Enlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in France by David W. BatesEnlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in France by David W. Bates

Enlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in France

byDavid W. Bates

Hardcover | January 29, 2002

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In Enlightenment Aberrations, David W. Bates shows that error was a complex, important, and by no means entirely negative concept in Enlightenment thought, one that had a decisive influence in revolutionary debates on political identity and national history. What can it mean to write a history of error? In Bates's view all philosophy, insofar as its project is the search for truth, begins in error. If truth is posited as a goal to be attained, not as a given of some kind, then error assumes a central role in the quest for truth. Going beyond both liberal celebrations and postmodern critiques of Enlightenment reason, Bates reveals just how crucial the problematic relation between human "wandering" and the mystery of truth was in eighteenth-century thought.

The author draws on a wide range of Enlightenment thinkers, including Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, Jean d'Alembert, Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Charles Bonnet, showing how they wrestled with the "risk and promise" of error. He then demonstrates how the concept of error and its dialectical relationship to truth played out in the political culture of the French Revolution, particularly in the Terror. In the final chapters, Bates looks at the post-revolutionary transformations of the Enlightenment discourse of error and its subsequent history in modern European thought.

David W. Bates is Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
Title:Enlightenment Aberrations: Error and Revolution in FranceFormat:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:January 29, 2002Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801439450

ISBN - 13:9780801439452


Editorial Reviews

"Professor Bates has produced a bold and stimulating book, one that will require and reward more than a single reading. In retracing eighteenth-century ground he has certainly found sufficient kindling to start a discussion. But, given the ultimately humane and generous spirit of his work, I am sure he also hopes to have found enough material to light a path for all those among us who so often lose our way." - H-France