8vo., pp. xl, 459, ; a very good copy in modern quarter calf.
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An Inquiry into the Origin of the Discoveries attributed to the Moderns: wherein it is demonstrated, that our most celebrated Philosophers have, for most part, taken what they advance from the Works of the Ancients; and that many important Truths in Religion were known to the pagan Sages. Translated from the French … with considerable Additions communicated by the Author.
First edition in English of Recherches sur l’origine des découvertes attribuées aux modernes (Paris, 1766), an illuminating and voluminous study of how ‘in almost all truths of the greatest importance, the ancients preceded the moderns; or at least pointed out, or prepared the way, for their discoveries.’
Dutens shows how Locke derives from Aristotle, Malebranche from Plato and St. Augustine; delineates the ancient precedents for the science of Buffon, Needham, Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, Leeuwenhoek, and Harvey; and explains how classical discoveries in chemistry, meteorology, architecture, music, and even spiritual philosophy underlie modern thought. His novelty, as he saw it, over similar studies of ancients and moderns by Wotton, Temple, etc. was to provide ‘proof’ of modernity’s debt to the ancient world. Though largely unknown today, the work was popular in its time, and was abridged by John Wesley in later editions of his Survey of the Wisdom of God in Creation (see The Dictionary of the History of Ideas, I, 85).
Dutens, of Huguenot extraction, had first come to England, where his uncle was a wealthy jeweller, some time after 1748. In 1758 he was appointed as chaplain to the Turin embassy under James Stuart Mackenzie, brother of the future Prime Minister, Lord Bute; he remained in Turin, where he edited the works of Leibniz, until 1766, when he returned to take up the lucrative living of Elsdon in Northumberland, secured on his behalf by Mackenzie, to whom this English edition of the Inquiry is dedicated.
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