This collection of thirty-seven readings (from thirty-three writers) brings together some of the most significant pre–Adam Smith writings on the political and cultural dimensions of capitalism. To modern readers, these seventeenth- and eighteenth-century discussions of commerce and economic life in general are surprising because they are so closely integrated with current moral and cultural issues. Part of the value of this book is in reminding us that many of our own concerns are not without precedent and earlier reflection.
Often described as the culmination of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie was collected not only to serve as a comprehensive reference work, but to “change the way men think” about every aspect of the human and natural worlds. In his celebrated “Preliminary Discourse” to the compilation, d’Alembert traced an entire history of modern philosophy and science designed to chart the way toward a sweeping Baconian project of improving the world through usable knowledge.
My Thoughts provides a unique window into the mind of one of the undisputed pioneers of modern thought, the author of the 1748 classic, The Spirit of the Laws. From the publication in 1721 of his first masterpiece, Persian Letters, until his death in 1755, Montesquieu maintained notebooks in which he wrote and dictated ideas on a wide variety of topics. Some of the contents are early drafts of passages that Montesquieu eventually placed in his published works; others are outlines or early versions of projected works that were ultimately lost, unfinished, or abandoned. These notebooks provide important insights into his views on a broad range of topics, including morality, religion, history, law, economics, finance, science, art, and constitutional liberty.