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The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-Century British Moral Philosophy

The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-Century British Moral Philosophy I would like to thank Routledge for permission to publish this essay, which will also appear in The Social in Question: New Bearings, edited by Patrick Joyce (Routledge, in press). Public Culture 14(1): 125–145 Copyright © 2002 by Routledge. Reprinted with permission. Public Culture In this essay, I discuss one phase of this historical process: the forging of a link between philosophical theories about a specific objectified abstraction — human nature—and the legitimation of a new form of governmentality in early eighteenthcentury Britain. This episode is relevant to the history of the social for three reasons. First, the endeavors of eighteenth-century British philosophers to theorize human nature constituted some of the earliest attempts to position a law-governed abstraction at the intersection between a providential order that was presumed to exist and the institutions of society. In so doing, philosophical theories about human nature advanced a method for studying what-can-be-seen through an abstract intermediary, which also functions as the implicit focal point of a disembodied, nonparticipating, and objectifying point of view that facilitates the basis for understanding (or acknowledging) what-cannot-be-observed (the “view from nowhere”). This method lies at the heart of all modern uses of the social to explain http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Public Culture Duke University Press

The Liberal Civil Subject and the Social in Eighteenth-Century British Moral Philosophy

Public Culture , Volume 14 (1) – Jan 1, 2002

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2002 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0899-2363
eISSN
1527-8018
DOI
10.1215/08992363-14-1-125
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

I would like to thank Routledge for permission to publish this essay, which will also appear in The Social in Question: New Bearings, edited by Patrick Joyce (Routledge, in press). Public Culture 14(1): 125–145 Copyright © 2002 by Routledge. Reprinted with permission. Public Culture In this essay, I discuss one phase of this historical process: the forging of a link between philosophical theories about a specific objectified abstraction — human nature—and the legitimation of a new form of governmentality in early eighteenthcentury Britain. This episode is relevant to the history of the social for three reasons. First, the endeavors of eighteenth-century British philosophers to theorize human nature constituted some of the earliest attempts to position a law-governed abstraction at the intersection between a providential order that was presumed to exist and the institutions of society. In so doing, philosophical theories about human nature advanced a method for studying what-can-be-seen through an abstract intermediary, which also functions as the implicit focal point of a disembodied, nonparticipating, and objectifying point of view that facilitates the basis for understanding (or acknowledging) what-cannot-be-observed (the “view from nowhere”). This method lies at the heart of all modern uses of the social to explain

Journal

Public CultureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2002

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