Lyon dissertation no. 25. MS

Title Lyon dissertation no. 25. MS
in Lyon dissertation no. 25. MS
Date 1786 - 1787
Type Academic prize contest entry
Physical Description Bibliothèque de l'Académie de Lyon, MS 237-4, ff. 472-557.
Language Italian
Content Advice on educational benefits of travel
Criticism of Travel
NotesCriticism of travel.

(Entry established based on work by Elena Spagnuolo)

Modena clergyman Idelfonso Valdastri sent his dissertation, written in Italian, to the jury of the prize contest of Lyon considerably late, knowing well that it would not be taken into consideration. It could not be considered for the prize - it received a commendation. It remains a hypothetical question whether this type of criticism of travel would have been appreciated by the jury if it was submitted in time.

Valdastri wishes to challenge the current trend of sending young men abroad. He specifically examines whether and how travelling affects what he calls ‘la cura del cuore e dello spirito’ (the cure of the heart and the spirit), a notion that might be a variation on Seneca's thoughts on travel providing no real contribution to the "Care of Health and Peace of Mind" (Letters to Lucilius CIV).

His argument is divided in two parts:

- An analysis aiming to demonstrate how useless and harmful travelling can be;

- An analysis of the supposed advantages and benefits deriving from travelling.

Travelling does not contribute to the perfection of the heart, because this kind of perfection is the same everywhere; indeed, one does not need to travel to learn and understand what his duties as a man and as a citizen are. He considers self-love and love of one's own country as essential traits in all men. Travelling provides no positive contribution to this; instead, it provides numerous moments of temptation and dangerous foreign examples - tropes that are known from English and French criticisms of travel. Following Plato's thoughts, he believes that youngsters, too unstable and too eager for novelty, should not be allowed to travel abroad - instead, they should focus on studying history. Travelling for learning ceased to be relevant with the spread of printing - everything is available everywhere.

Travelling also represents a danger of loss of authentic national culture through intercultural contact - an idea developed by Rousseau, among others. Valdastri considers that travel might lead to the disappearance of patriotism, which would be highly detrimental. The ability of travel to work against prejudices, much present in international apodemic literature, is criticized - he acknowledges prejudice to be a normal condition, and the competition between individuals and nations, an essential drive. His opinions is not any better regarding the traditional idea of acquiring finer manners and useful knowledge (the many aspects of 'prudentia'): he believes that by travelling, young people end up flaunting a superficial and somewhat romanticised knowledge of countries and people, become too relaxed and indiscrete, arrogant and presumptuous, pedantic and intolerant towards their own costumes and country.