From Moral Theology to Moral Philosophy: Cicero and Visions of Humanity from Locke to Hume

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Oxford University Press, Jun 27, 2019 - Philosophy - 288 pages
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries represent a period of remarkable intellectual vitality in British philosophy, as figures such as Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Smith attempted to explain the origins and sustaining mechanisms of civil society. Their insights continue to inform how political and moral theorists think about the world in which we live. From Moral Theology to Moral Philosophy reconstructs a debate which preoccupied contemporaries but which seems arcane to us today. It concerned the relationship between reason and revelation as the two sources of mankind's knowledge, particularly in the ethical realm: to what extent, they asked, could reason alone discover the content and obligatory character of morality? This was held to be a historical, rather than a merely theoretical question: had the philosophers of pre-Christian antiquity, ignorant of Christ, been able satisfactorily to explain the moral universe? What role had natural theology played in their ethical theories - and was it consistent with the teachings delivered by revelation? Much recent scholarship has drawn attention to the early-modern interest in two late Hellenistic philosophical traditions - Stoicism and Epicureanism. Yet in the English context, three figures above all - John Locke, Conyers Middleton, and David Hume - quite deliberately and explicitly identified their approaches with Cicero as the representative of an alternative philosophical tradition, critical of both the Stoic and the Epicurean: academic scepticism. All argued that Cicero provided a means of addressing what they considered to be the most pressing question facing contemporary philosophy: the relationship between moral philosophy and moral theology.

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About the author (2019)

Tim Stuart-Buttle, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of York

Tim Stuart-Buttle is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of York. Prior to this, he held a postdoctoral research associateship at the University of Cambridge. He has published articles in Locke Studies and History of Political Thought, and essays in collected volumes including The Cambridge Companion to Edward Gibbon (Cambridge 2018). He is the co-editor, with Subha Mukherji, of Literature, Belief, and Knowledge in Early Modern England: Knowing Faith (Palgrave Macmillan 2018).

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