Literary history commonly holds that the Enlightenment inaugurated an epistemological crisis to which the British Romantic poets sought to respond. The skeptical separation of subject and object is considered a central problem for Romanticism, which is thought to rest on a desire to regain access to things in themselves—or, in a more recent idiom, to what Quentin Meillassoux calls “the great outdoors” and Jane Bennett calls “the out-side.” This story does not stand up to scrutiny. A reexamination of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry and philosophy reveals that he was positively invested in a poetic praxis of skeptical ignorance derived from David Hume and that this praxis allowed him to vacate the question of the way things really are. Eschewing the masculinist quest to penetrate the secrets of the natural world, this skeptical praxis offers a quiet solution to the mind-nature problem by dissolving its existence as a problem. It also overhauls our understanding of “Mont Blanc” and illuminates a Romantic tradition founded on a poetics of epistemic sufficiency.

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