The Eighteenth century is often represented, applying Tom Paine's phrase, as 'The Age of Reason': an age when progressive ideals triumphed over autocracy and obscurantism, and when notions of order and balance shaped consciousness in every sphere of human knowledge. Yet the debates which surrounded the development of Eighteenth-century thought were always open to troubling doubts. Was nature itself truly an ordered entity, as Newton had argued, or was it a mass of chaotic, randomly moving atoms, as some materialist thinkers believed? This book explores the tensions and conflicts in these debates through a series of interdisciplinary essays from leading international scholars, each challenging the idea that the Eighteenth century was an age of order.

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