Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French by Henry Vyverberg

By Henry Vyverberg

During this paintings, Henry Vyverberg lines the evolution and results of a vital inspiration in French Enlightenment thought--the suggestion of human nature. Human nature was once generally visible as a extensively common, unchanging entity, even though probably modifiable via geographical, social, and old components. Enlightenment empiricism urged a level of cultural range that has usually been underestimated in stories of the age. proof this is drawn from Diderot's celebrated Encyclopedia and from an enormous diversity of writing by way of such Enlightenment notables as Voltaire, Rousseau, and d'Holbach. Vyverberg explains not just the age's undoubted fascination with uniformity in human nature, but additionally its acknowledgment of vital boundaries on that uniformity. He indicates that even if the Enlightenment's ancient experience was once usually blinkered through its notions of a uniform human nature, there have been additionally cracks during this idea that constructed in the course of the Enlightenment itself.

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Extra info for Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French Enlightenment

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10. , p. 139. 11. , vol. 9, ed. Maurice Tourneux (Paris: Gamier, 1879), p. 206 (1 January 1771). 12. Georges A. Perla, "Le philosophe de Jaucourt dans YEncyclopedie," Revue de Synthese, vols. 101-2 (1981), pp. 27-46; Madeleine F. Morris, Le Chevalier de Jaucourt, un ami de la terre (1704-1780) (Geneva: Droz, 1979), pp. 2, 19-59. 13. Morris, Le Chevalier de Jaucourt, pp. 38-59. 14. All this was the product of Diderot's years after the text of the Encyclopedie was completed. There has been, incidentally, a predominant, not unanimous, tendency to skim rather quickly over the embarrassingly moralistic side of Diderot's art criticism.

With natural law—that nebulous concept that so often seemed unconnected with scientific empiricism—the case is less simple. Here it will be useful to glance in turn at the Encyclopedia's three main authors on the subject— Boucher d'Argis, de Jaucourt, and Diderot. The legalist Boucher d'Argis wrote both on the "law of peoples" and the ' 'law of nature, or natural law. "28 The law of peoples, he explained, is based From Nature to Human Nature 27 on "natural reason," and is observed everywhere. '' The first natural law is the consciousness of a creator; others are the urge toward peace, the need for food, the imperative of sexual pleasure, and the desire to live in society.

Amsterdam: M. Rey, 1776-1777), vol. 4 (1777), p. 19. 18. "NATURE, . . )," Encyclopedie, our Dictionnaire raisonne des 32 HUMAN NATURE, CULTURAL DIVERSITY, AND THE FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT sciences, des arts et des metiers, vol. 11 ("Neuchatel: Samuel Faulche," 1765), pp. 40-41. 19. For a recent defense of natural law, see Alessandro Passerin d'Entreves, Natural Law, 2nd ed. (London: Hutchinson Universal Library, 1970), pp. 119-72 and passim. 20. A multitude of historical works exist on religion, political theory, and science.

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