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The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of SensibilityScience and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680-1760$
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Stephen Gaukroger

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594931

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594931.001.0001

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Historical Understanding and the Human Condition

Historical Understanding and the Human Condition

Chapter:
(p.421) 12 Historical Understanding and the Human Condition
Source:
The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility
Author(s):

Stephen Gaukroger (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594931.003.0013

In a context in which traditional religious and humanistic assumptions about universal moral, social, and other values have come loose, the eighteenth‐century employment of developmental stages in understanding modern institutions takes on a new standing. In particular, d'Alembert's idea that the present is a culmination of and in many respects an inevitable outcome of the past depends on the idea that natural philosophy takes precedence over any other form of understanding. This idea is discussed in the contexts of discussions of the move from myth to reason, in that of the history of manners. Finally, Hume's very different, but equally historically based account of what understanding consists in is contrasted with that of d'Alembert, and the question of the balance between propositional and non‐propositional forms of understanding explored.

Keywords:   Jean d'Alembert, David Hume, history of manners

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