Matters of fact: Matthew L. Jones

Modern Intellectual History 7 (3):629-642 (2010)
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Abstract

At the end of Matters of Exchange, Harold Cook's major revisionist account of the early modern scientific revolution, he locates the political and economic writings of Bernard Mandeville within the practices and values of contemporaneous Dutch observational medicine. Like Mandeville, Cook describes the potency of early modern capitalism and its attendant value system in generating industry and knowledge; like Mandeville, Cook finds coercive systems of moral regulation to be mistaken in their estimation of human capacities; and like Mandeville, Cook does not shy away from the violence that often made the worldwide commerce in matters of fact possible. “Every Part was full of Vice,” famously rhymed Mandeville, “Yet the whole Mass a Paradise.” The practices and values of science, this book suggests, stemmed from the vices of the merchant and the consumer, not the sprezzatura of the baroque courtier, the asceticism of the Christian gentleman, the speculation of the university philosopher, or the dour appraisal of the theologian. Interest, not claims to disinterest, made modern science and its attendant values possible. Scrupulous attention to goods from around the world and right at home created the conditions for natural knowledge.

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