Modernity's Double Birth: A Critique of Stephen Toulmin's "Cosmopolis"

By W. Jay Reedy.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Stephen Toulmin's “Cosmopolis” (1990) puts forward an intriguing assessment of the origins of modern Western civilization. He claims that one of its sources was a humanistic stress on tolerance with its respect for the diversity and complexity of the world, which stemmed from the perspective of anti-dogmatic Renaissance thinkers, such as Montaigne. But he also asserts that the 17th-century Scientific Revolution established a different sort of modernity, one that persisted until the later 20th century and was wedded to a rigid rationalism that sought absolute truth and control through a universal method of reasoning tantamount to a new scientific dogmatism. This second modernity, according to Toulmin, distorted our understanding of human reality and produced theoretical errors as well as practical, institutionalized tragedies. But Toulmin's historical account is at least partially flawed because of its neglect or misrepresentation of key evidence.

Keywords: Modernity, Humanism, Science, Social Science

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp.63-69. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 420.633KB).

Prof. W. Jay Reedy

Professor of Humanities and Social Science, History Department, Bryant University, Smithfield, RI, USA

I have taught at various universities in the USA for over 34 years specializing in European Cultural History. My research in the history of the social philosophy and science has appeared in a number of books and journals including Journal of the History of Ideas, History of Political Thought, History of the Human Sciences, Historical Reflections, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, etc.