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Go to PH IL OSOPH Y N OW Ma rch /Ap ri l 2 0 0 3 , p p . 1 7 -1 9 C o p yri g h t © 2 0 0 3 b y To n i Vo g e l C a re y. Fi rs t p u b l i s h e d i n PH IL OSOPH Y N OW. Ma rch /Ap ri l 2 0 0 3 . R e p ri n te d b y p e rm i s s i o n o f Stu a rt Be rn s te i n R e p re s e n ta ti o n fo r Arti s ts , N e w Yo rk. Al l ri g h ts re s e rve d . Summary Citation
Subjects Eighteenth century
By Toni Vogel Carey • The famous 18th Century Enlightenm ent was actually different things in different places. Toni Vogel Corey on a tale of several cities. The Enlightenment, we have been taught, was the Age of Reason, with a capital R. And it
Philosophers Authors, English Authors, French Authors, German Authors, Scottish Enlightenment
was "primarily a French phenomenon," to quote a typical source. Voltaire, Diderot, Condorcet, Rousseau--these were the star players on the eighteenth-century stage. And while an occasional scholar might swim against the tide, it is only now that the tide itself shows signs of turning. A wave of recent scholarship, by Roy Porter, Emma Rothschild, Jonathan Israel, Gertrude Himmelfarb and others, is stripping the received word of its near-mythic status, and revealing it to be more like a near-myth. Ironically, eighteenth-century scholars would have been the first to question such truisms. We assume that academic freedom today is without equal in history. But in some respects scholarly inquiry in those days was actually freer--less specialized, professionalized and institutionalized. For one thing, the university was not where the real action in higher learning was taking place. Even in science--indeed, especially in science (or 'natural philosophy,' as it was then called)--the cutting edge belonged not to the universities, but to independent scholars, who put more stock in 'useful knowledge' than in college degrees or academic titles. They met informally in coffee houses and pubs, and in learned societies, whose journals might also publish their papers. Members of the Lunar Society in Birmingham, England were "outside the Establishment," Jenny Uglow tells us, but that actually "proved a real strength" by unfettering them from "old traditions" and "stuffy institutions." Her Lunar Men --James Watt (the steam engine), Josiah Wedgwood (pottery), Matthew Boulton (manufacturing), Joseph Priestley (oxygen) and Erasmus Darwin (doctor, inventor, evolutionist grandfather of Charles)--were not born to the manor, or to the academy, but to 'yeomen'. Yet, independent philosophes like these, meeting spontaneously in geographically-dispersed "wise clubs" (the name of a learned society in Aberdeen, Scotland), formed an International Republic of Letters that was simply unprecedented in history. Diderot welcomed Hume to Paris with the words: "My dear David, you belong to all nations, and...I flatter myself that I am like you, a citizen of the great city of the world." There is no disputing that French was the lingua franca of eighteenth-century culture, and Paris the capital. And it is wellknown that English-speaking notables like Hume and Benjamin Franklin were fervent Francophiles. But by the same token, French figures like Montequieu and Voltaire were positively infected with 'Anglomania.' It makes sense, then, that Condorcet identified "the forefront of world civilization" with "the Atlantic community," by which he meant Britain and America as well as France. The centuries-old university system, still under the wing of the Church, was temporally left behind when attention shifted from "the beatific life after death," as Carl Becker puts it, to "the good life on earth." Eighteenth-century thinkers found "the laws of God" not "in Holy Writ, but in the great book of Nature, open for all mankind to read." Their 'religion' was Newtonian science, and its corollary, the uniformity and universality of human nature, which made eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism possible. Amidst their experiments and explorations, they took on the truly fundamental questions, and made it their business to answer them. They could tolerate anything except untolerance, tyranny and superstition. And against these "infamous things," to quote Becker, that subvert free inquiry, Reason and Nature stood united as twin pillars of Enlightenment strength.
As Hume said straight-out. "Reason is. And then there is little reason to suppose "the art of government. and public spirit. like their French confreres. or bad. and vanity"). the law contains its own dichotomy between Nature and Reason. they considered selfinterest inherently cooperative as well as competitive. the passions are simply 'Modes of Self-Love. and deemed capable of controlling the passions. Thus his trenchant couplets: Though every part was full of Vice. As Reid dryly notes: Reason. though. "makes ample provision for remedying many of the bad effects of the folly and injustice of man. Mandeville trades on both senses. by an 'invisible hand. as opposed to Statute law. if it were perfect. To the French. by arranging the parts that they neutralize each other's effects. "the dextrous management of a skillful politician" can create a good whole out of bad parts. Counterpoise need not be a product of conscious design ('dextrous management'). without which we wouldn't bother to get out of bed. since there were at least two: the English branch of Alexander Pope and Bernard Mandeville. human nature is natively depraved. found plenty of reason for optimism." In other words. as in a Newtonian equilibrium between centripetal and centrifugal forces. if humankind is not entirely virtuous. Eighteenth-century thinkers then proceeded to divvy up the other three possibilities.But there was also a sense in which reason was pitted against nature. they chose the kinder.' to promote the good of society. He must have meant Common law. The main point of the invisible-hand principle is that private and public interest are not inherently at odds." At this juncture the French parted company with the British Enlightenment--or Enlightenments. The late Robert Nozick argued in Anarchy. would lead men to use the proper means of preserving their own lives and continuing their kind.." Thus. evolutionary. like the Scots? The Scottish thinkers. or blank slate. And guided "solely by the light of reason and experience. Kant in Germany being a case in point. we tend. For them. they believed that "the wisdom of nature" as Adam Smith puts it. Yet the whole Mass a Paradise. State and Utopia. John Locke opted in the seventeenth century for the last alternative. generosity. Human Nature The split over French Reason and British Sentiment went hand-in-hand with a disagreement about human nature.O. invisible-hand process. each nation had its own Enlightenment story." to cite Hume's list) and bad ("avarice. in pursuing nothing but our own self-interest. I should say. it is "not natively depraved." The British were a tad less exuberant about the powers of Reason. it was like honey to the bee. but insisted on the need for laws of justice. Adam Smith. and to the rationalistic French. like the French. Interestingly enough. or Private Vices. The key term philosophe' is characterized in Diderot's Encyclopedie by the telling motto." to quote Becker again. and the Scottish school of Francis Hutcheson. gentler Lockean worldview. Mandeville famously dismissed virtue as nothing more than "the offspring of flattery begot upon pride. which is deliberately written by legislators. not the other way around. Importantly. on the other hand. otherwise the race would long ago have been extinct. what drives us is instinct and desire.. people develop the habit of subordinating their selfish desires to the general welfare. and to do so more effectively than when we actually try to promote it. The worst of all the Multitude Did something for the Common Good. To English thinkers like Mandeville and Pope. As Mandeville emphasizes repeatedly in Fable of the Bees. This was Reason with a capital R. Their philosophy rests on the premise that nature steers us in a positive direction. et al. was this Dutch-born English psychiatrist at heart a follower of Reason. Hume. and ought only to be the slave of the passions." to quote A. by being ranked above it. and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. that laws of justice (a 'minimal state') can also emerge by a natural. But where Mandeville believed in a Hobbsean a Hobbesian who believed in a dog-eat-dog existence. and whether it is basically good. "Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. But the Author of our being hath not thought fit to leave this task to reason alone. with the striking idea that at birth the mind is a tabula rasa. told by its own philosophes. suggesting in Part II of the Fable that by a natural evolutionary process. or neither. What rescues us from a sorry end is the phenomenon of counterpoise. self-love. Publick Benefits .' troublemakers that create discord ('faction') among individuals and nations alike. the Scottish thinkers viewed human nature as a mixture of good traits ("friendship. or of Nature." man is capable of 'perfecting' this earthly existence. Sensibly enough. And just as importantly. or both. To some extent. Lovejoy. His relentless use of paradox and satire confounds even the most distinguished scholars about which is the real Mandeville. it's just that their reason was not Reason. Being aware of the bad as well as the good. it can also come about naturally. Smith didn't trust to laws of nature alone. If his primary aim was not simply to annoy absolutely everybody. "lies in contriving an artificial identification" between the
the Jacobins closed the doors of the French learned societies in 1793. Diderot and Condillac dined together weekly. whose thesis is that the Enlightenment was. Reid. the French skies only got darker. Edinburgh was known as the 'Athens of Great Britain'. Dugald Stewart. and Hume. and as Uglow notes. he found Shaftesbury's innocence and optimism so repulsive that they 'inspired' him. The kindest. In America too. Glenn Morrow reports. until. And doubtless this short piece has its own glaring omissions. many of the leading French figures didn't step onto the eighteenth-century stage until midway through it. college course catalogues were filled well into the nineteenth century with Scottish names--Hutcheson. Diderot's first work appeared in 1745. What may come as the real surprise is Shaftesbury's paternal role in the French Enlightenment. the most likely patriarch." That sounds like a jab at counterpoise. in the first wave of the Enlightenment. the French came down from their Shaftesburian 'high. and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. I think. Locke. Smith's mentor. whose barbs were aimed directly at Hutcheson." Schlegel continues-Shaftesbury. True. including the seminal notion of the division of labor. Hutcheson 's mentor. After all. Bacon. Rousseau. because Smith got some of his most important material directly from Mandeville. In a fickle about-face. Mandeville and Hutcheson as their intellectual forebears. a Spinoza phenomenon. and Condorcet was not born until 1743. Diderot had "utterly demolished" Shaftesbury's notion of virtue. to put pen to paper. But Shaftesbury and Mandeville came along a generation earlier. of course. Rousseau's literary career dates from 1750. The universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow during this period far outclassed those of Oxford and Cambridge. no one covers everything. while "less glamorous" than the French." For a time in 1744. England seems the most likely candidate for this honor. Shaftesbury's role in siring the Scottish Enlightenment is straightforward.
. another prodigiously scholarly work. Smith. and as for Mandeville. Shaftesbury. If forced to pick sides. and at Lord Shaftesbury. which gave rise to the Common Sense school of Reid and Dugald Stewart. and Peter Gay places them. ultimately. "the real business was already over. And interestingly. Shaftesbury believed that benevolence pervades human nature. whose education was overseen by Locke." First Things First It seems clear by now that the Enlightenment can hardly be called 'the age of Reason' unless it was "primarily a French phenomenon. but by then. it is not hard to see why Arthur Herman claims that the Scottish Enlightenment. due out the following year. And both took as their centerpiece the astonishing idea that individual self-interest is the natural and best route to societal well-being. which effectively turned out the lights on the Enlightenment. Voltaire came into the limelight during the 1740s. He also coined the term 'moral sense' which was adopted and developed by Hutcheson. To be sure. and that "Shaftesbury's benevolence" was its "motivating force. Matters are very complicated. was "more robust and original"--and indeed. which came out in 1932. "more important. perversely. though.' and by the end of the 1770s. Happy Endings Unlike the story in France. it is even more exaggerated. Israel contends. however. in Becker's Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers . along with the Scottish Hutcheson. We have it from Condorcet that "Voltaire's crusading spirit was awakened by his trip to England. and indeed the entire cosmos . Rothschild's Economic Sentiments . Israel. not a French name in the bunch. is praised for having "followed up every byway." yet he seems to omit any mention of Hutcheson or Adam Smith. though. Schlegel reports. the whole picture starts to shift. noted his disdain for the "complicated checks and restraints which swell the municipal codes of most nations. following the French Revolution. Gladys Bryson tells us. All things considered. there was a level of sophistication and an "appreciation for learning" unparalleled anywhere in Europe. his first published work." Montesquieu and Voltaire were born before the turn of the century. Hume and Smith each name Bacon. After that. Adam Ferguson. The Scottish school rose to dominance in America due to men like John Witherspoon. Locke and Newton are the trinity typically cited as the precursors and prime movers of the Enlightenment. who left Scotland in 1768 to become president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). to the point where the Scottish Enlightenment became known alternatively as the Moral Sense school. He made 'common sense' a philosophical term. Smith's first biographer. was a translation of Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning Virtue and Merit. gentlest of all the eighteenth-century thinkers. and thence a mentor to James Madison. and once we take that into account. this was by no means a 'primitivist' movement. and Smith had harsh words indeed for Mandeville. Gay has received much of the blame for skewing it. Birmingham seemed at times like "an intellectual colony of Scotland. the golden child of the Enlightenment. the eighteenth century ended spectacularly in America. is silent about Mandeville. but the French bias hardly originated with his two-volume Interpretation of 1967. This set the tone for the French and Scottish Enlightenments. While the Scottish thinkers believed in Nature." Even among the general population. And what did Diderot talk about at these gatherings? Doubtless what was "uppermost in his mind. Dugald Stewart. It is not my aim to de-throne France in order to enshrine some other country in its place." to quote the historian Dorothy Schlegel.two." But all else aside. and so cited everywhere. and Shaftesbury (1671-1713). whose skeptical ideas were anathema.
Condorcet. Lexile Score: 860. The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (Yale University. 1995). Not only were their revolutions a lot more successful. 2 0 0 0 a t th e co n fe re n ce o f th e So u th e a s t As s o ci a ti o n o f Ei g h te e n th -C e n tu ry Stu d i e s . to wh i ch sh e i s a re g u l a r co n tri b u to r. between "private rights and public Happiness.which sagely borrowed from the French. their Enlightenments were a lot more reasonable. sh e se rve s o n th e Bo a rd o f D i re cto rs o f th e N a ti o n a l C o a l i ti o n o f I n d e p e n d e n t Sch o l a rs. to those who emphasize the mind over the instincts and feelings. • Th i s e s s a y i s a re vi s e d ve rs i o n o f p a p e rs p re s e n te d i n Ma rch . as birds of a feather. • Jonathan I. Yet it is not small thing that the French placed their faith in Reason with a capital R. was popular in America even before it caught on in Britain. why have we been led to think it was ? Part of the answer is that the French had both the last and loudest word. A fo rm e r p ro fe sso r. Lexile Score: 1320. It is a stretch to say that history might hang on a single letter of the alphabet.
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. And as historians are intellectuals. launched in Edinburgh in 1768. for Promoting Useful Knowledge. SIRS Renaissance Declaring an Open Season on the Wisdom of the Ages Smithsonian May 1997. 2K. the Sensible Philosopher New Criterion March 1996. then. Gay says. legislative and judicial branches. 0K. whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica. Mandeville in England. 2002). That would explain the "posthumous victory of the French over the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment. Reason over Sentiment. and America the capital. ed. It makes sense. English and Scottish to form its own philosophy. Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith. Israel.' on. The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World (Farrar." Today English is the lingua franca of world affairs. SIRS Renaissance Demuth. a n d a s a U S Ed i to ri a l Ad vi so r to Ph i l o s o p h y N o w . and their students. who would naturally flock. the French served as 'propagandists' for the Enlightenment. • Emma Rothschild." Public Interest (Fall. lower-case version. Becker. 29K. 15K." started by Ben Franklin in 1743--the year Condorcet was born. Smith in Scotland. and then their students. has itself been "a major event in the intellectual history of the West. to suppose that unthinkingly (so much for Reason ) the French Enlightenment became for them." And all saw reason to suppose "the worst of all the multitude" would do something for. To n i Vo g e l C a re y h o l d s a Ph D i n p h i l o so p h y fro m C o l u m b i a U n i ve rsi ty. the common good. while its 'patron saints and pioneers' were largely British. primarily a French phenomenon. Strauss & Giroux. Lexile Score: 1110." which as Irving Kristol points out. By no accident. Since the eighteenth century. If the Enlightenment was not. "The Idea of Compassion: The British vs. which appeared in the banner year 1776. Lord (Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson) (1883-1950) The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Music 2004. SIRS Renaissance Berners. Madison in America--all were seeking the right balance. • Jenny Uglow. remains a staple of 'useful knowledge. the doctrine that the Enlightenment was the Age of Reason has been perpetuated by the teaching and (text)books of historians. • Gertrude Himmelfarb. 2001). Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations .and offline. 2001). Jean-Nicolas (1763-1842) The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Music 2004. 17K. with checks and balances to equalize power among the executive. Lexile Score: 1090. the Enlightenment simpliciter. both in the short and the long term. Counterpoise provided inspiration for a strong central government to neutralize conflicts among the several states. 2001): 3-24. while the English-speaking peoples opted for the more modest. • Carl L. 1932). both Dugald Stewart and Condorcet were elected members of the "American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia. Lexile Score: 1360. Radical Enlightenm ent: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 (Oxford. or at least not much against. Diderot and the Encyclopedie are familiar mostly to literati. SIRS Renaissance Champion of Liberty and Human Intellect: Voltaire Truth Seeker 1994. Isaac Kramnick (Penguin. in fact.
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• The Portable Enlightenm ent Reader. As Gay and the others have noted. and its own form of government. the French Enlightenment. but even more to the point. SIRS Renaissance Bouilly. and the Enlightenm ent (Harvard University.
Web. SIRS Renaissance Enlightened by the Social Virtues Washington Times (Washington. and revealing it to be more like a near-myth. 09 Dec 2012. SIRS Renaissance Enlightenment The Hutchinson Dictionary of Ideas 2004. A wave of recent scholarship. by Roy Porter." (Philosophy Now) The prominent belief that the Enlightenment was "primarily a French phenomenon" is disputed. No. March/April 2003: 17-19. Lexile Score: 1010. 2004. SIRS Renaissance Enlightenment SIRS Renaissance 1998. SIRS Renaissance. with a capital R. SIRS Renaissance What Is Enlightenment? Weekly Standard (Vol. 0K. Gertrude Himmelfarb and others. Lexile Score: 1300. And it was 'primarily a French phenomenon. Lexile Score: 840. And while an occasional scholar might swim against the tide. 0K. Toni Vogel. DC) Sept. SIRS Renaissance
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Copyright © 2012 ProQuest LLC.' to quote a typical source. Diderot. was the Age of Reason." Philosophy Now. we have been taught. Lexile Score: 1230. All rights reserved. 14K. Jonathan Israel. it is only [in 2003] that the tide itself shows signs of turning. Voltaire. Rousseau--these were the star players on the eighteenth-century stage. Lexile Score: 1280.
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. Condorcet. 0K. "The Enlightenments.The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Music 2004. SIRS Renaissance Eichendorff. 29.
Carey. Contributions of eighteenth-century British and Scottish philosophers to their own countries' "Enlightenment stor[ies]" are noted. 10.
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You can copy and paste this information into your own documents. Lexile Score: 1000. Emma Rothschild. Joseph von (1788-1857) The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Music 2004. 11) Nov. 2K. 5. is stripping the received word of its near-mythic status.