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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: October 2009

Conclusion: the Enlightenment vindicated?

Summary

TWO CONTEXTS, ONE ENLIGHTENMENT

In the two very different ‘national’ contexts of Scotland and Naples, it has been argued, there emerged one Enlightenment. More precisely, there emerged in the two countries in the middle decades of the eighteenth century thinkers who saw themselves as members of a wider, European intellectual movement, dedicated to understanding and publicising the cause of human betterment on this earth. In both cases, the terms in which this objective was articulated were those of political economy. To Antonio Genovesi and Ferdinando Galiani in Naples, as to David Hume in Scotland, political economy furnished the concepts required to understand the economic and social predicament of their respective countries. At the same time, the arguments of political economy could be more or less freely aired in print, and thus set before a ‘public’ much wider than the narrow circles of rulers and their ministerial advisers who had hitherto monopolised the discussion of such matters, reserving them to ‘reason of state’. As a coherent intellectual discourse, even discipline (in the sense that it bound its exponents to certain forms of argument), which could also be addressed to the public at large, political economy supplied the terms in which the case for Enlightenment could be made both in Naples and in Scotland. In these two cases, it would seem, we do not need to follow John Pocock in supposing that different contexts fashioned plural Enlightenments.