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James W.Fernandez (Chicago)

Rhetoric and the Moral Sentiments.
A Critique of the Tropological Approach to Culture


From the early modern work of Francis Bacon, but particularly among the Moral Philosophers of the 18th century, Hume, Smith, Ferguson etc. inquiry into human nature, its propensities and possibilities, was conceived of under the rubric of moral philosophy, and more particularly as the study of the dynamic of the moral sentiments, the play of feelings of antipathy and sympathy in society. From Bacon on down moral philosophy was pronouncedly interested in the role of rhetoric in exciting or depressing the moral sentiments. This paper will address contemporary tropological (metaphorical) approaches to the dynamic of the "moral sentiments" their achievements and their limitations for the study of the complexity of culture.


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