State of Nature, Stages of Society
Frank Palmeri sees the conjectural histories of Rousseau, Hume, Herder, and other Enlightenment philosophers as a template for the development of the social sciences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without documents or memorials, these thinkers, he argues, employed conjecture to formulate a naturalistic account of society's commercial and secular progression. This approach can be traced in the work of political economists (Malthus, Martineau, Mill, Marx), anthropologists, sociologists (Comte, Spencer), and sociologists of religion (Weber, Durkheim, Freud), and its speculative framework creates a surprising ambivalence toward modernity in these disciplines. In addition, Palmeri shows that conjectural histories by Darwin and Nietzsche opened the way to new disciplines in the late twentieth century.