The secret chain: justice and self-interest in Montesquieu's Persian Letters

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Abstract:

Montesquieu's Persian Letters has long been thought to conceal a secret chain uniting the various letters which comprise the work. An examination of the historical context of the Persian Letters, the characters' remarks on justice and self- interest, and the important literary techniques that Montesquieu employs, helps to bring the secret chain to light. The work's letters are written and sequenced to show how self-interest can overawe justice, emphasizing the need for fair and reasonable third party involvement in order to achieve justice in human affairs. Montesquieu calls upon readers to serve as the final link in this chain, prompting the reader ultimately to consolidate the Persian Letters' treatment of politics, philosophy and morality.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Gifford Research Fellow in Natural Theology, St Mary's College, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JU.

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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