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MATTERS OF FACT

  • MATTHEW L. JONES (a1)
Abstract

At the end of Matters of Exchange, Harold Cook's major revisionist account of the early modern scientific revolution, he locates the political and economic writings of Bernard Mandeville within the practices and values of contemporaneous Dutch observational medicine. Like Mandeville, Cook describes the potency of early modern capitalism and its attendant value system in generating industry and knowledge; like Mandeville, Cook finds coercive systems of moral regulation to be mistaken in their estimation of human capacities; and like Mandeville, Cook does not shy away from the violence that often made the worldwide commerce in matters of fact possible. “Every Part was full of Vice,” famously rhymed Mandeville, “Yet the whole Mass a Paradise.” The practices and values of science, this book suggests, stemmed from the vices of the merchant and the consumer, not the sprezzatura of the baroque courtier, the asceticism of the Christian gentleman, the speculation of the university philosopher, or the dour appraisal of the theologian. Interest, not claims to disinterest, made modern science and its attendant values possible. Scrupulous attention to goods from around the world and right at home created the conditions for natural knowledge.

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1 Mandeville B., The Fable of the Bees, or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits, ed. Kaye F. B., vol. 1 (Oxford, 1957), p. 24.

2 Shapin S. and Schaffer S., Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life (Princeton, 1985).

3 For these two approaches and attempts to overcome the opposition between them see, among the vast literature, Galison P., Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (Chicago, 1997), 781803.

4 Ogilvie B. W., Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe (Chicago, 2006), 209, 140.

5 For the variety of forms of experience see Dear P., “The Meanings of Experience,” in Park K. and Daston L., eds., Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (Cambridge, 2006), 106–31.

6 Mandeville B., A Treatise of the Hypochondriack and Hysterick Diseases In Three Dialogues, 3rd edn (London, 1730), 197, my italics.

7 Ginzburg C., The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. Tedeschi J. and Tedeschi A. (Baltimore, 1980), 155, italics in original.

8 Margocsy Compare D., “Advertising Cadavers in the Republic of Letters: Anatomical Publications in the Early Modern Netherlands,” British Journal for the History of Science 42 (2009), 187210, esp. 187–90.

9 For recent studies of artisanal knowledge see Smith P. H., “Science on the Move: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science,” Renaissance Quarterly n62 (2009), 345–75, esp. 361–4.

10 Ram H. Y. Mohan, “On the English Edition of Hortus Malabaricus by K. S. Manilal (2005),” Current Science 89 (2005), 1672–80, esp. 1675; see also Reddy S., “Making Heritage Legible: Who Owns Traditional Medical Knowledge?”, International Journal of Cultural Property 13 (2006), 161–88, esp. 168–73.

11 For indigenous knowledge and early modern sciences see, e.g., Schiebinger L. L. and Swan C., eds., Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World (Philadelphia, 2005); Delbourgo J. and Dew N., eds., Science and Empire in the Atlantic World (New York, 2008); Raj K., Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1900 (Basingstoke, 2007). For “authorship” in science studies, see Biagioli M. and Galison P. L., eds., Scientific Authorship: Credit and Intellectual Property in Science (New York, 2003).

12 See Grove R., “Indigenous Knowledge and the Significance of South-West India for Portuguese and Dutch Constructions of Tropical Nature,” Modern Asian Studies 30 (1996), 121–43, esp. 136–40.

13 Newton I., The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. Cohen I. B. and Whitman A. M. (Berkeley, 1999), Book III, prop. 20, problem 4, 826, 829–30.

14 See Terrall M., The Man Who Flattened the Earth: Maupertuis and the Sciences in the Enlightenment (Chicago, 2002).

15 See now Schaffer S., “Newton on the Beach: The Information Order of Principia Mathematica,” History of Science 47 (2009), pp. 243–76.

16 Hume D., An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. Beauchamp T. (Oxford, 1998), appendix 2, paragraph 2.

17 Boerhaave H., Dr. Boerhaave's Academical Lectures on the Theory of Physic, 2nd edn, vol. 1 (London, 1751), 63 (orthography modernized).

18 See Knoeff R., Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738): Calvinist Chemist and Physician (Amsterdam, 2002), 175–82.

19 For nonmetaphysical materialism see the nuanced assessment in Wolfe C. T. and Terada M., “The Animal Economy as Object and Program in Montpellier Vitalism,” Science in Context 21 (2008), 537–79.

20 For an incisive discussion showing how the success of Wikipedia challenges the view that the modern information economy rests upon getting the facts right see Runciman D., “Like Boiling a Frog,” London Review of Books 31 (2009), pp. 1416.

21 Mandeville, A Treatise, 124.

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
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