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13 From Physiology to Political Ideology: The Images of Man in Early Modern Scotland

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that in the late seventeenth- to the mid-eighteenth-century Scottish context the theoretical work of those studying various aspects of human phenomena reflected their respective social imagery, i.e. the way they more or less explicitly envisaged social order and governance, and the proper condition of human beings within these structures. The author's main point is that those developing theories about human functioning, from physiology through the 'science of man' to political contexts, had not only purely cognitive agendas but also a political one broadly understood: theories about various facets of human nature also served political purposes, and exhibited affinities to the social-political situation in which they originated, and gestured toward specific stances on questions of political and religious significance. So texts addressing problems of purely theoretical issues frequently had other layers of significance in the social-political-religious sphere, mainly through an alleged congruence of epistemic and political values.

Keywords: human phenomena; mid-eighteenth-century Scottish context; physiology; political significance; religious significance



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