Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times

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Read Books, 2008 - History - 300 pages
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About the author (2008)

Born in London, Shaftesbury was the grandson of the Whig leader who was John Locke's chief patron; he was also a direct ancestor of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, who worked successfully for important labor reforms, such as the Ten Hours Bill, in nineteenth-century England. Locke supervised Shaftesbury's early education. Elected to Parliament in 1695, he served for three years before a serious asthmatic condition forced him to retire. Succeeding to the earldom in 1699, he faithfully attended the House of Lords and was a productive writer despite constant illness. After marrying in 1709, he retired from public life and moved to Italy for reasons of health. Shaftesbury's writings are erudite, elegantly crafted, and often original and suggestive, but they are not systematic or rigorous enough to attract most philosophical scholars. His main works are collected in a single three-volume magnum opus: Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, which was first published as a whole in 1711. Shaftesbury argues for freedom of thought and an enlightened attitude toward religion and for the independence of morality from religion. He criticizes the egoism of Hobbes and presents a theory of human nature aimed at showing that human sentiments provide a sufficient foundation for virtue. In the course of doing so, he anticipated the moral sense theories of Hutcheson and Hume and was the first philosopher to use that phrase.

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