Science, Customs, and the Modern Subject

From Emulation to Education in the Semantics of Spanish Enlightenment

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Author:
Pablo Sánchez León Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU) psleon@gmail.com

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ABSTRACT

Eighteenth-century Spain was haunted by a sense of decadence. Consequently, intellectual innovation developed in its attempt to recover its lost grandeur while keeping its Catholic culture. In such a context, political-economic reflection focused in a remarkable way on a scientific approach to social habits. Reception of foreign developments was adapted to a framework that fostered the enhancement of individualism but not of individual selfdetermination. The first part of the article shows that the approach to customs initially elaborated on the concept of emulation as a moral sentiment for overcoming collective passions that precluded cooperation. The second part shifts the focus to a discussion of education as an antidote against traditional prejudices but also as a bulwark to both modern moral hazards derived from commercial society and republicanism.

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