The New Philosophy and Universal Languages in Seventeenth-century England: Bacon, Hobbes, and Wilkins
Robert E. Stillman's book is an effort to restore the neglected history of those new philosophies of seventeenth-century England that sought to align themselves not with radical ideologies, but with the conservative interests of centralizing state power. Against the background of England's universal language movement, his study traces the development of three distinguishable philosophical projects, organized upon three distinguishable theories of language. In all three, a more perfect language comprises both a model and a means for achieving a more perfect philosophy, and that philosophy, in turn, a vehicle for promoting political authority in the state. Those three projects are the new philosophies of Lord Chancellor Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and Bishop John Wilkins, all of which can be usefully understood in the broader context of the century's cultural politics and in the more specific circumstances of the century's fascination with the construction of a universal language. Bacon, Hobbes, and Wilkins construct philosophies out of deeply held convictions about the need to provide a saving form of knowledge to remedy cultural crises. That saving form of knowledge, as it develops in the lines of linguistic thought that extend from Bacon's Instauration to Wilkins's Philosophical Language, is both a product of and one potent agent in producing the emerging, scientistically designed, modern state.
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Natural Philosophy and the Politics of Jacobean Intervention
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