Concept of the Individual in Eighteenth Century French Thought: From the Enlightenment to the French Revolution

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This interdisciplinary study explores the concept of the individual human being as it evolved within the philosophies of the French Enlightenment and how notions of the individual reached a turning point during the French Revolution. The author draws on the thought of French philosophes and revolutionaries concerning the individual within nature and society and examines them within the framework of Michel Foucault’s thought.


“While the Enlightenment seemed to ensure greater freedom for the individual, it also helped set in place new kinds of subjection and repression. ... The inquiry into the truths governing the nature and motives of the human mind could therefore be seen as an important part of the unfinished business of the Enlightenment. The research Dr. Binkley has undertaken constitutes a valuable contribution to this inquiry and sheds new light on the process of individualization begun in the eighteenth century and helps us discern some of the motives behind the process as well as its unintended consequences.” - Professor Karlis Racevskis, Department of French and Italian, The Ohio State University

“Dr. Susan Binkley=s study sheds new light on the emerging concept of the individual from the Enlightenment through the French Revolution. Dr. Binkley broaches the matter of the individual with insight into man's concrete existence thanks to the modern acceptance of the finitude of human being.” - Dr. Jennifer Wolter, Visiting Assistant Professor of French, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Grand Valley State University

“In this judicious study of a period about which one might have thought there was nothing new left to discover, Dr. Binkley offers fresh insights into the Revolutionary era and the reasons for the incongruity between the lofty theoretical ideas of the philosophes and the repressive atmosphere that followed in the wake of the Revolution. Dr. Binkley provides a provocative analysis of an important time in French historical thought and challenges long-held assumptions about the revolutionaries.” - Dr. Jennifer Hall, Associate Professor of French, Department of Foreign Languages, Mount Union College, Alliance, Ohio

Table of Contents

Foreword by Karlis Racevskis
Notes on Translations
1 Introduction: The Development of a New Concept of the Individual
2 Enlightenment Approaches to Defining the Individual
3 The French Revolution’s Struggle to Reconcile the Abstract
4 The Female Individual and the French Revolution

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