Historical Understanding and the Human Condition

Stephen Gaukroger

in The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594931
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595745 | DOI:
Historical Understanding and the Human Condition

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In a context in which traditional religious and humanistic assumptions about universal moral, social, and other values have come loose, the eighteenth‐century employment of developmental stages in understanding modern institutions takes on a new standing. In particular, d'Alembert's idea that the present is a culmination of and in many respects an inevitable outcome of the past depends on the idea that natural philosophy takes precedence over any other form of understanding. This idea is discussed in the contexts of discussions of the move from myth to reason, in that of the history of manners. Finally, Hume's very different, but equally historically based account of what understanding consists in is contrasted with that of d'Alembert, and the question of the balance between propositional and non‐propositional forms of understanding explored.

Keywords: Jean d'Alembert; David Hume; history of manners

Chapter.  16966 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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