Are human beings linked by a common nature, one that makes them see the world in the same moral way? Or are they fragmented by different cultural practices and values? These fundamental questions of our existence were debated in the Enlightenment by Locke, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson. Daniel Carey provides an important new historical perspective on their discussion. At the same time, he explores the relationship between these founding arguments and contemporary disputes over cultural diversity and multiculturalism. Our own conflicting positions (...) today reflect long-standing differences that emerged during the Enlightenment. (shrink)
SummaryThe relationship between travel, travel narrative, and the enterprise of natural history is explored, focusing on activities associated with the early Royal Society. In an era of expanding travel, for colonial, diplomatic, trade, and missionary purposes, reports of nature's effects proliferated, both in oral and written forms. Naturalists intent on compiling a comprehensive history of such phenomena, and making them useful in the process, readily incorporated these reports into their work. They went further by trying to direct the course of (...) travel to suit their ends, but the complex story of how travel influenced the direction of study cannot be told without acknowledging the influence of objects acquired in a random fashion, arriving in a miscellany off returning ships. Travel writing complemented the activity of documenting nature's history, supplementing the range of available testimony. Such accounts of travel became an accepted source for information, cross-references, and queries, ostensibly eliminating error and advancing knowledge. The difficulty of identifying and classifying objects added to the importance of these reports; furthermore, the scope for attending to prodigies created the grounds for accepting tales of marvels and monsters. The fluid exchange between travel, narrative, and natural history often masked rather than exposed problems of belief, testimony, and evidence, perpetuating an economy of error in which knowledge was both advanced and retarded. (shrink)
This chapter presents an account of the life and work of Francis Hutcheson. It charts his career from its beginnings in Dublin to the attempt to cement his place in British intellectual life that was his posthumously published A System of Moral Philosophy. Hutcheson’s ideas were not universally welcomed and acclaimed. Religious conservatives constantly challenged him even after he was elected to the Glasgow chair of moral philosophy. The chapter describes the rationalist critique of Hutcheson’s moral sense theory, the criticism (...) levelled at his conception of natural benevolence by those who remained attached to philosophical egoism, and the complaints of those who, under the influence often of Joseph Butler, believed that Hutcheson’s ethics needed to be supplemented by a more substantial account of moral obligation. (shrink)
Leading scholars bring together eighteenth-century studies and postcolonial theory to analyze the role and reputation of Enlightenment in the context of early European colonial ambitions and postcolonial interrogations of Western imperial projects and aspirations.
Philosophical antagonism and dispute — by no means confined to the early modern period — nonetheless enjoyed a moment of particular ferment as new methods and orientations on questions of epistemology and ethics developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. John Locke played a key part in them with controversies initiated by the Essay concerning Human Understanding. This essay develops a wider typology of modes of philosophical quarrelling by focusing on a key debate — the issue of whether human nature (...) came pre-endowed with innate ideas and principles, resulting in a moral consensus across mankind, or remained, on the contrary, dependent on reason to achieve moral insight, and, in practice, divided by diverse and irreconcilable cultural practices as a result of the force of custom and the limited purchase of reason. The essay ultimately concludes on the idea that we should not only attend to the genealogy of disputes but also to the morphology of disputation as a practice. (shrink)
Summary John Locke intervened in two major debates in which the issue of species featured: (1) the question of whether species designations are based on real essences or only nominal essences (discussed in the Essay), and (2) the debate over the recoinage of English currency in the 1690s, in which Locke argued for a restoration of silver depleted by widescale clipping (discussed in his economic writings published between 1692–95). This article investigates Locke's position on the recoinage and considers alternative proposals (...) in the period, including those which advocated the introduction of a ‘new species’ of money in the form of credit, based on land. Locke opened the space, philosophically, for innovations in defining money, but endorsed a narrower conception of money as silver by weight alone (not by its stamp or denomination). His rationale for doing so exposes his attachment to shared systems of measurement, intersubjective agreement and ways of stabilizing meaning by reference to external criteria (in this case, the weight of silver, a measure that functioned internationally). This suggests a pattern of attempting to constrain the nominalism that his system otherwise foregrounded. (shrink)