Te Poetic Enlightenment: Poetry and Human Science, 1650–1820
sometimes within the work o the same author. So, or example, and with reer-ence to Adam Smith, whether man is considered primarily a speaking animalor a sympathizing, producing and consuming animal, or a legislating animalcontributes to the determination o method, discipline and discovery. Yet thesediferent emphases ask or a revision o the concept o the human that can inturn accommodate them all. A general science o man must recognize the varietyo biological, historical, climatic and other determining actors o human behav-iour, each o which is the subject o a discipline.One overarching concept o the human was as a
creature. Adam Fer-guson wrote in 1767: ‘When we attend to the language which savages employon any solemn occasion, it appears that man is a poet by nature.’
His compactormulation suggests ways in which in this period poetry might be used to deneboth the object and the practice o human science. Ferguson indicates thatthe study o human lie should ocus on behaviour, such as speech; that ritualbehaviour is particularly revealing o human nature; that poetry is natural tohumankind; and yet that natural poetry is allied to savagery, and distinguishedrom the cultivated position o the observer. Te naturalness o poetry to manhas been lost in modernity, despite Ferguson’s assertion that ‘I we are asked … Where the state o nature is to be ound? we may answer, It is here; and it mat-ters not whether we are understood to speak in the island o Great Britain, at theCape o Good Hope, or the Straits o Magellan’.
Both the savage and the mod-ern man are natural, but modernity as opposed to savagery represents a loss as well as a gain, and one way o describing what is lost is to call it poetry. Tinking about poetry and the poetic as natural to humankind also raises questions con-cerning the wider relationship o philosophy and poetry in this period. Here onemust consider how poetry mediates specialized modern intellectual disciplines.Te concept o poetry is at once specic, concentrating on a particular mode o writing, and general, as the poetic was also understood in the eighteenth centuryas a stage in evolution, a state o mind, a distinctive set o attitudes that implydistinctive cognitive potentials and limitations. Vico’s enquiries into the abularorigins o religious, legal and social institutions are one orm o exploration intothe poetic as a moment in the cognitive evolution o humanity.
Where poetrystands or what is human, it may also stand or what is beyond scientic or pro-essional knowledge, and it is thereore a challenge to the very human scienticenterprise that partially identies its object, man, as poetic. Te essays in this volume address these and other signicant questions, such as how poetry guresin the development o a science o language in this period, and how poetic imagi-nation contributes to Enlightenment histories and theories o social lie.Tis book sets out to provide some new answers to these questions byexploring the concepts o poetry and the poetic in philosophical writings o theEnlightenment that promote a science o man. One imperative to address these