Wk1 Lecture Notes

The Enlightenment and the Science of Man.
The Human sciences – psychology economics and the social sciences generally –
ha!e their origins in the science of human nature that arose during the Enlightenment"
Some of the same #uestions asked today $ere asked in the %1& $ith regard to the role
of religion religious institutions 'od magic etc. (ehind these #uestions arose the
influence of ideas and approaches de!eloped during the scientific re!olution such as
the shift in the character of kno$ledge from the metaphysical to kno$ledge )ased on
e*perience and o)ser!ation and the empirical approach to the +ustification of this
These approaches informed the science of man as it emerged in the %1,. Ho))es
Le!iathan is an e*ample of the acceptance of the mechanistic philosophy and an
argument that the $ay men acted in society $as not the result of the $ill of 'od )ut a
result of a mechanistic mo!ement of )odies $here motion"action $as determined )y
the motion"action of other )odies $hich resulted in their clashing.
Men $ere one aspect of the natural $orld"physical order and affected it"$ere affected
)y it. %onse#uently there $as the opportunity to change mans )eha!iour as a result of
changing the natural order.
Man $as seen )y Ho))es as self-interested and as a result in!ol!ed in a constant state
of $ar. Hence the need to construct the State .the Le!iathan/ in order to create a force
capa)le of controlling .and $ielding/ the po$er o!er life and death.
Ho))es ideas $ere not )ased on scripture"religion"religious te*ts )ut on an
understanding of the $ay that humans )eha!e. He had no a$areness of a distinct
science of man.
Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature sa$ the science of man in relation to other
.natural/ sciences such as mathematics natural philosophy natural religion. He sa$
the key to kno$ledge on the natural sciences in the science of man and the need to
disco!er ho$ men think reason and 0kno$1 the World. He sa$ this as a surer )asis
for claims of kno$ledge.
The )asis for kno$ledge $as not to )e found in metaphysics )ut in the 0e*perimental
method of reasoning1. 2ll kno$ledge $as to )e )ased on e*perience – to understand
ho$ $e kno$ 0$e need to think a)out ho$ $e think and understand1.
3assions are more important for understanding )eha!iour than reason and morality is
found in the +udgements $e make moral su)+ects )eing concerned $ith man and his
%onse#uently man $as 0the o)+ect $ith $hich $e reason1 and )ecomes the heart of
the su)+ect not institutions or specific )eha!iour )ut 0human nature1 in the round.
Man is at the centre of the attempt to construct a science of human nature.
This )ecomes an esta)lished idea throughout the Enlightenment. 3hilosophy
.epistemology/ remains a tool $ithin this enterprise – that the grounds for scientific
kno$ledge are )ased on the nature of thought. 3hilosophy )ecame 0an under-la)ourer
for the sciences1 .Locke/.
Human nature $as seen as manifest in the $ay people interact and )eha!e in social
conte*ts. There $as no single !ie$ on the nature of humans simply acceptance of the
idea of a human nature. Why did this happen4
1. The Enlightenment $as not +ust a mo!ement in thought )ut also had a social
and political dimension
5. Social transformation took place in the early modern period as a result of
increased commerce the rise of the trading"commercial .middle/ class.
6. The decline in the social and economic po$er of the no)ility
The main authors of and audience for these ne$ ideas $ere the )ourgeoisie $ho had
greater economic resources than in the past and so gained increasing po$er $ith
regard to the so!ereign .need for loans capital etc/ at the e*pense of the no)ility. 7n
Europe the rise of a)solutism increasingly negated the need for a no)ility. 2s a result
the )ourgeoisie demanded increasing access to po$er resulting in the control of and
e!entual decline of a)solutism.
This increase in the po$er of the )ourgeoisie enthused $ith these ne$ ideas led to
criticism of the old order and the institutions associated $ith it – the church as
guardians of morality a)solute monarchs the old no)le order.
3olitical theories re+ect the )asis of a)solutism. 3olitical authority should )e )ased on
the consent of the go!erned people are so!ereign not the monarch or a political elite.
The emphasis is on the idea of a natural e#uality of men.
There is a close connection )et$een this ideology and the idea of a human nature.
What is it that makes us e#ual4 There is a coming together of science and politics and
the gro$th of the idea of a science of politics as $ell as a political approach to
science structured in order to satisfy human nature .8ousseau/.
The idea of a 0Human Nature1 does not e*ist )efore the Enlightenment. The concept
is tied in to the social and political changes that occur in the Enlightenment.
9oucault argues that 0man1 does not e*ist prior to the ad!ent of the human sciences.
That these sciences 0in!ent1 man and human nature and as such are central to the
formation of the modern $orld. 3re!iously man had )een immersed in di!ine and
natural order and that su)se#uently man occupies a central place $ith regard to and as
a result of his kno$ledge a)out himself the $orld and his place in it.
The science of man and human nature comes to underpin the science of kno$ledge.
The ne$ o)+ect is man possessed of human nature.
The search for human nature filters out differences )et$een man. Human nature does
not e*plain difference: it is a)out 0sameness1 and leads to the #uestion as to $hat
constitutes difference.
This leads to the de!elopment of empirical sciences concerned $ith cultural racial
differences a fascination $ith curiosities .emphasising difference/ and the origins of
modern sociology and anthropology – the comparison and classification of people a
process that is still essential to modern human sciences.
(ut $hy compare"classify4 The underlying assumptions are not ho$ to e*plain
difference )ut $hat is distinct a)out $estern ci!ili;ation to make it so different from
the rest of the World. Why so different4 Why so ad!anced in comparison4
The assumption id that difference is the product of social"cultural attri)utes. That
difference can )e understood )y looking at societies.
0Society1 $as another central concept in the Enlightenment. Society $as constructed
in the Enlightenment concept of 0ci!il society1 $hich $as a central concern for
Enlightenment thinkers +uggling $ith the ideas of so!ereignty and political consent.
Society $as seen as the product of many things – geography.political and physical/
legal religion system of go!ernment national spirit and character .Montes#uieu
Spirit of La$s .1,<&// – as an e*planation of differences )et$een societies in
different parts of the $orld.
(y the end of the %1& society $as an o)+ect of social en#uiry. What causes it to )e the
$ay it is $hat is its effect on )eha!iour4
=ifferences in societies are percei!ed as the result of differences in time – different
rates of progress"de!elopment.
Societies are concei!ed of as passing through distinct stages of de!elopment. 2dam
Smith 7n 0The Wealth of Nations1 .1,,>/ puts for$ard the idea of societies
progressing through four economic stages –
3rimiti!e )ased on hunting
3astoral )ased on animal hus)andry
%ommercial society
The structure and organisation possessed )y commercial society is not economic in
character it is the de!elopment of arts science manners customs that lead to modern
commercial society as a necessary re#uirement of the need to satisfy di!erse needs.
The progress of society leads to the a)ility of indi!iduals to pursue di!erse needs in
$ays as they see fit. 7t is seen as the epitome of modern li)erty and freedom $here
man has the time and a)ility to create scientific kno$ledge. The science of man is a
function of its de!elopment.
This type of history takes man as its o)+ect )ut $hat dri!es societies4 Human nature
self-interest socia)ility or do these dri!e human nature.
What is the )est $ay of meeting human needs in the social conte*t4 7s it Smith?s
increasing comple*ity and di!ision of la)our4
These are the #uestions $e shall )e looking at o!er the ne*t fe$ $eeks@@.