By Knud Haakonssen
Greater than thirty eminent students from 9 various international locations have contributed to The Cambridge background of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy - the main accomplished and up to date heritage of the topic on hand in English. For the eighteenth century the dominant notion in philosophy was once human nature and so it truly is round this idea that the paintings is founded. this enables the participants to supply either exact explorations of the epistemological, metaphysical and moral subject matters that proceed to face on the leading edge of philosophy, and to voice a severe perspective to the historiography at the back of this emphasis in philosophical notion. even as there's due sensitivity to old context with specific emphasis at the connections among philosophy, technology, and theology. This judiciously balanced, systematic, and accomplished account of the total of Western philosophy within the interval can be a useful source for philosophers, highbrow historians, theologians, political theorists, historians of technology and literary students.
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Additional info for Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy
Such force as the evidence of rational order retains after these reflections does not permit us to think of nature’s ultimate cause as either transcendent or benevolent. Nature may itself be ‘the necessarily existent Being’ (IX, 216), and her purpose seems to extend no further than the preservation and propagation of species (X, 227). She is blind, ‘pouring forth from her Lap, without Discernment or parental Care, her maim’d and abortive Children’ (XI, 241). Hence, to worship this Nature-God is wholly inappropriate.
The war against the mysterious and miraculous aspects of revealed religion was no longer conducted, as it had been during the previous century, primarily with sophisticated logical reasoning and painstaking biblical exegesis to prove the irrationality of this or that mystery. It was rather the weapon of irony and sarcasm which was used to ridicule as blatantly absurd much of the teaching of revealed religion. The first and most important target was certainly the Christian revelation, although sometimes this was hidden behind the criticism of superstition in pagan or ancient religions, as in Fontenelle’s Histoire des oracles (1687) and De l’origine des fables (1724), or of Judaism, as in Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique.
At the same time, like Voltaire, Rousseau’s priest is appalled by the new materialist or naturalist understanding of humanity (la Mettrie, Helv´etius, d’Holbach), which means a total rejection of his own deistic faith along with the ecclesiastical faith he himself subjects to criticism. 28 In Germany, it was different: there the scattering of English ideas generated something new and positive in the understanding of religion. For one thing, the religious climate was more benign. The protest of Pietism against the dry intellectualism of orthodoxy had created a religious environment that nurtured a surprisingly large number of Germany’s leading thinkers.
Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy by Knud Haakonssen