Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This essay revisits the question of the relationship between the travel writings of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) and the history of European imperialism in the Americas by investigating not Humboldt’s geopolitical views on empire per se but rather the role that Humboldtian science played in the history of the modern idea of scientific discovery, particularly, the Eurocentric modern fiction that America was “discovered” by Europeans in the fifteenth century. For this purpose, the essay places what the author calls Humboldt’s “tropicalist” hermeneutics of discovery in the tradition of late medieval and early modern alchemy, particularly Francis Bacon’s program in scientific empiricism. The author argues that Humboldt’s travel writings about America (re-)legitimate for a secular age the scientific objectification underlying the modern hermeneutics of discovery that had been rationalized in a late medieval and early modern Christian apocalypticism

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0201
Print ISSN
0193-5380
Pages
pp. 237-255
Launched on MUSE
2018-09-18
Open Access
No
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