Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity by Stephen Edelston Toulmin

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 remarkable advances in all fields of human pastime, this imaginative and prescient perpetuated a hidden but chronic schedule: the myth that human nature and society can be outfitted into specified and potential rational different types. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its outcomes for our current and destiny world.

"By displaying how varied the final 3 centuries may were if Montaigne, instead of Descartes, have been taken as a kick off point, Toulmin is helping ruin the semblance that the Cartesian quest for sure bet is intrinsic to the character of technology or philosophy."—Richard M. Rorty, college of Virginia

"[Toulmin] has now tackled maybe his so much bold subject matter of all. . . . His target is not anything under to put earlier than us an account of either the origins and the clients of our distinctively glossy global. 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, big apple assessment of Books

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In the moral theologiansand philosophers Middle Ages and the Renaissance, handled moral issuesusing caseanalyseslike those that still have a place in Anglo-American common case law. In the 1540s,however,AntoineArnaud,a closefriend of the mathematicianBlaisePascal, was indicted in the ecclesiastical court at parison a chatgeof heresy,at the insistenceof the Jesuits:in his defense,pascal published a seriesof anonymousProuincial Lenqs. The sarcasmof his lettersridiculed theJesuitsferociously,and brought the whole enterprise of "caseethics" into lastingdiscredit.

The recoveryof ancienthistoryand literatureonly intensified their feeling for the kaleidoscopicdiversityand contextualdependenceof \flhatIs the ProblemAboutModernity? The ground was first prepared for redirecting the arts of narrative (which earlierhad playedapanin caselaw or moral theology)into the "novel of character"and other new literary genres. scholarswere quite asconcernedwith circumstantialquesRenaissance tionsof practicein medicine,law,or morals,aswith anytimeless,universal manersof philosophicaltheory.

All problems in the practice of law and medicine are "timely". In them, "time is of the essence"; and they are decided, in Aristotle's phrase,pros ton kairon, "as occasion requires". The relevant sumsmay havebeen performed impeccably;but,if the resultingacrionis unduly delayed,the decisionwill become "irrational". For 16th-century scholars,the very model of a "rational enterprise" wasnot Sciencebut [aw. Ahundredyearslater,the shoewason the other foot. For Descartesand his successors, timely questionswere no concern of philosophy:instead,their aimwasto bring to light permanentstructures underlying all the changeablephenomenaof Nature.

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