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The Measure of ThingsHumanism, Humility, and Mystery$
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David E. Cooper

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199235988

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199235988.001.0001

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The Hubris of Absolutism

The Hubris of Absolutism

(p.173) Chapter 8 The Hubris of Absolutism
The Measure of Things

David E. Cooper

Oxford University Press

This chapter assesses the charge of humanism against absolutism. For the typical absolutist, they have the capacity to provide an account of the world that is both true and clean. This claim, in the humanist's view, is lacking in humility because it is one that someone could only have reason to accept if he or she were possessed of enhanced cognitive powers they in fact lack. Implicitly and illegitimately, therefore, absolutism pretends to an exalted cognitive capacity. The first section chronicles the points of both the ascending and descending absolutism. The second section explains the problems in the ‘super-spectator's position’. The third and fourth sections investigate the role of science and scientific realism. The last section explains the side of atypical absolutist. The chapter concludes that typical absolutism stands convicted of hubris, of positing cognitive capabilities that there is good reason to suppose human beings could never possess.

Keywords:   ascending absolutism, descending absolutism, cognitive capacity, atypical absolutism, scientific realism, cognitive powers

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