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José de Acosta’s «De procuranda Indorum salute»

A Call for Evangelical Reforms in Colonial Peru


Gregory J. Shepherd

José de Acosta’s De procuranda Indorum salute: A Call for Evangelical Reforms in Colonial Peru contextualizes and analyzes the deployment of Catholic missionary forces in the Andes. Its exhaustive approach to the ecclesiastic and political reforms of late-sixteenth-century Peru exposes the philosophical and legal underpinnings of Spain's colonial policies. As this book analyzes José de Acosta’s De procuranda Indorum salute, one of the most important treatises of the colonial period, it explores influences and intentions and reveals context and subtext. Comprehensive in its appraisal of Acosta’s intellectual achievement, this book is essential for scholars and students of this early period of Christian and European expansion in the Americas. Not only does Gregory J. Shepherd examine Acosta’s missionary manual against the controversial backdrop of Las Casas and Sepúlveda, but he also reconstructs the political atmosphere surrounding Toledo’s massive and intrusive transformation of Andean life. Most importantly, this text carries out a thorough study of the ideologies – Christian, Jesuit, and European – underlying Acosta’s appeal for political, social, and ecclesiastic reform.
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Chapter 2—DPI’s Prologues: Expressed Intentions in the Dedicatoria and Proemio


← 40 | 41 → CHAPTER 2


The prologue used to introduce the treatises of the Middle Ages and Renaissance attempted to express the intention of the author along with a long list of other motivations referred to as causes. As twenty-first century readers of ideologies, we can never be entirely assured or convinced that the author declared a complete list of intentions. However, the formulas employed at that time allowed for and promoted the use of prologues as explications of authorial intention. Acosta lists and elaborates his authorial intentions according to the Aristotelian model of the four causes in both preliminary statements in DPI, the dedicatoria and the proemio (Minnis 28). Contemporary critics point out that an expressed intention might only be the conscious rendering of what the author believes his intentions to be, merely a list of aspirations, a deceptive device to mislead the reader, or an unimportant or irrelevant issue in the analysis of the text.37 Considerations mentioned above are certainly relevant; nevertheless within the context of sixteenth-century scholarship these expressed intentions set the stage for the main body of the text.38 The preliminary text becomes a meta-textual instrument with which the author prepares the reader, or an ideological filter through which the reader becomes oriented to the position of the author. Preliminary texts must be considered not because they offer an objective rendering of “meaning” within the body of the text itself, but because they offer...

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