Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment

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9780226720784: Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment

Empiricism today implies the dispassionate scrutiny of facts. But Jessica Riskin finds that in the French Enlightenment, empiricism was intimately bound up with sensibility. In what she calls a "sentimental empiricism," natural knowledge was taken to rest on a blend of experience and emotion.

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.

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About the Author:

Jessica Riskin is an assistant professor of history at Stanford University.

Review:

"[E]rudite and eloquent ... insightful and evocative ... replete with tales well told." - Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[A] convincing and important reinterpretation of the Enlightenment." - Perspectives on Science

"
Science in the Age of Sensibility is a brilliant provocation that compels a reconsideration of eighteenth-century French history and history of science simultaneously." - French Historical Studies

"
Riskin is extremely persuasive as she unfolds ... what is really a remarkable discovery of an unacknowledged scientific tradition." - Eighteenth Century Thought

"Strong and clear ... Powerful and stimulating ... an important contribution to cultural history in general." - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
 
"This book is excellent, interesting and well in control of its material, and an example of well-grounded history with an eye on the way in which Enlightenment science affected the future." - British Journal for the History of Science

"Crucial, thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in the Enlightenment or the history of science ... an important contribution to understanding the mutual relationship between science and culture in the French Enlightenment." - H-France Review
 
"Richly researched ... admirably clear ... crucial reading for students and researchers alike." - French Studies

"[L]audable ... a lively, wide-ranging account ... Riskin's book sheds welcome light on the quirky passions and preoccupations that fueled the pursuit of science during the French Enlightenment." - Journal of Modern History
 
"Riskin is to be congratulated .... This wide-ranging study... should be on the bibliography of every eighteenth-century survey course." - European History Quarterly

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