From Education to Criticism: Lenglet

  • Gabriel Motzkin
Part of the Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture book series (PSCC, volume 1)


Nicolas Lenglet du Fresnoy was almost a precise contemporary of SaintSimon’s. Yet the work he wrote that we shall consider was not a memoir. It was rather a guidebook for learning history, drawing upon a tradition of such guides. Lenglet’s guide included bibliographical essays on all the major domains and periods of history. Here we shall only consider the relatively few chapters he devoted to historical perspective in his Méthode pour etudier l’ histoire.1 Drawing on an old rhetorical tradition, and especially on the quite different De l’usage de l’ histoire composed in 1671 by César Vichard de Saint-Real, Lenglet also began with the claim that the instructive aim of studying history is in order to know oneself (I, 3), a claim that Saint-Simon was too clever to make. Yet even for Saint-Real the purpose of studying history was no longer that of studying the best management of public affairs, although Saint-Real still believed that a knowledge of human nature was available through the study of history; history was still supposed to be empirically useful. Lenglet’s idea of the relation between the development of the self and the purpose of the study of history was somewhat different. The self for Lenglet has other purposes than success in manipulation.


Historical Context Contingent Event Original Event Historical Science Subjective Time 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel Motzkin
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael

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