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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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English writers of the period speak of “enlightening”
and “enlightened peoples,” also of the “historical age”;
in French L'âge de lumière, l'âge philosophique, siècle
des lumières, siècle de la bienfaisance, siècle de
in German Aufklärung and Zeitalter der
in Italian Illuminismo. Enlightenment denotes
a historical period in the same sense as the terms
Reformation, Renaissance, and Baroque. It is broadly
co-extensive with the eighteenth century, beginning
with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the writings of
Locke and Bayle, and ending with either the Declara-
tion of Independence of 1776 or the French Revolution
of 1789 or the defeat of postrevolutionary France in
1815 and the romantic reaction. Some historians,
following Troeltsch, regard the eighteenth century
(rather than the sixteenth) as the beginning of modern
history. In this view, the individualism and toleration
of the Renaissance and Reformation, the cosmopoli-
tanism following the opening up of the New World
and the East as well as the scientific advances of the
seventeenth century were merely programmatic and
did not lead to significant social, cultural, and political
changes until the eighteenth century. Naturally there
is no monolithic spirit of the age to be discerned;
traditional ideas persisted, while the tendencies of
romanticism made their appearance and left a strong
imprint. The Enlightenment then represents a move-
ment within the period to which it lent its name and
to which it imparted its lasting significance. Its aspira-
tions and anxieties, its debates and methods are still
with us in their original form; though its values have
been belittled by subsequent reaction, they appear
increasingly meaningful to the survivors of the catas-
trophes of recent history. The Enlightenment from the
outset has been a European movement. Unlike earlier
periods, which affected particular aspects of life or
certain classes of the population, it witnessed and
heralded sweeping social change. It did not become
effective at the same rate in the various countries of

It originated in England both as regards structural
change and the reform of intellectual and moral ideas.
While it was a reality in the English-speaking world,
it remained a program and sometimes a utopia in other
parts of Europe. The Enlightenment was a self-
conscious and highly articulate movement, presenting
common basic conceptions, a common methodological
approach, and reform proposals based on commonly
held values. Its thought is basically a social philosophy,
starting from social premisses, concerned with social
ends, and viewing even religion and art in social terms.
(This article is devoted to a delineation of the basic
tenets of this philosophy; it does not offer a circum-
stantial account of the course of the Enlightenment
in different countries, nor does it deal in detail with
the fields of art, religion, and natural science.) The
Enlightenment reached its climax in the mid-
eighteenth century in Paris and Scotland; in both these
centers coordinated fellowships of thinkers and men
of the world developed the body of thought which is
peculiar to the Enlightenment. The ideas and quota-
tions in this article are therefore derived from the
writings of the philosophes responsible for Diderot's
and D'Alembert's Encyclopédie of 1751 and of the
Scottish thinkers from Francis Hutcheson and David
Hume onwards, including their English followers
Edward Gibbon and Jeremy Bentham. The thought of
the Italian and German Enlightenment, though distin-
guished by outstanding contributors, was derivative,
starting from English and French models and merging
them with the respective national traditions. In Italy
Cesare Beccaria and Pietro and Alessandro Verri
followed in the footsteps of Steele and Addison's Spec-
and Tatler, of Montesquieu, Hume, and the
Encyclopédie. In Germany the Enlightenment, though
never dominant, was largely influenced by the Univer-
sity of Göttingen founded by George II of England
in 1734, whose historians and students (including Justus
Möser and Freiherr vom Stein) echoed the thought of
David Hume, William Robertson, Adam Ferguson,
Gibbon, and Adam Smith; Johann Christoph Gottsched
started by translating the Spectator, the young Lessing
translated Francis Hutcheson and Diderot; Kant set
out, after Leibniz, from Hume and Rousseau,
Mendelssohn from Locke and Shaftesbury; Winckel-
mann was steeped in English thought, and so was
Herder in addition to his debt to the French life sci-

Forerunners. According to D'Alembert's “Discours
préliminaire” to the Encyclopédie, the Enlightenment
brought to fruition the aspirations of two earlier pe-


riods of enlightenment, namely, classical Greece and
the Renaissance and Reformation. Greek ideas,
supported by such Latin authors as Seneca and Vergil,
made a great impact upon the thought of the eight-
eenth century. While the old metaphysics, Hobbes's
“Aristotelity,” was relegated to the background, the
individualism and the conception of knowledge as
being merely provisional, the Platonic application of
mathematics, his Eros and Kalokagathia, an Aristotel-
ian conception of nature, the anthropology and ethics
of Stoic philosophy, a Protagorean humanism as well
as Plutarch's notions of nation and liberty—echoes of
all these views reveal the continuity of the thought
of the period with the past. However, in contrast to
Renaissance and humanism, the interest in classical
models was not a matter of imitation of the Ancients.
The “Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes” had
exposed the treasures of classical art and scholarship
to a new critical evaluation of their intrinsic value.
Voltaire and his followers went so far as to reject the
Greek heritage because of its failure to order its social
and political problems; others found refuge from the
discontents of their own time in its beauty and thought.
A spate of outstanding writing on the history of Greece
and Rome all through the period serves as witness to
the living presence of the classical world. The young
Gibbon gave expression to the representative modern
attitude: “I think that the study of literature, that habit
of alternatively becoming a Greek or a Roman, a disci-
ple of Zeno or of Epicurus, is admirably adapted to
develop and exercise... the rare power of going back
to simple ideas, of seizing and combining first princi-
ples” (Gibbon, Essai sur l'étude de la littérature [1761],
Para. XLVII).

Traces of the thought of medieval forerunners from
Roger Bacon onwards can be widely discerned in
Enlightenment writings. The decisive forerunners were
Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton in the field of method-
ology, Francis Bacon and Locke both for their substan-
tive philosophy and their empirical approach, Grotius,
Bodin, and Hobbes for their social and political
thought. In general terms, the period was characterized
by a shift of emphasis from old to new anthropological
metaphysics, from the preoccupation with natural sci-
ence to history and the social and life sciences, a turn-
ing away from dogma and traditional conventions, a
critical reappraisal of established authority in the fields
of religion, politics, philosophy, and the arts. The
human situation and man's liberty, the place of man
in society, the interrelation of social and natural phe-
nomena, their “uniformity amidst variety” come to
condition the guiding lines of thought. The Enlighten-
ment was an iconoclastic movement intent both on
interpreting and ushering in social change. Radical
structural changes were occurring in society; they help
to explain why certain ideas came to be regarded as
relevant while others were rejected. In England the
new ideas were largely an expression of contemporary
reality; elsewhere, by way of reforms, and often only
of utopias, they merely gave evidence of a challenge
to a historical situation which lagged behind a new
consciousness of what was possible and desirable.

Underlying Structural Change. Gibbon, in The His-
tory of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

(1776-88), Ch. 38, distinguished three levels of social
change: the technological improvements, the legal-
political-economic infrastructure, and the repre-
sentative achievements of culture. There was visible
change occurring in the first level throughout the pe-
riod. The scientific inventions, especially of the seven-
teenth century, found their practical application in an
increasing control of the forces of nature. The employ-
ment of new techniques and tools produced greater
efficiency in agriculture. The modes of industrial pro-
duction changed gradually from manufacture to
“machinofacture.” New roads and canals were con-
structed to carry the growing internal and foreign
trade. The improved communications opened up an
era of travel (including the Grand Tour) all over
Europe. The advances in navigation and the art of war
brought the continents of the earth within regular and
easy reach of one another, thus consummating the
previous great discoveries. These technological ad-
vances represented clearly “more and better” in
comparison with earlier times; there was visible a
well-defined progress which gave its imprint to a dis-
tinct stage of historical development or evolution. The
traditional organization of society proved to be
inadequate in the face of technological change. Small
agricultural holdings gave place to large-scale farming,
and surplus rural population converged on the towns.
Competition and the division of labor made the secu-
rity and rigidity of the guild system obsolete. The new
commercial ventures involved risk-taking by individ-
uals; but individual initiative, though unbounded in its
aspirations, found itself hemmed in by a network of
governmental regulations and inhibitions. Thus the
power of the state came to be felt as abuse and was
assailed by reform proposals and by rebellion.

Legal, fiscal, administrative, political, religious, and
educational reforms were put into practice, by parlia-
ment and private initiative in Britain and the small
republics, and elsewhere by enlightened despots like
Frederick the Great, Joseph II, Leopold II, and
Catherine. Many reform proposals, from the Abbé St.
Pierre to Bentham, remained only on paper. Where
the new aspirations were blocked (as, e.g., Turgot's
reform in 1776) rebellions resulted, and finally, the


French Revolution. While technological change
proceeded under its own momentum, the reform of
institutions involved human judgment and needed ac-
tion to give it direction. The desirability and possible
scope of reform posed questions which could not be

The traditional class structure was being eroded in
the process. The circle of citizens with a say in public
affairs widened with the rise of the new bourgeoisie
and its growing affluence. The progressive levelling of
the distinctions of rank was visibly preparing the
ground for the polarization of the population into the
two classes of the rich, the employers, the exploiters
and the poor, the employed, the exploited. The new
middle class was imposing its values upon society, using
commerce and education as vehicles of social change.
In effect a new society came into being. Voltaire
observed it in London in 1734 (Lettres philosophiques,
Lettre X), and Hume, in his seminal essay “On National
Characters” in 1748, described England as “a mixture
of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. The people
in authority are composed of gentry and merchants.
All sects of religion are to be found among them; and
the great liberty which every man enjoys, allows him
to display the manners peculiar to him. Hence the
English, of any people in the universe, have the least
national character, unless this very singularity may pass
for such” (Hume, Essays Moral and Political [1741-42],
3rd ed. [1748], Essay XXI).

Alessandro Verri noted in 1766 that in London toler-
ance and civil liberties were a reality while in Paris
they remained philosophical ideas (quoted by Sergio
Romagnoli, ed., Il Caffè [reprint 1960], p. XLVI). On
the cultural plane, far-reaching structural changes
accompanied the rise of the new social order, affecting
the substance and teaching of scientific thought, of
religion, and of art. The man of letters and the artist
acquired a measure of freedom from court and clerical
patronage, and emerged as new professional groups.
The hold of clericalism lessened, and so did papal
domination following the widespread elimination of
the Jesuit order. Dissent was thriving in the new, less
hierarchical society; religion gained a new and
deepened meaning in various strata of society, from
philosophical deism and Rousseau's religion de Genève
to the popular revival movements of Pietism and

These currents were advanced by the development
of the printed media of communication which, like
other earlier inventions and discoveries, assumed only
now their full potential. A spate of printed material
sprang up, periodicals, encyclopedias, novels, histories,
newspapers as well as book clubs and circulating
libraries. Periodicals were numbered by the hundreds;
in 1776, the year of American independence and Adam
Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the
Wealth of Nations,
a daily average of 33,000 copies
of newspapers was sold in Britain; Voltaire's books
reached a sale of one and a half million copies within
seven years. Instant translations and personal contact
between authors of different nations effected a cosmo-
politanism far beyond that achieved in previous periods
by the common use of Latin and French. Steele's and
Addison's periodicals, The Tatler (1709-11) and The
(1711-12), exerted an epoch-making influ-
ence as models of truly civilized living; they were soon
imitated in Germany, France, and Italy. The
universities in general were not instrumental in foster-
ing change, largely because of their ties with the
established churches. Where these commitments were
loose, as in Scotland and Göttingen, they played a
leading role.

Intellectuals overcame their isolation by forming
circles and meeting in coffeehouses and, in France, in
salons. Thus the French philosophes combined in
producing the Enlightenment's central enterprise, the
Encyclopédie edited by Diderot and D'Alembert from
1751 onwards. The leading French authors, scientists,
architects, artists, from Voltaire to Rousseau, from
Buffon to Lamarck, took a hand in the enterprise.
Previously established encyclopedias, in particular
Louis Moreri's Grand dictionnaire historique (1674),
had devoted their space mainly to biographical,
genealogical, mythological, theological, geographical,
and military-historical entries. (Even Bayle's Diction-
naire historique et critique,
1695-97, though con-
temptuous of Moreri, did not break with the established
tradition.) By contrast, the Encyclopédie contained
systematic and analytical articles on “Man,” “Society,”
“Method,” “Nature,” as well as on the natural and
social sciences and the various handicrafts. Like all the
literature treated in this article, the Encyclopédie was
an avant-garde piece of writing, the contents of which
allow us to reconstruct a profile of the Enlightenment
as a movement. (Side by side with these productions,
the period witnessed the growth of a new cheap enter-
tainment literature as well as a greater diffusion of
writings in the old tradition, which aimed at the new
enlarged reading public. Although popular reading
habits and crowd behavior have come to fascinate some
modern historians, such publications are ignored here,
as they hardly contributed to the march of ideas, that
is, to the incivilimento due to man's creative liberty.)

The Science of Human Nature and the Science of
Continental thinkers like to take as the
starting-point of modern thought man's three “humili-
ations,” namely, the recognition that the earth is not
the center of the universe; that man, rather than being


created in the divine image, is a creature of nature
like the other animals; and that his reason is subject
to the passions and subconscious urges. In the view
of the Enlightenment these “humiliations” appear as
intellectual conquests which spell out man's peculiar
responsibilities: these are the scientific discovery of
truths, the realization of individual happiness in a
viable society, and the exploration of the conditions
and limits of liberty. In place of a static conception
of a divine, immutable order a new sociological per-
spective takes over; society and culture are regarded
as products of history, i.e., of man's free and creative
will, and as subject to change. The existence of man
in society, what he is, and what he can do, become
the basic questions to be explored. “Instead of follow-
ing the high a priori road [of metaphysical enquiry],
would it not be better humbly to investigate the de-
sires, fears, passions and opinions of the human being,
and to discover from them what means an able legis-
lator can employ to connect the private happiness of
each individual with the observance of those laws
which secure the well-being of the whole?” (Gibbon,
“Abstract of Blackstone's Commentaries,” quoted by
William Holdsworth, A History of English Law,
London [1938], XII, 753).

The Encyclopédie views man as “a feeling, deliber-
ating, thinking being who walks freely the surface of
the world... the first... among all other animals,
who lives in society, has invented sciences and arts,
has a goodness and malevolence quite his own, has
given himself masters, has made laws for himself...
to know him in all his qualities one must know him
in his passion” (article “Homme”). Man is the product
of nature and of history, as Hume points out in his
epoch-making Treatise of Human Nature (1739);
“There is a general course of nature in human actions
... There are also characters peculiar to different
nations and particular persons, as well as common to
mankind... the different stations of life influence the
whole fabric, external and internal.... Man cannot
live without society, and cannot be associated without
government... [whose] actions and objects cause such
a diversity, and at the same time maintain such an
uniformity in human life” (Book II, Part III, Sec. I).

The course of nature, individual and national char-
acter, the inequality of classes, man's sociability, uni-
formity amidst variety—these notions of the science
of human nature enter into the modern social sciences
as basic propositions. It is necessary to know man's
natural propensities and his historical achievements.
They teach, however, that “man may mistake the
objects of his pursuit; he may misapply his industry,
and misplace his improvements.... [Therefore] it is
of more importance to know the condition to which
we ourselves should aspire than that which our ances-
tors may be supposed to have left” (Adam Ferguson,
An Essay on the History of Civil Society [1767], Part
I, Sec. I). It is not enough to ask what man is and what
he can do. The answers to these questions supply the
raw material for the crucial enterprise of giving direc-
tion to human activity or at least preventing it from
self-destruction. Within the limits set by nature and
history there is a dichotomy between what is and what
ought to be. Men “cannot change their natures. All
that they can do is to change their situation” (Hume,
Treatise, Book III [1740], Part II, Sec. VII).

The ought of the Enlightenment is therefore not an
appeal so much to the individual, the product of nature
and history, as to the advisors of the legislator who
can change the environment in which men and nations
live. Thus Adam Smith defines “political economy...
as a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator”
(Book IV, Introduction), who must have the welfare
of both the individual and society in mind, must bal-
ance and protect the concerns of various groups of
people and of various localities with a view to
adjudicating what the state should take upon itself and
what it should leave to individual initiative. If the
article “Homme” in the Encyclopédie had dealt with
facts of nature and history, that on “Société” establishes
the general principle of social action: “The rationale
of human society is based upon this general and simple
principle: I want to be happy; but I live with men
who, like myself, want to be happy as well, each
according to his own light: let us then search for the
means of procuring our happiness by procuring theirs,
or at least without ever harming it.” The balanced
emphasis on both man and society preserved Enlight-
enment thought from the extremes of nineteenth-
century individualism and holism.

Progress and Perfectibility. “Man is susceptible of
improvement and has in himself a principle of
progression and a desire for perfection.... He is in
some measure the artificer of his own frame as well
as his fortune, and is destined from the first age of his
being to invent and contrive.... He is perpetually
busied in reformations, and is continually wedded to
his errors” (Ferguson [1767], Part I, Sec. I). The human
condition is not necessarily immutable or retrogressive
owing to the Fall. On the contrary, undeniable and
cumulative progress can be seen to occur in the fields
of science, technology, and the applied arts. Progress
is a fact of history. The cosmos evolves, the species
is transformed, the individual grows from helpless
imperfection to his full stature. Mechanical and bio-
logical models and analogies irresistibly influence the
understanding of the historical process. What distin-
guishes mankind particularly from the animal world,


says Buffon, is the perfectibility of the species and of
the institutions of society (Buffon, Histoire naturelle,
XIII, Paris [1765], 3-4). The concept of perfectibility
as a process implies the actual imperfection of society,
just as enlightenment, according to Kant (Was ist
1784) denotes a process rather than an
end product. In his influential writings on history,
Turgot compares progress to a storm-lashed sea; men
must commit a thousand errors to arrive at the truth
(“Plan de deux discours sur l'histoire universelle”
[1751], in Oeuvres de Turgot, Paris, I [1913], 277, 314).
D'Alembert emphasizes the provisional and, perhaps,
exceptional character of enlightened progress: “It took
centuries to make a beginning; it will take centuries
to bring it to an end.... Barbarism lasts for centuries;
it seems to be our natural element; reason and good
taste are only passing” (Discours préliminaire, Ency-
1751). “Man's progress... has been irregular
and various... yet the experience of four thousand
years should enlarge our hopes and diminish our
apprehensions... [though] the merit of discovery has
too often been stained with cruelty and fanaticism: and
the intercourse of nations has produced the communi-
cation of disease and prejudice” (Gibbon, Decline and
Ch. 38). Bentham expressly rejects Dr. Priestley's
“expectation that man will ultimately attain a degree
of happiness and knowledge which far surpasses our
present conditions.... Perfect happiness belongs to
the imaginary regions of philosophy... it may be
possible to diminish the influence of, but not to destroy,
the sad and mischievous passions” (Influence of Time
and Place in Matters of Legislation
[1802], Ch. V,
Works, I, 193-94). The conception of progress is based
upon historical experience, and not any longer on
metaphysical speculation; therefore it is not necessarily
cyclical or unilinear; it is a matter of judgment and
probabilities like all other phenomena.

Stages of Evolution. Antoine Yves Goguet (De
l'Origine des loix, des arts, et des sciences,
Paris [1758],
I, 16) distinguished two classes of positive (historical)
laws, namely, those “which are, or at least ought to
be, common to all the different kinds of society,” and
those “which are peculiar to a society which has made
some progress in agriculture and commerce and in the
more refined arts of life.” The reconstruction of the
stages of human evolution is a means of determining
one's own place in the history of civilization. The task
is undertaken on the basis of historical research as well
as comparative and ethnological observations; where
there are missing links in the record, judicious con-
jectures have to complement the picture. Hume,
Montesquieu, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson,
John Millar, and others delineate subsequent stages of
evolution. According to Smith “the natural course of
things is first agriculture, then manufactures, and finally
foreign commerce [though] this order has been in many
respects inverted” (Book III, Ch. I). Millar distinguishes
the stages of barbarism and matriarchy, the pastoral
age, the age of agriculture, that of the useful arts and
manufactures, and finally “great opulence and the
culture of the elegant arts.” The tripartition, later used
by Comte and Hegel, is rather usual.

“Conjectural history” does not imply a purely logical
reconstruction of the origins (as has been frequently
suggested). Rousseau's account of the evolution of soci-
ety owes something to the uncontrolled flights of the
imagination. However, in general, the conjectures used
by Montesquieu, Smith, Robertson, Ferguson, et al.,
are not the “large” ones which are used to prove a
case, but conjectures of detail based upon experience
and historical probability, in the sense in which
Niebuhr was to say in 1804: “I am a historian, for I
can trace a complete picture from individual extant
data, and I know where parts are missing and how
to complement them” (DieBriefe Barthold Georg
Berlin [1926], I, 317). Annals may be written
without conjectures, history requires a judicious sense
of what is possible and probable, “a just observation”
and “the knowledge of important consequences” of the
progress of mankind which “they build in every subse-
quent age on foundations formerly laid” (Ferguson
[1767], Part I, Sec. I). In this sense Robertson was one
of the first to trace the history of the Middle Ages as
a step in the history of European civilization. The
introduction of the concepts of progress and evolution
did not entail a deterministic or teleological philosophy
of history. In the hands of the authors of the Enlight-
enment, most highly developed by Millar, it amounted
to a taxonomy dealing with the accumulative character
of objective knowledge and rational technique, a sober
illustration of especially important types of structural
innovation in the course of social change.

In particular, the conception of evolutionary stages
served to combat the naive attribution of cultural,
political, and social innovation to the legendary legis-
lators of previous historiography. In the process of
historical reconstruction all relevant variables have to
be taken into account, whether technological and bio-
logical, structural or cultural. An “infinite variety of
circumstances” (Turgot) determines the organic growth
of society which arises “from the instincts, not from
the speculations of men... the circumstances in which
[they] are placed... the result from human action,
but not the executions of human design” (Ferguson;
similarly Hume). Human contrivance leads to unfore-
seen consequences (the “heterogeneity of ends”—fol-
lowing Wilhelm Wundt's psychological terminology).
However, this insight does not entail the helpless


acceptance by Historismus of the status quo. For the
Enlightenment it establishes the need for a closer anal-
ysis of historical sequences; it calls for the development
of the theoretical social sciences whose task it is, in
the words of Karl Popper, “to try to anticipate the
unintended consequences of our actions” (Popper,
“Reason or Revolution?,” European Journal of Sociol-
[1970], 260).

Nature. Nature, reason, liberty, and utility are
preeminently among the most used keywords of the
period. “There is scarcely a word that is used in a
vaguer way than that of Nature... hardly ever does
it attach itself to a precise idea (Oeuvres diverses de M.
Pierre Bayle,
[1727], III, 713). The Encyclopédie empha-
sizes the many different uses of the term, ranging from
physical necessity to utopian idolization, from Hobbes's
awareness of man's animality to an Aristotelian con-
ception of “what every being is in its most perfect
state.” One speaks of nature and natural history in the
context of religion, the soul, the law, reason, sentiment,
taste, virtue, happiness, innocence, society, providence,
physical necessity, order, and liberty. The concept is
brandished as a weapon in the urge to free mankind
from the curse of original sin, against the world of
conventions and of tradition, as, e.g., superstition, prej-
udice, the belief in miracles and the reliance on grace
and revelation, the hierarchical order of society and
governmental constraints of all kinds; all these are
rejected as being unnatural. At the same time, nature
imposes its own constraints, not only through physical
necessity, not only by way of an aristocratic Epicure-
anism, but in the Puritan values of the rising commer-
cial bourgeoisie; work, frugality, usefulness, sexual mo-
rality, and benevolence are regarded as natural, while
passions are not.

However, in the view of the Scots and the Encyclo-
nature is neutral in the sense that it needs to
be explored to provide the empirical foundation of the
social sciences. Hume defines the term according to
the context in which it is used: justice is an artificial
in contrast to a natural virtue, artificial yet not
arbitrary; it is both socially determined and a sine qua
for the preservation of society. But “in another
sense of the word, as no principle of the human mind
is more natural than a sense of virtue, so no virtue
is more natural than justice” (Hume, Treatise, Book III,
Part II, Sec. I).

The desire for justice, that is, the awareness of
suffering inflicted and the urge to restore happiness,
as well as the tendencies to improvement and cultiva-
tion, are natural propensities in man which serve “to
obviate the casual abuses of passion” which itself,
however, is natural as well. “If we are asked therefore,
where the state of nature is to be found? we may
answer, it is here; and it matters not whether we are
understood to speak in the island of Great Britain, at
the Cape of Good Hope, or in the Straits of Magellan”
(Ferguson, 1767). The hut is as natural as the palace;
the physical attributes of man are as natural as his
intellectual and moral propensities and the laws which
may be observed to obtain in physical and social rela-
tions. Nature is the raw material on which the science
of human nature is based, and from which the under-
standing of the necessity, the possibility, and the
limitation of the science of the legislator is derived.
In Baconian terms, we must know nature in order to
control it.

Liberty. The concept of liberty is hardly less
ambiguous than that of nature. For some thinkers of
the eighteenth century like Mandeville, Helvétius, and
de Sade, it means the negative freedom from con-
straint and the right to self-realization. For others, like
Schiller, it is self-perfection. There is a rather general
consensus that the progress of civilization is due to
individual initiative and spontaneous inventiveness.
Liberty of action and of thought are the prerequisites
for bringing about great things. However, in contrast
with the rhetoric of Rousseau and the French Revolu-
tion, liberty is not regarded as an attribute of human
nature. It is a gift of culture, inseparable from civilized
society, the great achievement of European history
since the Italian late twelfth century. According to
Voltaire (Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations
[1756], Ch. LXXXIII), the citadins of Italy were differ-
ent from the bourgeois of the northern countries of
Europe in that they admitted loyalty only to their own
republic rather than to feudal masters. William
Robertson (A View of the Progress of Society in Europe
[1769], Works [1834], III, 129ff., 274ff.) and Gibbon
(Decline and Fall, Ch. 56) take up the same theme,
which is developed with greater theoretical finesse by
John Millar (The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks
[1778], Ch. V, Sec. III) and especially by Adam Smith
in the Wealth of Nations, Book III, Ch. III: “On the
Rise and Progress of Cities and Towns after the Fall
of the Roman Empire”; Smith ascribes also “the pres-
ent grandeur of Holland” to its “republican form of
government” (Book V, Ch. II, Article IV). Rousseau
in the Second Discourse (1755) and the Lettre à
(1758) and Jean-Louis Delolme in his Con-
stitution de l'Angleterre
(1771) feel authorized to pro-
nounce on questions of liberty because of their experi-
ence as citizens of the small republic of Geneva. All
are agreed that the process which started in the city
republics has come to its perfection in the England
of the day, the only large country ever to have secured
liberty to its citizens. This widespread literature deal-
ing with the constitutions of the free peoples found


its culmination in Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de
Sismondi's Histoire des républiques italiennes au moyen
(History of the Italian Republics, 1803-18), which
treats history as the history of liberty, a notion which
inspired the work of Benjamin Constant, Auguste
Comte, and Hegel.

Though a precious gift of culture, liberty, for the
Enlightenment, is not an end in itself. It is a means
to the attainment of happiness, a necessary, though not
a sufficient, condition of the good life. However, if the
individual is to be free from restraint, is liberty not
incompatible with order and good government? Locke
had already rejected Filmer's definition of “'liberty'
for everyone to do as he lists, to live as he pleases,
and not to be tied by any law”; he called such a
condition “the perfect condition of slavery.” In Locke's
view, “Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence
from others, which cannot be where there is no law”
(Of Civil Government [1690], Book II, Chs. IV and VI).
According to Hume only the madman is fully free; the
absence of law and good government entails lack of
liberty and security of individuals. Montesquieu
disparages absolute liberty as a merely rhetorical no-
tion and defines a free people as “that which enjoys
a form of government established by law” (Mes pensées,
Ch. XXII, No. 631). The Encyclopédie distinguishes
moral, natural, civil, political liberty, and liberty of
thought. Natural liberty is the individuals' right to
happiness and self-fulfilment “under the condition that
they don't abuse it to the detriment of others”; civil
liberty “to live under the rule of law; the better the
laws, the better the liberty”; political or English liberty
exists when everyone is conscious of his security...
“good civil and public laws safeguard this liberty”
(article “Liberté”). Liberties, rather than liberty in the
abstract, are predicated by the writers of the Enlight-
enment including Adam Smith, the protagonist of
laissez-faire under the rule of law, who, following
Hume, sees “a continuous state of war with their
neighbours, and of servile dependency upon their su-
periors” as the alternative to “order and good govern-
ment” (Smith, Book III, Ch. IV). Liberty requires and
justifies the reform of onerous laws, but not individual
license; it aims at reconciling the duties and rights of
the individual with his role as a citizen. However, this
prevailing conception of liberty is opposed to that of
the later Diderot who makes allowances for a capri-
cious liberty of the artist which resembles closely the
self-willed arbitrariness of the masters of feudal courts
with their admiring and sycophantic followers. It is
equally at variance with the tendencies of popular
eighteenth-century writers who, unlike the Scottish
historians and Voltaire, instead of following Thucydides
and Xenophon, turned “to the extravagant repre
sentations of Plutarch, Diodorus Curtius and other
romancers of the same class (who) ranted about liberty
and patriotism... (as) something eternally and
intrinsically good, distinct from the blessings which it
generally produced” (Macaulay, “On Mitford's History
of Greece” [1824] in Complete Works, London [1879],
VII, 686). Historians like Charles Rollin and political
writers like H. F. Daguesseau thus aspired to a revival
of republican Rome, holding up an idealized vision of
a political order which was certainly not based on the
insights of the science of human nature. Though the
vision was unrealistic, it contributed effectively to the
breakup of the existing order.

Reason. The Enlightenment has frequently been
arraigned for its overemphasis on abstract reason and
its neglect of imagination. Its representative thinkers
break with the rationalism and the esprit de système
of those who precede them. Locke's philosophy is their
philosophical bible, just as the detractors of the
Enlightenment later agree with de Maistre's verdict
that “philosophy begins with contempt for Locke.”
“The word reason... has different significations:
sometimes it is taken for true and clear principles;
sometimes for clear and fair deductions from those
principles; and sometimes for the cause, and particu-
larly the final cause. But the consideration I shall have
of it here is a signification different from all these...”
(Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding
[1690], Book IV, Ch. XVII, Para. 1). Locke's concern
is with “the original certainty, evidence and extent of
human knowledge, together with the grounds and
degrees of Belief, Opinion and Assent,” in short, with
reasoning or the discursive faculty, with proof, classifi-
cation, and deduction. There are marginal intimations
of the power of reason to provide a Baconian art of
discovery (ars inveniendi). On the whole, however,
Locke dwells on the limits of reason:

It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his
line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the
ocean. It is well he knows that it is long enough to reach
the bottom at such places as are necessary to direct his
voyage, and caution him against running upon shoals that
may ruin him. Our business here is not to know all things,
but those which concern our conduct. If we can find out
those measures whereby a rational creature, put in that state
which man is in in this world, may and ought to govern
his opinions, and actions depending thereon, we need not
be troubled that some other things escape our knowledge

(Book I, Ch. I, Para. 6).

Locke's investigation of human understanding is thus
part of the science of human nature which comes to
characterize the Enlightenment: It serves as the basis
for practical conduct; and though the formulation here
given seems to point to individual conduct, in practice,


because of the weaknesses inherent in individual
reasoning, it points to the science of the legislator as
the only area in which contriving and reforming man
is not necessarily out of his depth.

There is another, epistemological aspect to Locke's
philosophy which expresses itself in his idealism and
sensationalism, an aspect which interests professional
philosophers, and which was to make a great impact
on the theory of art and nineteenth-century materi-
alism (beginning with eighteenth-century sensa-
tionalists like Condillac and La Mettrie). However, for
the social philosophers of the Enlightenment, the
discovery that moral and material qualities are “not
qualities in objects, but perceptions of the mind...
has little or no influence on practice” (Hume, Treatise,
Book III, Part I, Sec. I). What counts, is the rejection
of metaphysical first causes which results in the setting
free of the “plain, historical method” of experience,
observation, and experiment.

This consideration applies also to Hume's skeptical
view of the limitations of reason. “Reason is nothing
but a wonderful and unintelligible instinct... this
instinct... arises from past observation and experi-
ence.... Reason is the discovery of truth and false-
hood... our passions, volitions and actions...
[cannot] be pronounced either true or false... reason
... can have an influence only after two ways: either
when it excites a passion, by informing us of the exist-
ence of something which is a proper object of it; or
when it discovers the connection of causes and
effects.... All knowledge resolves itself into proba-
bility...,” that is, the experience of many, of the
past, and of Trial and Error. Though “understanding,
when it acts alone, and according to its most general
principles, entirely subverts itself,” yet “when reason
is lively and mixes itself with some propensity it ought
to be assented to” (Hume, Treatise, Book I, Part III,
Sec. XVI; Book III, Part I, Sec. I; Book I, Part IV,
Sec. VII). For the alternative to reason is imagination
which, when acting unchecked by reason, leads into
superstition, illusion, and fanaticism. Imagination
controlled by reason, the creative human nature
protected from its destructive propensities by the
legislator and by education—this is the gist of the
theory of knowledge underlying the quest of the good
society of the reformers in the Enlightenment.

The awareness of the limitations of the human un-
derstanding rather than its overestimation determines
also the attitude of the Encyclopédie. “All certitude
which is not mathematical demonstration, is only ex-
treme probability. There is no other historical certi-
tude” (article “Histoire”). D'Alembert in the “Discours
préliminaire” of the Encyclopédie denigrates Descartes'
“believing he could explain everything,” and extols
Newton's insistence that scientific knowledge is merely
provisional, and that conjectures and hypotheses must
be presented as such and subjected to tests. He disap-
proves the application of logic and the “spirit of dis-
cussion” to the fields of literature and art because “the
passions and tastes have their own sort of logic”
(specifically Pascal's logique du coeur). The dissection
of the psychology of love (by Marivaux, Prévost, and
others) has ushered in a “species of the metaphysics
of the heart,” and “this 'anatomy of the soul' has even
slipped into our conversations; people make disser-
tations, they no longer converse; and our societies have
lost their principal ornaments—warmth and gaiety”
(ibid.). Diderot contrasts reason “coldly perceived”
unfavorably with the “brilliant and sublime” imagina-
tion: “Locke has seen, Shaftesbury has created” (article
“Génie”). He calls mathematicians “bad metaphysi-
cians... bad actors... bad politicians... such things
cannot be expressed in terms of X and Y. They depend
on a judicious observation of the intricate flow of life”
(undated letter, in Lettres à Sophie Volland, Paris
[1930], III, 279).

Whatever their weaknesses, the thinkers of the
Enlightenment pondered the problem of knowledge
more seriously than the thinkers of possibly any other
period. The customary strictures of their work are
largely derived from nonrational “flights of the imagi-
nation” and from the wish to defend old bastions and
temples. Far from being an abstract rationalist, Diderot
goes rather to the extreme of spontaneous, personal
knowledge. In the article “Éclecticisme” in the
Encyclopédie he foreshadows “the end of all schools”
of modern philosophy. Prejudice, tradition, antiquity,
and public opinion must be subjected by the philoso-
pher to a rational analysis and experience, “peculiarly
and personally his own.” This view has been said (by
Paul Hazard, la Pensée européenne au XVIIIe siècle,
Paris [1946], II, 48) to blink at the problem of solipsism.
However, the article as a whole makes it clear that
eclecticism requires both imaginative genius, the gift
to combine and explain, and the ability to gather evi-
dence and to put facts to the test; only he who com-
bines (objective) experimental and (subjective) system-
atic eclecticism, like Democritus, Aristotle, and Bacon,
may claim to be a truly eclectic philosopher in
Diderot's sense.

Happiness and Utility. The science of human nature
and the science of the legislator supply the key also
to the ethics and politics of the Enlightenment. Its
moral thought is based upon the principle of utility,
the greatest happiness of the greatest number. For
Locke, the fundamental interests (he expresses them
still in terms of the law of nature) are the preservation
of the individual and of mankind. To that end, freedom


under the law, equality of individuals, and justice
among them (pacta sunt servanda) are required: “...
being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm
another in life, health, liberty or possessions” (Of Civil
Book II, Ch. II). The science of human
nature lays bare man's basic propensities, namely self-
interest and sympathy. Both these qualities, says Hume,
are useful to the individual and to society, and it is
their utility that makes people virtuous. Like Liberty,
“Virtue is considered as means to an end” (Hume,
Treatise, Book III, Part III, Sec. VI), namely the happi-
ness or well-being of the individuals composing society.

For the thinkers in the utilitarian mainstream there
is no identity of human desires or interests. Man's
selfishness, his insatiable avidity for acquiring power
and possessions for himself and his group, if left to
itself, is destructive of society. Therefore, it must be
restrained and regulated through institutions governing
property, rights, obligations, etc.; it is the science of
the legislator, based on experience and reflection,
which suggests the right balance between warring
interests. Adam Smith (in the Wealth of Nations, Book
IV, Chs. IX, V, II; Book I, Ch. VI; Book III, Ch. I)
extols “the natural effort of every individual to better
his condition, when suffered to exert itself with
freedom and security... in a well-governed society
... in a civilised country... as long as he does not
violate the laws of justice....” Provided security is
created by the legislator without unduly restraining
spontaneous individual activity, “an invisible hand”
leads man “to promote an end which was no part of
his intention,” that is, socially desirable ends. What
ends are conducive to the well-being of society, can
be discerned from past general and national experience
and the observation of consequences; on this basis it
is possible to advise the legislator on what regulations
to promote and which to avoid. However, what acts
are conducive to the perfection of the individual except
in his role of a citizen, is no concern of the legislator,
nor does utilitarianism have much to offer on this
subject (despite attempts like Adam Smith's Theory of
Moral Sentiments,
1759). Man's nature is inscrutable,
his motives and intentions are manifold and complex,
and it is therefore overambitious for the philosopher
to pronounce on his self-regarding morality.

Voltaire gives expression to the philosophical
anthropology of the period in typical passages:

L'homme, étranger à soi, de l'homme est ignoré.
Que suis-je, où suis-je, où vais-je, et d'où suis-je tiré?

(“Man, stranger to himself, does not know himself. What
am I, where am I, where am I going, and from where have
I come?”; Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne, 1756)

le ciel, en nous formant, mélangea notre vie
De désirs, de dégoûts, de raison, de folie,
De moments de plaisir, et de jours de tourments,
De notre être imparfait voilà les éléments...

(“Heaven, in creating us, made our life a blend/ Of desires,
of loathing, of reason, of madness,/ Of moments of pleasure,
and of days of torment,/ Of our imperfect being these are
the elements”; Discours en vers sur l'homme [1738], Premier

Our exploration of human nature serves to contain, not
to change it. Man's hope of salvation must come from
religion or his own creativeness and discipline. The
utilitarian may judge actions, but not the agent. He
is restricted to the exploration of human propensities
and their consequences, and to the demarcation of
social (and only indirectly of individual) good. Utilita-
rianism is a public philosophy, not a purely personal
ethics. Therefore there is no contradiction contained
in Bentham's famous statement that it is for our “two
sovereign masters, pain and pleasure... to point out
what we ought to do as well as to determine what
we shall do.” What we shall do, follows from our
instincts and passions. What we ought to do, “is deter-
mined by and proportional to the tendency which (the
utilitarian) conceives to have to augment or to diminish
the happiness of the community” (Introduction to the
Principles of Morals and Legislation
[1789], Ch. I, Para.
1, 9).

It is true that there was an alternative influential
philosophy, that of Lord Shaftesbury, who put the
emphasis on the perfection of the individual rather
than on the reform of society. It is echoed in Diderot's
aesthetics, and, allied with the predominant Neo-
Platonic and Pietist tradition, it helped to thwart the
short-lived German Enlightenment. According to
Shaftesbury's Hellenic or aristocratic philosophy
(Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times,
1711), the Beautiful, the Good and the True are equally
expressions of the sense of harmony and proportion.
While rejecting the Promethean dogma of human
corruption, he proclaims the benevolence of nature and
the identity of human interests. The Eros of contem-
plation elevates the cultivation of taste, and the felicity
derived from the gemlike flame of vital experience,
to the level of virtue. Accordingly, in life, as in art,
the end can be neglected; it is subordinated to the
intensity of contemplation, passion, and action (though
Shaftesbury, in his scintillating and confused work,
speaks also of the controlling power of the intellect
and of the public interest).

In the English-speaking world, however, Francis
Hutcheson's philanthropic and democratic thought,
intentionally developed against Shaftesbury, has
dominated the philosophical, literary, and aesthetic
scene. In Hutcheson's view the sense of beauty and
the moral sense are not the same. Harmony, rather than


being natural and good in itself, is the concord of
individual character with the social good. “Uniformity
amidst variety,” i.e., order and proportion find their
perfect expression in the reign of the moral law, in
“the love of humanity, gratitude, compassion, a study
of the good of others and a deep delight in their happi-
ness” (Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of our
Ideas of Beauty and Virtue
[1725], Treatise I, Para.
2; Treatise II, Para. 1).

Politics. The guiding ideas of utilitarianism bear also
upon the principles of politics and education. In politi-
cal thought the widely used concepts of the social
contract and of natural law give a misleading impres-
sion of continuity with previous thought. Actually they
provide an obsolete vocabulary for a theory of individ-
ual and social interests, which is based upon historical
experience and the consciousness of a new historical
situation. Going beyond Montesquieu's classification of
political and legal institutions, and, like Rousseau,
starting from the problem how liberty can exist in a
large country (as contrasted with the small city-state),
Delolme and John Millar subject the British consti-
tution to penetrating sociological scrutiny. Political
thinking advances from a merely institutional to a
behavioral approach, from a mere theory of govern-
ment to political theory. The outstanding new criteria
are the displacement of the state by society and the
substitution of the citizen for the subject. Adam Smith
and his followers fight the power of the state in the
name of the individual, but never society. The formal
constitution of the state is only one of the various
factors which must be taken into account in assessing
the condition of a nation. The new commercial society
is comparatively classless within the confines of the
ruling groups which are spread widely and demarcated
only faintly. Voltaire's (1734) and Hume's (1748) ob-
servations have been quoted above, in the section on
“Underlying Structural Change.”

Rather than in the profuse clamor for natural rights
and revolutionary measures, the real innovation of the
time consists in the consciousness of the identity of
rulers and ruled (except for the laboring classes which
were then not part of the political process). The tradi-
tional problems of rebellion and of the assertion of the
individual against the metaphysical state are trans-
muted into the need for defining a balance among the
divergent interests of the individuals whose totality
forms society. Rebellion and revolution in the circum-
stances are liable to become self-destructive by defini-
tion. For Hobbes, self-mastery still meant the stoic
acceptance of necessity imposed by nature and the
sovereign. Now self-mastery is a question of political
behavior. It presupposes self-scrutiny, an understanding
of one's own propensities and interests in their relation
to those of one's fellow men; in short, it calls for the
insights of the science of human nature and the
precepts of the science of the legislator. In this sense
Bentham's and Kant's political maxims are to be un-
derstood: “Under a government of Laws... obey
punctually... censure freely” (A Fragment on Gov-
[1776], Preface, Para. 16), and: “Criticize as
much as you like, if only you obey” (Was ist

Institutions must be criticized because they tend to
determine the rules of behavior. If they concentrate
power in individuals or in office, they may deprive the
mass of individuals of the safeguards for their security
and give free rein to the violent passions of the
privileged. As human nature is not obviously suscep-
tible of change, an appropriate institutional framework
is needed and must be based less “on abstract and
refined speculation” than on “a study and delineation
of things passing in the moral world.... The question
now afloat in the world respecting THINGS AS THEY ARE
is the most interesting... to the human mind”
(William Godwin, The Adventures of Caleb Williams
[1794], Preface). Institutions both express the existing
structure of society and, in turn, present a challenge
to things as they are. It is therefore necessary to scruti-
nize the functions and dysfunctions of social, legal, and
political institutions. Considering that society was still
largely agricultural, this sociological scrutiny reached
its climax in the investigation of rural morphology.

Modern sociological methods were being applied,
including highly developed questionnaires, in assessing
the respective merits of large-scale and peasant-type
holdings. Theoretical findings were being put to prac-
tical tests in the agricultural reforms introduced in
Britain, Tuscany, France, and elsewhere, often under
the guidance of Agricultural Academies which sprang
up all over Europe. The theoretical side of this move-
ment was started by Turgot and Pierre Samuel Du Pont
de Nemours, especially in the Ephémérides du citoyen
(from 1765). Soon it found its master in Arthur Young
who, from 1768, toured Britain, France, and Italy, on
horseback, indefatigably surveying all aspects of farm-
ing and the farming population. One of the great
Scottish pioneers, Sir John Sinclair, as the first head
of the English Board of Agriculture, created in the
1790's a detailed survey of the agricultural structure
of the various counties which set the tone for later
sociological investigations (and was soon imitated by
Jean Chaptal, Comte de Chanteloup as the basis of
the Napoleonic Statistique de la France). Highlights
of the considerable new sociological literature were
Sir Frederick Morton Eden's The State of the Poor...
(1797) and Sismondi's Tableau de l'agriculture toscane


(1801) and Statistique du Départment du Léman

Critique of Society. Society is seen both as a boon
and as a burden. It supplies that “additional force,
ability and security without which individual life could
not persist” (Hume, Treatise, Book III, Part II, Sec.
II). However, society requires organization by law
which safeguards the liberty of the individual by
curbing his license. Some persons are strong and some
are weak; there is both biological and sociological
inequality. Society can therefore be oppressive, and
the legislator must take steps to protect the weak and
safeguard equality of opportunity for all individuals.

The critique of society in the eighteenth century
takes up prophetic and Stoic themes. In this sense it
is a critique of the human situation in general, a part
of the eternally recurring revolt against civilization and
its discontents. A judicious investigation of late eight-
eenth-century popular English novels of the period has
led Lois Whitney to this conclusion:

Common to them all... is the conviction that the time
... is out of joint; that what is wrong with it is due to
an abnormal complexity and sophistication in the life of
civilized man, to the pathological multiplicity and emula-
tiveness of his desires and the oppressive over-abundance
of his belongings, and the factitiousness and want of inner
spontaneity of his emotions; that “art”, the work of man
has corrupted “nature”...

(Primitivism and the Idea of
London [1934], p. XIV).

This lament of man's lost innocence (the Fall,
Prometheus, Pandora's Box) spills over into the
anxieties of the romantics, of Marx, Kierkegaard,
Nietzsche, Kafka, and so on. Critique of society is
inextricably mixed with that of the human situation.

By contrast, the thinkers in the mainstream of the
Enlightenment restrict themselves (for the reasons set
out in the section above on Happiness) to the critique
of society to the extent that it is sociologically deter-
mined. “No society,” says Adam Smith, “can surely
be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part
of the members are poor and miserable” (Smith, Book
I, Ch. VIII). The division of labor not only produces
prosperity but is also the source of inequality, far
beyond the biological inequality of talents. It “destroys
intellectual, social and martial virtues unless govern-
ment takes pains to prevent it” (Book V, Ch. I, Part
III, Article II). Traditionally, government has been on
the side “of the rich against the poor” in the defense
of property. It is therefore necessary to counteract the
dangers inherent in the commercial and industrial state
by means of public education and other appropriate
agenda of the state designed to redress the social
imbalance which competition and the division of labor
have created. This analysis of the Wealth of Nations
finds its parallels in the writings of D'Alembert,
Rousseau, Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and Dugald
Stewart who all emphasize both the good and deleteri-
ous effects of commercial and industrial society, and,
in particular, what has come to be called the social
and economic alienation of man, i.e., the freezing of
the individual in a rigid system of role allocation.
According to John Millar, for example,

... competitions and rivalships, which contract the heart
and set mankind at variance..., [arouse] envy, resentment
and other malignant passions... the pursuit of riches
becomes a scramble, in which the hand of every man is
against every other.... The class of mechanics and
labourers, by far the most numerous in a commercial nation
... become like machines... are... debarred from ex-
tensive information... in danger of losing their importance,
of becoming the dupes of their superiors and of being

(An Historical View of the English Government
[1787, London, 1803 ed.], IV, 248, 249, 146, 156).

Specific criticisms of the capitalist order are also
advanced by Jean Meslier, Morelly, G. B. de Mably,
S. N. H. Linguet, William Godwin, Thomas Paine, and

Education. The aim of education is to prepare the
individual to make the best of the spontaneity and
initiative which allow him to play his full part in
society. If he is restricted in his self-expression owing
to the division of labor, education must supply him
with the facilities and the vicarious experience which
make up a full personality. Plato's concern with the
“citizen” must be complemented by the concern with
Rousseau's “man” (homme). “Life,” says Rousseau in
Émile, “is the trade I would teach him (my pupil).
When he leaves me,... he will be neither a magis-
trate, a soldier, nor a priest; he will be a man” (Oeuvres
IV, Paris [1969], 252). Pestalozzi translates
Rousseau's educational ideas into practice, and his
assistant-masters, Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg and
Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel, spread them all over
Europe. Professional education, foreshadowed by the
emphasis of the Encyclopédie and the resulting innova-
tions, becomes universal. Education for citizenship
comes to complement economic and political reform
where there is a politically active and emancipated
citizenry, as in England (where Fellenberg's methods
were introduced by Lord Brougham). Where there is
little political participation, as in Germany, education,
like art and historiography, provides a haven for those
who resign themselves to “seeking Greece with their
souls” rather than putting into practice the reformist
aspirations of Faust and Wilhelm Meister.

Uniformity amidst Variety. The educational process
needed to make society inhabitable by man is the


common task of science (especially the science of soci-
ety), of art, of religion, and of education in the techni-
cal sense. Unity and correlation supply principal
themes in this respect. The interrelation and mutual
dependence of institutions, of people, and of nations,
the unity and hierarchy of the sciences are widely
discussed. The Encyclopédie, starting from and com-
plementing Bacon's logical classification of the sciences
by an historical arrangement, brings into view Francis
Hutcheson's principle of uniformity amidst variety, the
significance of the interconnection of the parts with
the whole. Hume's science of human nature is an
attempt at basing all the sciences on a common
methodology; his Treatise of Human Nature has the
subtitle “being an attempt to introduce the experi-
mental method [of Bacon and Newton] into moral
subjects.” At the end of the period, Dugald Stewart,
in his “Preliminary Dissertation, containing some criti-
cal Remarks on the Discourse prefixed to the French
Encyclopedia” (Philosophical Essays [1810], in Works,
V, Edinburgh [1855], 5-54), adds a functional approach
to the merely classificatory, earlier arrangements of the
sciences of matter and mind. The full title of
Montesquieu's esprit des lois emphasizes the rapport
of the legal system with the constitution, the manners,
the climate, the religion, the commerce, etc. of a peo-
ple. In 1800 Madame de Staël published her De la
Littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institu-
tions sociales.
The structure and historical totality and
cohesion of social units supplies the raison d'être of
Universal Histories and the national histories of the
Scottish school and its followers. Vico's Scienza nuova
(1725) maps out both the common fundamental princi-
ples of mankind and the historical “philology” of indi-
vidual peoples, i.e., the contribution of their free and
creative will. Hume provides a definitive methodologi-
cal basis for a macrosociological theory in his essay
“On National Characters” (1748).

Comparative historical and anthropological studies
confirm the interaction of nations as an enrichment of
national character. “By comparing among all nations
laws with laws, talents with talents, and manners with
manners, nations will find so little reason to prefer
themselves to others, that if they preserve for their own
country that love which is the fruit of self-interest, at
least they will lose that fanaticism which is the fruit
of exclusive self-esteem” (Encyclopédie, article
“Législateur”). D'Alembert, in De la Liberté de la
exemplifies the interchangeability and
interaction of forms of art as means of expression.
Cosmopolitanism, toleration, universality are qualities
closely bound up with this interest in common roots
and functions, and characterize the leading ideas of
the Enlightenment.


G. Bryson, Man and Society, The Scottish Inquiry of the
Eighteenth Century
(Princeton, 1945). E. Cassirer, DiePhi-
losophie der Aufklärung
(Tübingen, 1932), trans. F. C. A.
Koelln and James P. Pettegrove as The Philosophy of the
(Princeton, 1951). A. Cobban, In Search of
(London and New York, 1960). G. R. Cragg, The
Church and the Age of Reason
(London, 1960). J. Ehrard,
L'Idée de la nature en France (Paris, 1963), with bibliog-
raphy. P. Gay, The Enlightenment: an Interpretation, 2 vols.
(New York, 1966-69; London, 1967-70), with bibliography.
P. Hazard, la Pensée européene au XVIIIe siècle (1946),
trans. as European Thought in the Eighteenth Century
(London, 1954); Vol. III of French edition contains bibliog-
raphy. R. Hubert, Les Sciences sociales dans l'Encyclopédie
(Paris, 1923). A. O. Lovejoy, Essays in the History of Ideas
(Baltimore, 1948). F. E. Manuel, The Eighteenth Century
Confronts the Gods
(Cambridge, Mass., 1959). P. Mantoux,
The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd
ed. (London, 1928; reprint 1961). Kingsley Martin, French
Liberal Thought in the Eighteenth Century
(1929; New York
and London, 1962). R. Mauzi, L'Idée du bonheur... (Paris,
1960). F. Meinecke, DieEntstehung des Historismus, 2 vols.
(1936; 2nd ed. Munich, 1946). J. Roger, Les Sciences de la
vie dans la pensée française au XVIIIe siècle
(Paris, 1963).
R. V. Sampson, Progress in the Age of Reason (London, 1956).
Preserved Smith, A History of Modern Culture, Vol. II: The
Enlightenment 1687-1776
(New York and London, 1930).
J. Starobinski, The Invention of Liberty (Geneva, 1964). F.
Venturi, Settecento Riformatore (Turin, 1969). B. Willey, The
Eighteenth Century Background
(London, 1950).


[See also Ancients and Moderns; Classicism; Counter-
Enlightenment; Perfectibility;
Progress; Religious Enlight-
enment; Religious Toleration; Social Contract; Utilitarian-