Gaukroger and the “naturalization of the human”

Stephen Gaukroger’s monumental series on the modern world is a must-read for those interacting with Latour’s concept of Modernity.

In this third volume, published last year, Gaukroger considers the crucial period 1739 (the publication of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature) to 1841 (the publication of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity). He argues that this period saw an abrupt but fundamental shift in the way in which scientific enquiry was conceived, such that science came to be understood as the essential means of explanation of the human condition. The key formula thus becomes “the naturalization of the human”, by which Gaukroger means the constitution in empirical terms of questions about the human realm that had up to that point taken a non-empirical form.

I’ve written a brief review here.


Defining Modernity: Stephen Gaukroger

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough as a contrast, perhaps even a chiaruscuro, to the Latourian (= Whitehead/ Stengers) narrative of Modernity. In Gaukroger, we have an account of the ‘naturalization of the human’ and the ‘humanization of the natural’ that seems to evade the hegemonic categories of ‘Nature’ and ‘Society’ that Latour has so carefully constructed. It’s an alternative account. And it will need to be calibrated with Latour’s. That’s all I can say at the moment.