Invisible Hands: Self-Organization in the Eighteenth Century

Cover Art for 9780226752051, Invisible Hands: Self-Organization in the Eighteenth Century by Jonathan Sheehan, Dror Wahrman
ISBN: 9780226752051
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Published: 1 October, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Language: English

In Invisible Hands, the historians Jonathan Sheehan and Dror Wahrman identify a defining feature of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment: the decline of God as a source of order in favor of a new model of self-organization.” Sheehan and Warhman provide a novel account of how people on the threshold of modernity understood the continuing presence in the world of apparent disorder, randomness, and chance. If God no longer actively guaranteed that order will always prevail, what or whom did? The answer, the authors argue, was a new appreciation for complexity, new understandings of causality, and new functions for the divine hand. At the foundation of this novel way of thinking was the ability to imagine complex systems--be they natural or human--asself-organizing. Invisible Hands maps and explains the intensifying presence of the languages of self-organization throughout the eighteenth century, proliferating as they did with ever greater sophistication across numerous intellectual domains and cultural arenas. For self-organization was less a theory than a field of new insights: insights into the dynamics of chance and randomness, into the relationship between agency and determinism, into the role of God in a world without hands-on providence.

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