The Environment

Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives internationales d’histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 191)


Eighteenth Century Material World Human Ecology Moral Progress Great Chain 
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  1. 942.
    Essay, pp. 106–118.Google Scholar
  2. 943.
    Although Montesquieu was not the first thinker to acknowledge the importance of the environment to civilisation he was the most successful publiciser of this idea. Such speculations can be traced back as far as the classical period, most notably to Hippocrates. Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967, pp. 562–8. The Lebanese historian Ibn Khaldoun also predates Montesquieu in terms of these insights, though he does not appear to have had any influence on Ferguson. Khaldoun’s Al Muqaddimah (Introduction to History) was written in the fourteenth century and was published in London in 1680. Like Montesquieu, Khaldoun believed that local climate and topography affected social attitudes. A. Issa, ‘Ibn Khaldoun, Montesquieu and the Theory of Climate’, Studi de Sociologia Vol. 30 (2) 1992, pp. 181–7.Google Scholar
  3. 944.
    Ferguson acknowledged his debt to Montesquieu on many occasions. See, for example, Essay, pp. 66–7. Rousseau’s advertence to the importance of climate also comes from Montesquieu. See Social Contract, pp, 222, 226, 252.Google Scholar
  4. 945.
    John Arbuthnot, for example, also made these kinds of observations. Arbuthnot, a Scottish doctor, published in 1731 An Essay Concerning the Effects of Air on Human Bodies. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, pp. 562–4. Similarly Rousseau held to the view that the ‘difference of soils, climates and seasons’ had introduced ‘differences’ in ‘manner of living’. ‘Discourse on the Origin of Inequality’ in Social Contract and Discourses, p. 85.Google Scholar
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    The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought, A. Bullock, O. Stallybrass and S. Trombley (eds), London: Fontana, 1989, p. 248.Google Scholar
  6. 947.
    See J. M. Nazareth, ‘Demography and Human Ecology’, Analise Social, Vol. 28(4–5) 1993, pp. 879–85. Its birth proper is generally considered to have coincided with the publication of Robert E. Park’s groundbreaking article, ‘The City’, published in the American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 20 (1), 1915.Google Scholar
  7. 948.
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  9. 950.
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    Essay, p. 106.Google Scholar
  11. 952.
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  12. 953.
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  13. 954.
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  14. 955.
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  15. 956.
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    John Millar, ‘Origins of the Distinctions of Ranks’, in Lehmann, John Millar of Glasgow 1735–1801, pp. 179–80. Lehmann takes the criticism to be levelled at Montesquieu but his target is more likely to have been Ferguson. In any case, Millar identifies Hume’s as the proper perspective. For Hume’s scepticism ‘that men owe anything of their temper or genius to the air, food or climate’ see, ‘Of National Characters’, Essays, pp. 197–215. Collini et al note that ‘Hume’s own discussion of these matters laid more stress on pliability, on the part played by custom, imitation, and sympathy, by political institutions and moral as opposed to physical factors in shaping law and manners’. Collini et al, That Noble Science of Politics, p. 17.Google Scholar
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  23. 964.
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  24. 965.
    See Montesquieu, Laws, 3. 14. 1–2, pp. 231–234.Google Scholar
  25. 966.
    This typifies Ferguson’s general approach to social science. Such relationships are beyond our genuine comprehension, he submits, consequently they are excluded from his brief. Instead he endeavours to pursue a more modest task, one more suited to that of the scientific historian or the ‘indifferent spectator’ collecting and recording observable data. Essay, pp. 8–9; P.I., pp. 49, 176.Google Scholar
  26. 967.
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  27. 968.
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  28. 969.
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  30. 971.
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    ‘Of the Intellectual or Conscious Powers’ Collection of Essays, No. 31, p. 267.Google Scholar
  32. 973.
    P.I., p. 235. Essay, p. 119.Google Scholar
  33. 974.
    Lehmann, Adam Ferguson, pp. 193–4; Andrew Skinner, ‘Natural History in the Age of Adam Smith’, p. 41; J.G.A. Pocock, ‘Between Machiavelli and Hume: Gibbon as Civic Humanist and Philosophical Historian’, Daedelus, Vol. 105, 1976, pp. 153–69, p. 155.Google Scholar
  34. 975.
    Cited in Joad, Guide to Philosophy, p. 188.Google Scholar
  35. 976.
    P.I., p. 61.Google Scholar
  36. 977.
    P.I., pp. 214–15.Google Scholar
  37. 978.
    Essay, p. 119.Google Scholar
  38. 980.
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  39. 981.
    John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, London: Gerald Duckworth and Co. Ltd., 1979, pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
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    P.II., p. 40.Google Scholar
  41. 983.
    P.I., p. 52.Google Scholar
  42. 984.
    Pelagius was a British lay theologian influential in the late fourth and early fifth century in Rome, North Africa and Palestine. Richardson and Bowden, New Dictionary of Christian Theology, p. 435. After Ferguson’s time, the historian Lucien Febvre (1878–1956) contradicted environmental determinists using similar arguments and by emphasising the activism, ‘initiative’ and ‘mobility’ of humans as against ‘the passivity of the environment’. Sir Matthew Simmons, Changing the Face of the Earth, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, p. 5.Google Scholar
  43. 985.
    Institutes, p. 268.Google Scholar
  44. 986.
    Essay, pp. 46–7. See also History, p. 43.Google Scholar
  45. 987.
    P.I., pp. 176–81. See also; ‘Of Things that are or May Be’, Collection of Essays, No. 27 (Part 1), p. 228.Google Scholar
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    P.I., p. 176.Google Scholar
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    P.I., pp. 176–81; ‘Of Things that Are or May Be’, Collection of Essays, No. 27.Google Scholar
  48. 990.
    P.II., p. 37; P.I., p. 133.Google Scholar
  49. 991.
    P.I., p. 178.Google Scholar
  50. 992.
    Essay, p. 106.Google Scholar
  51. 993.
    ‘Of Things That are or May Be’, Collection of Essays, No. 27(2), p. 237: ‘That power whose work is universe and consummate order does nothing in vain’.Google Scholar
  52. 994.
    P.I., p.243.Google Scholar
  53. 995.
    P.I., pp. 246–7.Google Scholar
  54. 996.
    P.H. Reill, ‘Narration and Structure in Late Eighteenth Century Historical Thought’, History and Theory, Vol. 25(3), 1986, pp. 286–98, p. 286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 997.
    P.I., pp. 274–5. My emphasis. See also: ‘Of Cause and Effect, Ends and Means, Order, Combination and Design’, Collection of Essays, No. 13, p. 123.Google Scholar
  56. 998.
    ‘Distinction of Value and Its Source in Existence’, Collection of Essays, No. 7, p. 84.Google Scholar
  57. 999.
    P.I., p. 278.Google Scholar
  58. 1000.
    Reill, ‘Narration and Structure’, p. 286.Google Scholar
  59. 1001.
    D.J. Herlihy, ‘Attitudes Toward the Environment in Medieval Society” in Lester J. Bilsky (ed.), Historical Ecology: Essays on Environment and Social Change, New York: Kennikat Press, 1980, p. 103.Google Scholar
  60. 1002.
    Saint Augustine, Against Julian, in The Fathers of the Church, a New Translation, Translated by Matthew A. Schumacher, New York: 1977, p. 21.Google Scholar
  61. 1003.
    P.II., p. 27.Google Scholar
  62. 1004.
    P.I., p. 19.Google Scholar
  63. 1005.
    Essay, p. 45. This passage was added to the 1773 edition.Google Scholar
  64. 1006.
    Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5. 8. pp. 81–2; 4. 44. p. 73.Google Scholar
  65. 1007.
    Viner, The Role of Providence, p. 90. For the definitive exposition of the concept of the chain of being see Arthur O. Lovejoy’s, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1964.Google Scholar
  66. 1008.
    P.I., p. 174, ‘Characteristics of Human Nature’, Collection of Essays, No. 32, p. 280.Google Scholar
  67. 1009.
    Aristotle, Politics, I i. 1256b, p. 16. See also Owens, ‘Teleology of Nature in Aristotle’, p. 169.Google Scholar
  68. 1010.
    Owens, ‘Teleology of Nature in Aristotle’, p. 68.Google Scholar
  69. 1011.
    Cicero, de Finibus. 3.67; Reesor, The Political Theory of the Old and Middle Stoa, p. 23.Google Scholar
  70. 1012.
    Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5. 30. p. 88.Google Scholar
  71. 1013.
    R. Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993, p. 124.Google Scholar
  72. 1014.
    Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Translated by R.D. Hicks, London: William Heinemann, 1958, 7. 129, p. 233; Cicero, De Finibus, 3. 67, pp. 287–9 and Epictetus, Discourses, 1. 6. 18–22, p. 45. See also Stanton, ‘The Cosmopolitan Ideas of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius’, p. 185.Google Scholar
  73. 1015.
    Cicero, De Natura Deorum, with an English translation by H. Rackham, London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1951, 2. 60, 152–4, pp. 269–71.Google Scholar
  74. 1016.
    Herlihy, ‘Attitudes Toward the Environment’, p. 102. In the book of Genesis, we are told that God commissioned Adam to ‘replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and very the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’ (The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testament, Authorised King James Version, London: Collins Cleartype Press, 1952, Genesis I. 26. 28. p. 7. St Francis of Assisi is a notable exception to this type of Christian triumphalism. In any case Glacken disputes the influence of early Christianity and especially the sentiments expressed in Genesis. Rather he sees exploitative attitudes to nature as a function of humanity’s increasing power over nature via increasing technological progress. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, p. 494.Google Scholar
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    “Distinction of Value and its Source in Existence’, Collection of Essays, No. 7, p. 73.Google Scholar
  76. 1018.
    ‘Of Things that Are or May Be’ (Part 1), Collection of Essays, No. 27, p. 223. ‘[W]e must acknowledge the intention of nature to subject this globe to the dominion of man’ ‘A Little Boy’, Collection of Essays, Appendix 1, p. 292.Google Scholar
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    ‘Distinction of Value and Its Source in Existence’, Collection of Essays, No. 7, pp. 84–5.Google Scholar
  78. 1020.
    Simmons, Changing the Face of the Earth, p. 7. Matthew Hale, who wrote before both Ferguson and Montesquieu, had a particularly sophisticated take on this issue. He perceived the existence of humankind as ‘a balancing force in the existence of other forms of life. He becomes an arbiter, checking the spread of the wild plants and the wild animals, encouraging the dispersion of the domesticated plants and animals’. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore, p. 494.Google Scholar
  79. 1021.
    As first noticed by Lois Whitney. Primitivism and the Idea of Progress, p. 151.Google Scholar
  80. 1022.
    P.I., p. 175. ‘[C]reation itself is a continual supply of defects’. ‘Of Things That Are or May Be’, Collection of Essays, No. 27 (2), p. 240.Google Scholar

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