The New Philosophy and Universal Languages in Seventeenth-century England: Bacon, Hobbes, and Wilkins

Front Cover
Bucknell University Press, 1995 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 359 pages
Robert E. Stillman's book is an effort to restore the neglected history of those new philosophies of seventeenth-century England that sought to align themselves not with radical ideologies, but with the conservative interests of centralizing state power. Against the background of England's universal language movement, his study traces the development of three distinguishable philosophical projects, organized upon three distinguishable theories of language. In all three, a more perfect language comprises both a model and a means for achieving a more perfect philosophy, and that philosophy, in turn, a vehicle for promoting political authority in the state. Those three projects are the new philosophies of Lord Chancellor Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and Bishop John Wilkins, all of which can be usefully understood in the broader context of the century's cultural politics and in the more specific circumstances of the century's fascination with the construction of a universal language. Bacon, Hobbes, and Wilkins construct philosophies out of deeply held convictions about the need to provide a saving form of knowledge to remedy cultural crises. That saving form of knowledge, as it develops in the lines of linguistic thought that extend from Bacon's Instauration to Wilkins's Philosophical Language, is both a product of and one potent agent in producing the emerging, scientistically designed, modern state.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Lamentations of Comenius Reconfiguring the Political in SeventeenthCentury Language Theory
Bacon and the Advent of Universal Languages
Natural Philosophy and the Politics of Jacobean Intervention
Language and the Natural Philosophy of the Lord Chancellor
Hobbes and the State of the Universal Language
The Universal Philosophy of Politics and Monsters of Metaphor
The Logic and Language of Leviathan From Monstrous Metaphor to Civil Philosophy
The New Philosophy of the FiscalMilitary State Cultural Politics and the Language of Interest
Interest Achieved The Royal Society and the Political Concernments of Communications
A Center Inside the Center Wilkins and the Philosophical Language
From Lamentations to Laughter
Select Bibliography

Wilkins and the Making of the Universal Language

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 171 - Earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will...
Page 91 - ... the admiration of ancient authors, the hate of the schoolmen, the exact study of languages, and the efficacy of preaching, did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and " copia" of speech, which then began to flourish.
Page 95 - And therefore it was ever thought to have some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind ; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things.
Page 34 - But yet, if we would speak of things as they are, we must allow that all the art of rhetoric, besides order and clearness, all the artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead the judgment; and so indeed are perfect cheats...
Page 172 - This is more than consent, or concord ; it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man...
Page 147 - Afterwards men made use of the same word metaphorically, for the knowledge of their own secret facts and secret thoughts; and therefore it is rhetorically said that the conscience is a thousand witnesses.
Page 159 - Seeing then that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth had need to remember what every name he uses stands for, and to place it accordingly, or else he will find himself entangled in words, as a bird in lime twigs, the more he struggles the more belimed.
Page 134 - If there had not first been an opinion received of the greatest part of England that these powers were divided between the King and the Lords and the House of Commons, the people had never been divided and fallen into this Civil War...
Page 62 - That which concerns the mystery of the king's power is not lawful to be disputed ; for that is to wade into the weakness of princes, and to take away the mystical reverence that belongs unto them that sit in the throne of God.
Page 161 - For the thoughts are to the desires, as scouts, and spies, to range abroad, and find the way to the things desired...

Bibliographic information