By Henry Vyverberg
During this paintings, Henry Vyverberg lines the evolution and results of a vital inspiration in French Enlightenment thought--the notion of human nature. Human nature used to be typically obvious as a greatly common, unchanging entity, although might be modifiable by means of geographical, social, and ancient components. Enlightenment empiricism prompt a level of cultural variety that has usually been underestimated in reports of the age. proof here's 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 important obstacles on that uniformity. He indicates that even if the Enlightenment's old experience was once usually blinkered by way of its notions of a uniform human nature, there have been additionally cracks during this idea that constructed through the Enlightenment itself.
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Extra info for Human Nature, Cultural Diversity, and the French Enlightenment
226-31. On the influence of the Encyclopedie see the Crocker study just cited, pp. 254-57; John Lough, "The Contemporary Influence of the Encyclopedie,'' in Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, vol. 26 (Geneva: Institut et Musee Voltaire, 1963), pp. 1071-83; and John Lough, "New Light on the Encyclopedia of Diderot and D'Alembert," History Today, 15 (March 1965), pp. 169-75. 7. Among important figures of the French Enlightenment who did not join the Encyclopedic enterprise were Buffon, Condillac, Helvetius, Mably, and Raynal.
Diderot, Oeuvres politiques, ed. Paul Verniere (Paris: Garnier Freres, 1963): Refutation d'Helvetius, p. 472. Crocker, An Age of Crisis, p. xvii, quotes Pierre Bayle, the seventeenth-century pioneer of Enlightenment, along similar lines: "But above all, the conclusion is not certain, this comes from nature, therefore this is good and right. We see in the human species many very bad things, although it cannot be doubted that they are the work of nature. . " Oeuvres diverses, vol. , 95ff. 8. Crocker, An Age of Crisis, p.
Yet even Becker's philosophic, it should be noted, did not deny that there were differences among peoples; the philosophe, Becker wrote, would simply "cancel out. . 7 A handful of historians, however, have taken a more cautious, more qualified position. Lester G. Crocker, for example, stated that any flat assertion of the Encyclopedists' uniformitarian view of human nature must be modified, for this view would have implied a conclusion seldom accepted at the time—that moral law was absolute in all its detail.