By Stephen Edelston Toulmin
Within the 17th century, a imaginative and prescient arose which used to be 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 notable advances in all fields of human exercise, this imaginative and prescient perpetuated a hidden but chronic time table: the myth that human nature and society may be equipped into particular and viable rational different types. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its effects for our current and destiny world.
"By displaying how diversified the final 3 centuries might were if Montaigne, instead of Descartes, were taken as a kick off point, Toulmin is helping damage the appearance that the Cartesian quest for sure bet 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 topic of all. . . . His goal is not anything lower than to put sooner 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, manhattan overview of Books
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Extra resources for Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity
Tolerating the resultingplurality,ambiguity,or the lackof ceftaintyis no error, let alone a sin. Honestreflectionshowsthat it is pan of the price thatwe inevitably pay for being human beings,and not gods. 30 Retreatfrom tbe Rm,aissance During the 17th century, these humanist insightswere lost. In particular, they disclaimedany serious interest in four different kinds of practical knowledge: the oral, the particular, the local, and the timely. s. It was assumedthat new ways of formulating theoretical argumentsmight be found in fields that were as yer merely empirical;but no one questionedthe right of rhetoricto standalongsidelogic in the canon of philosophy; nor was rhetoric treated as a second-classand necessarilyinferior-field.
Modern moral philosophywas concernednor wirh minute "casestudies" or particular moral discriminations,but rather with the comprehensivegeneralprinciplesof ethicaltheory. In a phrase,general principles were in, particular caseswtre out. , the local-a similar conrrasrheld good. The 16th-centuryhumanistsfound sourcesof materialin ethnography,geogmphy,and histoy,l1r none of which geometricalmethodsof analysishave much power. Early in \fhat Is the Problem About Modernitv? 33 the Discourse on Metbod, by contrast, Descartes confesses that he had had a youthful fascination with ethnography and history, but he takes credit for having overcome it: History is like foreign travel.
Timelessmethods of deriving general solutions to universal problems. Thus,from 1630on, the focusof philosophicalinquiries hasignored the particular,concrete,timely and local detailsof everydayhuman affairs: plane,on which natureand instead,it hasshiftedto a higher,Stratospheric general, universaltheories. " The 16th-centuryhumanistshad continued to discussthe issuesof practicalphilosophy;but, like a true intelligentsia, philosophersin the 17th century discussedtheoreticalissuesfrom the sidelines.