From Moral Theology to Moral Philosophy: Cicero and Visions of Humanity from Locke to Hume
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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At the Limits of Christian Humanism Conyers Middleton
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academic scepticism ancient arguments Augustinian authority broadly Chapter Christ Christian Cicero Ciceronian civil claim classical concern consequence Correspondence of Locke critical defended deity developed Dialogues discussion divine doctrine duties early modern emphasized endorsed Enlightenment Enquiry Epicurean Epicurus epistemology Erasmus Essay established ethics explain Fable foundations God's Gospel Grotius heathen History Hobbes Hobbes's human nature Hume's Hutcheson Ibid ideas importance individual insights intellectual interpretation italics added Jansenists John Locke justice law of nature Law of Reputation Legibus Letter concerning Toleration Letters of Hume Leviathan Locke's Locke's moral Mandeville's mankind men's Middleton moral philosophy moral theology moral theory moralists Natura Deorum natural law nonetheless noted offered Officiis Origin of Honour passions political polytheism principles Pufendorf question reason recognized religion religious revealed Rome Scriptures self-liking sense sentiments Shaftesbury similarly social Socrates Stoic Stoicism suggested summum bonum theism tradition Treatise true truth Tusculan Disputations virtue Warburton Waterland writings