Front Page Titles (by Subject) 121.: The Intellectual Situation Prior to 1789 - Judgments on History and Historians
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121.: The Intellectual Situation Prior to 1789 - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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The Intellectual Situation Prior to 1789
An essentially materialistic explanation of the world, an equally irreligious doctrine of man’s nature, a hatred for Christianity (and not just for its external embodiment of power, the Catholic church) combine with a growing criticism and scorn of the particular French state system, with the ideal of the constitutional state, with new views of national economy, and cross and coincide in part with a doctrine of the goodness of human nature in its supposed natural state, with the drive toward a radical change in mores as well as in the state. All this, in all its phases, is conveyed by an irresistible literature which beyond France sweeps Europe away.
There is a general susceptibility to contagion. The need for emotion has been aroused and exists, with compassion and a feeling of virtue being especially required for it. It becomes the fashion to trace the psyche of one’s fellow men; the great document of this is Lavater’s work on physiognomy.
The need for emotion in the direction of visionary enthusiasm and enlightenment is exploited in Europe outside of France by secret societies, in France itself by miracle-workers and charlatans.
A general victorious and reassuring feeling predominates, one which is fed by the great travels, nature descriptions, and discoveries in the natural sciences.