Irish Enlightenment, human societies, and human bodies
in Renaissance humanism and ethnicity before race
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Chapter six explains how orthodox and indeed actively conservative members of the Irish and English elites began to turn away from Aristotelianism in the later seventeenth century. In particular conservative Catholics like John Lynch and Protestants like William King were driven by circumstances to find systems of law which operated independently of God: the mark of the new Enlightened understanding of human societies. The Enlightenment saw the development of new ways of speaking not just about human societies, but also about human bodies. The victims of these ideological innovations in the Atlantic world were not primarily the Irish, but Africans. In contrast, the ideologies of domination which mattered in Ascendancy Ireland were not racist, but sectarian. Nevertheless, the papers of that determined anti-Aristotelian, Sir William Petty, do preserve a chain of thought he began before the Royal College of Physicians at Dublin in 1676, on the characteristics of the souls and bodies of Europeans and Africans.

Renaissance humanism and ethnicity before race

The Irish and the English in the seventeenth century

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