State of Nature, Stages of Society: Enlightenment Conjectural History and Modern Social Discourse

Hardcover | March 29, 2016

byFrank Palmeri

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Frank Palmeri sees the conjectural histories of Rousseau, Hume, Herder, and other Enlightenment philosophers as a template for the development of the social sciences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without documents or memorials, these thinkers, he argues, employed conjecture to formulate a naturalistic account of society's commercial and secular progression.

Palmeri finds evidence of speculative frameworks in the political economy of Malthus, Martineau, Mill, and Marx. He traces the influence of speculative thought in the development of anthropology and ethnography in the 1860s, the foundational sociology of Comte and Spencer, and the sociology of religion pioneered by Weber, Durkheim, and Freud. Conjectural histories reveal a surprising ambivalence toward progress, modernity, and secularization among leading thinkers of the time, an attitude that affected texts as varied as Darwin's Descent of Man, Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality, and the novels of Walter Scott, George Eliot, and H.G. Wells. Establishing the critical value of conjectural thinking in the study of modern forms of knowledge, Palmeri concludes his investigation with its return in the work of Foucault and in recent histories on early religion, political organization, and material life.

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Frank Palmeri sees the conjectural histories of Rousseau, Hume, Herder, and other Enlightenment philosophers as a template for the development of the social sciences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without documents or memorials, these thinkers, he argues, employed conjecture to formulate a naturalistic account of soc...

Frank Palmeri is a professor of English at the University of Miami. He is the author of Satire in Narrative: Petronius, Swift, Gibbon, Melville, Pynchon (1990) and Satire, History, Novel: Narrative Forms, 1665-1815 (2003), and the editor of Humans and Other Animals in Eighteenth-Century British Culture: Representation, Hybridity, Ethi...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 29, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231175167

ISBN - 13:9780231175166

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Dick HowardAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Conjectural History, the Form, and Its Afterlife1. Conjectural History: The Enlightenment Form2. Political Economy and the Question of Progress3. Comte, Spencer, and the Science of Society4. The Origins of Culture and of Anthropology5. Darwin, Nietzsche, and the Prehistory of the Human6. The Social Psychology of Religion7. Novels as Conjectural HistoriesConclusion: Conjecturalism NowAppendix 1. Enlightenment Conjectural HistoriesAppendix 2. Hegel, History, and ConjectureAppendix 3. Were Conjectural Histories Racist?NotesIndex

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The most precise and the most wide-ranging conceptual anaylsis of eighteenth-century conjectural history available.... Required reading.