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The book argues that the most fundamental inspiration for the Enlightenment was the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Natural philosophers from Copernicus to Newton had created a magisterial science of nature based on the realization that the physical world operated according to orderly, discoverable laws. Eighteenth-century thinkers sought to cap this achievement with a science of human nature. Belief in the existence of laws governing human will and emotion; social change; and politics, economics, and medicine suffused the writings of such disparate figures as Hume, Kant, and Adam Smith and formed the basis of the new sciences.
A work of remarkable cross-disciplinary scholarship, this volume illuminates the origins of the human sciences and offers a new view of the Enlightenment that highlights the period's subtle social theory, awareness of ambiguity, and sympathy for historical and cultural difference.