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Does Sensibility Have an Historical Context?

Michael DECKARD*

When a special issue of an intellectual history journal is dedicated to sensibility, one of the first questions asked is whether sensibility is particularly connected to a certain historical context. Isn‟t the nature of sensibility something beyond time and not entirely situated within early modernity? There are claims about particular historical periods but especially the early modern as being an “age of reason” or “the scientific revolution,” but “age of sensibility”? Although there have been a few recent books about sensibility in the early modern context1, this has never been claimed by historians, although the eighteenth century has been described as the “age of sentiment.” Why is it that sensibility is particularly suited to the period between Kepler and Kant or Goethe?

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