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Traveling, Reading and Experiments
The Formation of Montesquieu's Climatic Theory and Its Significances
In the eighteenth century, western scholars were generally convinced that the natural environment, especially climates, influenced human bodies and minds. Montesquieu was one of the influential protagonists of this idea. My study focuses on the development of his climatic theory and attempts to find out the roots and sources of his thought. It argues that Montesquieu was influenced by a complex of traditions and personal experiences. He not only read contemporary travel books and classical literature, but also toured around Europe in person and conversed with other scholars about the relations of climates and humans. As for the classical literature, the sources he primarily consulted were those works written by Hippocrates, Galen and Lucretius. The ancient heritage actually has greater sway on the formation of Montesquieu’s natural knowledge, as well as on that of other Enlightenment philosophes, than current scholarship has supposed.
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