourses of early modern Portuguese colonial expansion. Linking colonial discourse, with the studia humanitatis (grammar, rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry, history), mathematics, cartography, and natural history as systems which impose relational value on the worlds they describe, can expose the nature of relationship dynamics between ‘Subjects’ and their ‘Objects’, thus contributing to thought on the development of ideologies within epistemic practice.

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