History of European Ideas 41 (5):605-618 (2015)

Authors
Avi Lifschitz
University College London
Abstract
Natural sociability and the basic features of human nature stood at the centre of Thomas Abbt's confrontation with conjectural history, the popular eighteenth-century mode of reconstructing the evolution of human culture. Abbt (1738–1766) criticised conjectural histories due to their arbitrary character, and opted for a synthetic approach consisting of both sacred and secular history. He suggested that the anthropology of Genesis should be accepted as the starting point for a conjectural history, since it left ample room for further questions and speculations. Yet his own perspective on human nature and its evolution remained naturalistic, as attested by his divergent interpretations of the confusion of tongues at Babel. Attempting to shed new light on the lesser-known elements of Abbt's work, the essay links his views on the Bible and conjectural history to his debate with Moses Mendelssohn over the constitution and destination of man. In this debate, both Mendelssohn and Abbt dealt with the contemporary controversy over the natural or artificial character of sociability, self-interest, and fellow-feeling.
Keywords Abbt  Conjectural history  Enlightenment  Mendelssohn  Rousseau  Universal history  German Enlightenment  Genesis
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Reprint years 2015
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DOI 10.1080/01916599.2014.987559
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References found in this work BETA

Ancient History and the Antiquarian.Arnaldo Momigliano - 1950 - Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 13 (3/4):285-315.
Conjectural History Vs. The Bible: Eighteenth-Century Scottish Historians and the Idea of History in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.Silvia Sebastiani - 2002 - Lumen: Selected Proceedings From the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies 21:213.

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