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Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French Enlightenment [Hardcover]

Henry Vyverberg

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Book Description

August 17, 1989 019505864X 978-0195058642 1ST
In this work, Henry Vyverberg traces the evolution and consequences of a crucial idea in French Enlightenment thought--the idea of human nature. Human nature was commonly seen as a broadly universal, unchanging entity, though perhaps modifiable by geographical, social, and historical factors. Enlightenment empiricism suggested a degree of cultural diversity that has often been underestimated in studies of the age. Evidence here is drawn from Diderot's celebrated Encyclopedia and from a vast range of writing by such Enlightenment notables as Voltaire, Rousseau, and d'Holbach. Vyverberg explains not only the age's undoubted fascination with uniformity in human nature, but also its acknowledgment of significant limitations on that uniformity. He shows that although the Enlightenment's historical sense was often blinkered by its notions of a uniform human nature, there were also cracks in this concept that developed during the Enlightenment itself.

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The scholarship...is firm....Rewarding. To anyone who wishes to become acquainted with the multiplicity of Enlightenment thinking, it provides an erudite introduction."--American Historical Review

"Represents a healthy return to the careful examination of the history of ideas. Vyverberg overturns popular misconceptions with solid proof and great enthusiasm for the Enlightenment. Recommended to students at all levels."--Choice

About the Author

Henry Vyverberg is at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

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