Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity by Stephen Edelston Toulmin

By Stephen Edelston Toulmin

Within the 17th century, a imaginative and prescient arose which used to be to captivate the Western mind's eye for the following 300 years: the imaginative and prescient of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered because the Newtonian view of nature. whereas fueling outstanding advances in all fields of human pastime, this imaginative and prescient perpetuated a hidden but power schedule: the myth that human nature and society may be equipped into detailed and plausible rational different types. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda—its illusions and its outcomes for our current and destiny world.

"By displaying how diverse the final 3 centuries could were if Montaigne, instead of Descartes, have been taken as a kick off point, Toulmin is helping ruin the semblance that the Cartesian quest for simple task is intrinsic to the character of technology or philosophy."—Richard M. Rorty, college of Virginia

"[Toulmin] has now tackled probably his so much formidable topic of all. . . . His objective is not anything lower than to put sooner than us an account of either the origins and the clients of our distinctively glossy global. by means of charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to teach us what highbrow posture we should undertake as we confront the arriving millennium."—Quentin Skinner, manhattan assessment of Books

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Sample text

To Aristotle,both Theory and Practicewere open to rational analysis,in ways that differed from one field of study to another. They limited "rationality" to theoreticalargumentsthat achievea quasi-geometricalcertainty or necessity:for them, theoreticalphysicswasthus a field for rational study and debate,in a way that ethics and law were not. Insteadof pursuing a concern with "reasonable"proceduresof all kinds, Descartesand his hoped eventuallyto bring all subjectsinto the ambit of some successors formal theory: as a result, being impressedonly by formally valid demonstrations, they ended by changing the very language of Reasonnotably,key words like "reason","rational",and "rationalily"-in subtle but influential ways.

From then on, abstract axioms were in, concrete diuersity was ouL From tbe Timely to the Timeless Finally, like medieval theologians, Renaissance humanists gave equal weight to concrete issues of legal, medical, or confessional practice, and to abstract issues of theory. All problems in the practice of law and medicine are "timely". In them, "time is of the essence"; and they are decided, in Aristotle's phrase,pros ton kairon, "as occasion requires". The relevant sumsmay havebeen performed impeccably;but,if the resultingacrionis unduly delayed,the decisionwill become "irrational".

If we are to reach abalanced assessmentof the claims of Modernity, we must keep these nvo tasks in proportion. On the one hand, we can justly criticize 2Oth-century assumptions about Modernity, only if we take more seriously the actual historical facts about the origins of the modern period. On the orher hand, we can pose our historical questions about the period more exactly only ifwe make allowance for the special perspectives--even, the distortionsthat were imposed on the received view by the faulry historical and philosophical assumptions looked at in this first review.

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