Conclusion: The Legacy of the Sentimental Empiricists

in Science in the Age of Sensibility

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226720784
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720852 | DOI:
Conclusion: The Legacy of the Sentimental Empiricists

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The claims of sentimental empiricists have shaped the understanding of the Enlightenment, the Revolution, French culture, and the history and nature of modern science. They have seen the Revolution as the triumph of an abstract, analytical, and mathematical cast of mind. Modern heirs to sentimental empiricism have lamented a French lack of “soul.” And the charges of sentimental empiricists against the sciences of their day must surely have contributed to the belief that the history of modern science has been the straightforward unfolding of an impersonal, dispassionate way of knowing the world. Sentimental empiricism has provided the medium for an ongoing interaction between natural and moral science, and between scientific ideas and social concerns. The ideals of sensibility engaged the physiology of the senses with the problem of moral solipsism; electrical physics with the economy of the grain trade; chemical nomenclature with civic educational policy; the authority of an observed fact with the authority of a town magistracy; scientific with political revolution.

Keywords: sentimental empiricism; Enlightenment; the Revolution; French culture; modern science; moral science; social concerns; scientific ideas

Chapter.  2392 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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