Thinking and Feeling without a Brain: William Perfect and Adam Smith's Compassion

in The Secret History of Emotion

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780226309798
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226309934 | DOI:
Thinking and Feeling without a Brain: William Perfect and Adam Smith's Compassion

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This chapter focuses on what the book calls the eighteenth-century politics of psyche. The chapter poses two genealogical questions: What can the eighteenth-century emergence of psychological science tell us about the cultural specificity of “psyche” then and now? And how does this supposedly universal science cover its historical tracks? What is at stake for the social order when a particular version of psyche is defended in universal terms? In order to address these questions, it is helpful to expand the object of this inquiry beyond texts and issues already canonized in the history of psychology to include what might appear at first blush peripheral material—material that can in fact help us read politics back into William Perfect's quasi-scientific text. Given the focus of this chapter, however, it is most helpful to draw upon the moral philosophy of Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment that, in its metacritical capacity, reflects some of the mechanisms by which psychological individuals are composed.

Keywords: social order; psyche; Adam Smith; William Perfect; Scottish Enlightenment; moral philosophy

Chapter.  8099 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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