Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment
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Riskin argues that sentimental empiricism brought together ideas and institutions, practices and politics. She shows, for instance, how the study of blindness, led by ideas about the mental and moral role of vision and by cataract surgeries, shaped the first school for the blind; how Benjamin Franklin's electrical physics, ascribing desires to nature, engaged French economic reformers; and how the question of the role of language in science and social life linked disputes over Antoine Lavoisier's new chemical names to the founding of France's modern system of civic education.
Recasting the Age of Reason by stressing its conjunction with the Age of Sensibility, Riskin offers an entirely new perspective on the development of modern science and the history of the Enlightenment.
Zizek. Emma Spary, as a reader for the University of Chicago Press, provided invaluable advice. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Ken Alder, whom I thank with admiration for readings that have improved every part of this book, and have particularly helped to shape chapter 5. Myra Jehlen and Christopher Kutz too have read, and reread, the full text. The challenge of rethinking in light of these responses has been the hardest and best part of writing. I have been continually grateful to Susan
objects merely as signs of electrification. Even then, he preferred the more fiery variety of signs, such as sparks and glows. Joseph Priestley, translating Franklinist practice into doctrine, said that attraction and repulsion constituted poor empirical evidence. They appealed to the mechanist fondness for reducing the world to moving chunks of matter. Priestley predicted that the days of the mechanists’ effluvial theories were numbered now that electricity had begun “to make itself sensible to
attribution. But the attribution of value is foreign to the nature of the thing; its principle is in man uniquely, it grows and shrinks with the needs of man and disappears with him.” Graslin, Essai (1767), 51. See Airiau, Opposition aux Physiocrates (1965), 96 – 101. 52. Condillac, Commerce (1776), 254 –59, 249, 367, 320 –21, 369 – 70. On this difference between Condillac and the Physiocrats and for an argument that the Physiocrats missed an opportunity in categorically rejecting Condillac’s
parlements, all of whom demanded a return to the old laws. This opposition to a free market in grain culminated in 1770 in a resumption of traditional trade restrictions. But Turgot received a special dispensation from the court to continue enforcing the free commerce laws of 1763 and 1764 in the Limousin, where the bad harvests had brought famine. In order to bring grain into the region, Turgot offered incentives to the merchants: he insured their losses, guaranteed their capital advances, and
wrote, and “the laws should be relative” to these differences. Cold air contracted the body’s fibers, increasing the spring with which they sent blood back to the heart, while warm air had the opposite effect. Montesquieu cited the visible contraction of iron bars and human extremities in cold weather. This explained the difference in character between the vigorous and courageous dwellers of the chilly north and the lazy, timid, and vengeful inhabitants of the sultry south. These principles were