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Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French Enlightenment - Henry Vyverberg

Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French Enlightenment

Hardcover Published: 27th August 1989
ISBN: 9780195058642
Number Of Pages: 240

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In this work, Henry Vyverberg traces the evolution and consequences of a crucial idea in French Enlightenment thought--the idea of human nature. Human nature was commonly seen as a broadly universal, unchanging entity, though perhaps modifiable by geographical, social, and historical factors. Enlightenment empiricism suggested a degree of cultural diversity that has often been underestimated in studies of the age. Evidence here is drawn from Diderot's celebrated Encyclopedia and from a vast range of writing by such Enlightenment notables as Voltaire, Rousseau, and d'Holbach. Vyverberg explains not only the age's undoubted fascination with uniformity in human nature, but also its acknowledgment of significant limitations on that uniformity. He shows that although the Enlightenment's historical sense was often blinkered by its notions of a uniform human nature, there were also cracks in this concept that developed during the Enlightenment itself.

"The scholarship...is firm....Rewarding. To anyone who wishes to become acquainted with the multiplicity of Enlightenment thinking, it provides an erudite introduction."--American Historical Review "Represents a healthy return to the careful examination of the history of ideas. Vyverberg overturns popular misconceptions with solid proof and great enthusiasm for the Enlightenment. Recommended to students at all levels."--Choice

Introductionp. 3
From Nature to Human Naturep. 20
Nature as Fact or Normp. 20
Natural Law and the Laws of Naturep. 24
Human Naturep. 28
The Uniformity of Human Naturep. 34
The Questionp. 34
Reason and Passionp. 36
Instinctual Ethics and Religionp. 40
Uniformity Affirmedp. 46
The Diversity of Human Beingsp. 53
The Role of Experiencep. 53
Experiential Religion and Ethicsp. 55
Uniformity Challengedp. 58
Physical and Moral Influences on National Characterp. 64
Voyages and Travelp. 64
Climatep. 66
Institutions and Individualsp. 71
National Characterp. 76
Understanding Cultural Diversityp. 88
The Questionp. 88
Provisional Generalizationsp. 90
A Cultural Miscellanyp. 98
Russians and Othersp. 98
Jewsp. 103
Blacks and Native Americansp. 107
The Mildly Exotic Eastp. 116
The Islamic Worldp. 116
Indiap. 119
China and the Chinese Sagep. 121
The Waning of the Chinese Voguep. 126
Historical Diversityp. 136
The Place of Historyp. 136
Voltaire and Historyp. 139
History in the Encyclopediap. 146
The Case of Ancient Greecep. 155
Greece in the Enlightenmentp. 155
Greece in the Encyclopediap. 161
The Case of the Middle Agesp. 174
An Enlightenment Consensus?p. 174
The Middle Ages in the Encyclopediap. 185
Conclusionp. 194
Bibliographyp. 207
Indexp. 217
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195058642
ISBN-10: 019505864X
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 240
Published: 27th August 1989
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.4 x 14.48  x 2.08
Weight (kg): 0.46