Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity by Stephen Edelston Toulmin

By Stephen Edelston Toulmin

Within the 17th century, a imaginative and prescient arose which was once to captivate the Western mind's eye for the following 300 years: the imaginative and prescient of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered because the Newtonian view of nature. whereas fueling remarkable advances in all fields of human exercise, this imaginative and prescient perpetuated a hidden but chronic time table: the fable that human nature and society may be outfitted into distinct and plausible rational different types. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its results for our current and destiny world.

"By displaying how varied the final 3 centuries might were if Montaigne, instead of Descartes, were taken as a kick off point, Toulmin is helping break the semblance that the Cartesian quest for walk in the park is intrinsic to the character of technological know-how or philosophy."—Richard M. Rorty, collage of Virginia

"[Toulmin] has now tackled possibly his such a lot formidable subject matter of all. . . . His objective is not anything lower than to put earlier than us an account of either the origins and the customers of our distinctively smooth international. through charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to teach us what highbrow posture we should undertake as we confront the arrival millennium."—Quentin Skinner, big apple overview of Books

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Sample text

Both sides of that relation claim our attention here. If we are to reach abalanced assessmentof the claims of Modernity, we must keep these nvo tasks in proportion. On the one hand, we can justly criticize 2Oth-century assumptions about Modernity, only if we take more seriously the actual historical facts about the origins of the modern period. On the orher hand, we can pose our historical questions about the period more exactly only ifwe make allowance for the special perspectives--even, the distortionsthat were imposed on the received view by the faulry historical and philosophical assumptions looked at in this first review.

In this,he wasby no means WhatIs the ProblemAboutModernity? RobertBoyle,too, liked to think of his scientificwork as seruinga pious pulpose, by demonstratingGod's Action in Nature(this madehim, ashe said,a "Christianvirtuoso"),while GottfriedWilhelm Leibniz placedtheologicalconstraintson the patterns of explanationwithin physicsquite as stringent as any that a medieval theologianmight havedemanded. Here, by contrast,instead of assumingthat we know in advancewhat questions16th-or l7th-centurywriters sawas "rational" at the time, or what kinds of argumentscarriedweight with them then, we shall need evidenceof what wasinfact at stakein their inquiries.

Scontrastwith Montaignepasseswry commentson his own everyday Montaigne'sEssdts. But he does not bare or beat his breast, as though this habit required him publicly to confesshis Sins. Quite the reverse: his aim was to set aside pretense and attitudinizing, selfaggtandizementor ostentatiousself-reproach,and to provide an unvarnished picture of his experience of life, and attitudesof mind. By contrast,the l7th-centuryfoundersof modern scienceand philosophy had theological commitmentswhich shapedtheir whole enterprise.

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