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In the seventeenth century, a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature. While fueling extraordinary advances in all fields of human endeavor, this vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and manageable rational categories. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its consequences for our present and future world.
"By showing how different the last three centuries would have been if Montaigne, rather than Descartes, had been taken as a starting point, Toulmin helps destroy the illusion that the Cartesian quest for certainty is intrinsic to the nature of science or philosophy."—Richard M. Rorty, University of Virginia
"[Toulmin] has now tackled perhaps his most ambitious theme of all... His aim is nothing less than to lay before us an account of both the origins and the prospects of our distinctively modern world. By charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to show us what intellectual posture we ought to adopt as we confront the coming millennium."—Quentin Skinner, New York Review of Books
Preface Prologue: Backing into the Millennium
1. What Is the Problem About Modernity?
Dating the Start of Modernity The Standard Account and Its Defects The Modernity of the Renaissance Retreat from the Renaissance From Humanists to Rationalists
2. The 17th-Century Counter-Renaissance Henry of Navarre and the Crisis of Belief
1610-1611: Young René and the Henriade
1610-1611: John Donne Grieves for Cosmopolis
1640-1650: The Politics of Certainty The First Step Back from Rationalism
3. The Modern World View Fashioning the New "Europe of Nations"
1660-1720: Leibniz Discovers Ecumenism
1660-1720 Newton and the New Cosmopolis
1720-1780 The Subtext of Modernity The Second Step Back from Rationalism
4. The Far Side of Modernity The High Tide of Sovereign Nationhood
1750-1914: Dismantling the Scaffolding
1920-1960: Re-renaissance Deferred
1965-1975: Humanism Reinvented The Twin Trajectories of Modernity
5. The Way Ahead The Myth of the Clean Slate Humanizing Modernity The Recovery of Practical Philosophy From Leviathan to Lilliput The Rational and the Reasonable Epilogue: Facing the Future Again Bibliographical Notes Index