Stanley Grean (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Grean, Stanley. “Enthusiasm” and “Concluding Remarks.” In Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics: A Study in Enthusiasm, pp. 19-36; 258-63. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1967.

[In the first of the following essays, Grean explores the background and significance of Shaftesbury's central doctrine of enthusiasm and discusses how it is related to his religious concepts; in the second, he offers an overview of Shaftesbury's thought, viewing him as a poet rather than a philosopher because of his belief that reason ought to be transcended to reach higher truths.]


In a letter to a friend, Shaftesbury once...

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John G. Hayman (essay date spring 1970)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hayman, John G. “Shaftesbury and the Search for a Persona.” SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 10, no. 2 (spring 1970): 491-504.

[In the following essay, Hayman examines Shaftesbury's use of a literary persona that embodies flexibility, composure, grace, and penetration, which the critic says marks the author as a deliberate artist.]

The preoccupation of Swift and Pope with the creation of personae has naturally received a good deal of attention, but the extent to which this preoccupation was also shared by other writers of the period has perhaps been insufficiently recognized. In discussions of Shaftesbury, for example, commentators have...

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Pat Rogers (essay date summer 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rogers, Pat. “Shaftesbury and the Aesthetics of Rhapsody.” British Journal of Aesthetics 12, no. 3 (summer 1972): 244-57.

[In this essay, Rogers explores the reasons for Shaftesbury's use of the word “rhapsody” in the subtitle of his treatise The Moralists, arguing that the philosopher was responsible for the positive association of the term in relation to aesthetics.]

One of the cheats of time is to rob us of surprise. History acts as a buffer against that sense of shock which contemporaries, lacking such insulation, must often have felt. For the literary student this attenuation of the unexpected affects—and distorts—judgement in several...

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James W. Davidson (essay date summer 1974)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Davidson, James W. “Criticism and Self-Knowledge in Shaftesbury's Soliloquy.Enlightenment Essays 5, no. 2 (summer 1974): 50-61.

[In the essay below, Davidson examines Shaftesbury's ideas about self-examination, criticism of society, and the control of the irrational.]

In the second treatise of the Characteristics, An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, Shaftesbury proposes that criticism of self and society, regulated by the standard of taste—“common sense”—be initiated through literature. If poets are “to ridicule folly, and recommend wisdom and virtue (if possibly they can) in a way of pleasantry and mirth,” then...

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Raymond A. Anselment (essay date April-June 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Anselment, Raymond A. “Socrates and The Clouds: Shaftesbury and a Socratic Tradition.” Journal of the History of Ideas 39, no. 2 (April-June 1978): 171-82.

[In the following essay, Anselment discusses Shaftesbury's views on the impact of Aristophanes' The Clouds on the trial, imprisonment, and execution of Socrates.]

Among the many eighteenth-century reactions to Shaftesbury's Characteristics the issue of Aristophanes' role in the condemnation of Socrates provoked considerable controversy. Shaftesbury had cited Aristophanes' attack against the philosopher to argue that Socrates' reputation and philosophy were enhanced rather than...

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Garland P. Brooks (essay date autumn 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brooks, Garland P. “Shaftesbury and the Psychological School of Ethics.” Dalhousie Review 62, no. 3 (autumn 1982): 431-40.

[In the essay below, Brooks examines the theory of morality propounded by Shaftesbury, which the critic views as essentially subjective despite the philosopher's search for an objective system of ethics.]

British eighteenth-century psychology: the most typical association is probably to the Nihil est in intellectu, quod non prius fuerit in sensu epistemology of the empiricists. The view that the psychology of the period was synonymous with tabula rasa, sensation and association has long been widespread. Such a perception...

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Chester Chapin (essay date August 1983)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Chapin, Chester. “Shaftesbury and the Man of Feeling.” Modern Philology 81, no. 1 (August 1983): 47-50.

[In the following essay, Chapin explores the influence of Shaftesbury's ideas about benevolence on other eighteenth-century philosophers.]

Referring to what he calls “the mid-eighteenth-century cult of the ‘man of feeling,’” R. S. Crane argued that this cult owed much to “the propaganda of benevolence and tender feeling carried on with increasing intensity by the anti-Puritan, anti-stoic, and anti-Hobbesian divines of the Latitudinarian school.”1 Donald Greene has challenged this argument in the pages of this journal,2...

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Robert Voitle (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Voitle, Robert. “The Patterns of Shaftesbury's Later Thought 1704-1713.” In The Third Earl of Shaftesbury, 1671-1713, pp. 313-66. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.

[In this excerpt, Voitle discusses Shaftesbury's philosophical works after 1700, which he argues are heavily influenced by Platonic idealism but also stress the importance of the creative imagination.]

Before considering Shaftesbury's Philosophical Rhapsody it would be well to see where it lies among his more serious studies. His earliest printed philosophical work is his preface to the Select Sermons of Benjamin Whichcote published in 1698. He must have...

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Robert Markley (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Markley, Robert. “Style as Philosophical Structure: The Contexts of Shaftesbury's Characteristicks.” In The Philosopher as Writer: The Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert Ginsberg, pp. 140-54. Selinsgrove, Pa: Susquehanna University Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Markley argues that Shaftesbury's work is important not only for its ideas but because it shows the interaction of philosophical and stylistic concerns.]

Shaftesbury has traditionally proved a difficult writer for both literary critics and philosophers. Most of his commentators have taken his self-proclaimed status as a “philosopher” as both the beginning and logical conclusion...

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Richard B. Wolf (essay date August 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wolf, Richard B. “Shaftesbury's Wit in A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm.Modern Philology 86, no. 1 (August 1988): 46-53.

[In the essay below, Wolf discusses Shaftesbury's ironic wit, focusing particularly on his use of paradox and the conceit, which he says are used to attack dogmatists.]

Comparing his reaction to Characteristics with his earlier response to the French translation of A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm, Leibnitz observed that the third earl of Shaftesbury “s'etoit merveilleusement corrigé dans le progrès de ses meditations, et que d'un Lucien il etoit devenu un Platon.”1 Leibnitz's observation has also...

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Robert Voitle (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Voitle, Robert. “Lord Shaftesbury and Sentimental Morality.” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 263 (1989): 489-91.

[In this essay, Voitle considers the factors that contributed to the rationally inclined Shaftesbury becoming an early leader in the movement towards sentimental morality.]

How did Lord Shaftesbury, who was not at all pious in the ordinary sense of the word, who was remote and austere in his dealings with mankind, who strove all of his life to achieve a purely rational mode of behaviour, come to be regarded as one of the founders of sentimental morality?

Some modern critics have difficulty interpreting Shaftesbury...

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Susan Griffin (essay date fall 1990)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Griffin, Susan. “Shaftesbury's Soliloquy: The Development of Rhetorical Authority.” Rhetoric Review 9, no. 1 (fall 1990): 94-106.

[In the following essay, Griffin analyzes Shaftesbury's Soliloquy, examining its ideas about the role of the author and arguing that the work shows how eighteenth-century notions about rhetoric differ from contemporary rhetorical thought.]

Vous savez que je suis habitué de longue main à l'art du soliloque. Si je quitte la societé et que je rentre chez moi triste and chagrin, je me retire dans mon cabinet, and là je me questionne and je me demande: Qu'avez vous? de l'humeur? … Oui … Est-ce...

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Richard B. Wolf (essay date summer 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wolf, Richard B. “Shaftesbury's Just Measure of Irony.” SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 33, no. 3 (summer 1993): 565-85.

[In this essay, Wolf examines Shaftesbury's use of satiric wit and discusses how his distinctive use of raillery is influenced by his philosophical beliefs and classical background.]

John Hayman has justly linked the third earl of Shaftesbury to Augustan satiric reformers such as Addison and Steele, who were intent on curbing the malice of contemporary raillery and providing a proper model of good humored mental disposition.1 These writers reacted against the cynical and predatory image of humankind associated with...

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Jorge V. Arregui and Pablo Arnau (essay date October 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Arregui, Jorge V., and Pablo Arnau. “Shaftesbury: Father or Critic of Modern Aesthetics?” British Journal of Aesthetics 34, no. 4 (October 1994): 350-62.

[In the essay below, Arregui and Arnau view Shaftesbury not as the father of modern aesthetics, but as the first great critic of aesthetic modernity.]

Shaftesbury is usually considered the father of modern aesthetics and, consequently, only those aspects of his thought specially relevant to later aesthetics—the disinterested attitude, the moral and aesthetic sense, and the sublime—are studied.1 In this sense, Stolnitz has stressed his importance in engendering the central concept of modern...

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Preben Mortensen (essay date October 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Mortensen, Preben. “Shaftesbury and the Morality of Art Appreciation.” Journal of the History of Ideas 55, no. 4 (October 1994): 631-50.

[In this essay, Mortensen examines Shaftesbury's notion of aesthetic disinterestedness and his moral defense of art appreciation.]

It is central to our Western conception of art that art has its value in itself and not just as a vehicle for, say, moral or religious enlightenment. According to this idea of the autonomy of art, when we contemplate art, we adopt a specific “aesthetic attitude” which serves, as it were, to bracket whatever practical, moral, religious, political, or other concerns we may have, and we attend...

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Lawrence E. Klein (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Klein, Lawrence E. “The Culture of Liberty.” In Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness: Moral Discourse and Cultural Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century England, pp. 195-212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Klein discusses the concepts of discursive, cultural, and political liberty in Shaftesbury's later essays, arguing that, for Shaftesbury, conditions of freedom were necessary in order for the public to be able to make sound judgments.]


Shaftesbury may have had qualms about the links between Whiggism and the Court after 1688, but polemics in Queen Anne's reign demanded...

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Joel Weinsheimer (essay date summer 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Weinsheimer, Joel. “Shaftesbury in Our Time: The Politics of Wit and Humor.” Eighteenth Century 36, no. 2 (summer 1995): 178-88.

[In the essay below, Weinsheimer compares the criticism of Shaftesbury's satire with prohibitions against certain forms of “offensive” humor in contemporary American culture.]

“The main problem is we live in a world with no sense of humor or irony.” Such was Art Spiegelman's response to the outrage ignited by his New Yorker cover depicting a Hasidic Jew kissing an African-American woman. “We are stunned that you approved the use of a painting that is obviously insensitive,” wrote the director of the...

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A. Owen Aldridge (essay date June 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Aldridge, A. Owen. “Shaftesbury, Rosicrucianism and Links with Voltaire.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 23, no. 2 (June 1996): 393-401.

[In the following essay, Aldridge discusses Shaftesbury's critique of religious superstition in The Adept Ladies.]

Scholars have realized for many years that a close connection exists between Protestantism and Rosicrucianism, but the only major literary figures that have been extensively studied from this perspective are the Renaissance martyr Giordano Bruno (who remained nominally a Catholic) and the political and philosophical propagandist of the early Enlightenment John Toland. Bruno's pantheistic hermetism...

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Robert D. Richardson, Jr. (essay date April 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Richardson, Robert D., Jr. “Liberal Platonism and Transcendentalism: Shaftesbury, Schleiermacher, Emerson.” Symbiosis 1, no. 1 (April 1997): 1-20.

[In the excerpt below, Richardson briefly summarizes Shaftesbury's major ideas and his influence on writers and philosophers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.]

It has often been noted that the Cambridge Platonists had a direct impact on American Transcendentalism; what is less often remarked is the even more massive indirect influence exerted by the Cambridge Platonists through Shaftesbury. Indeed, Shaftesbury, whom Herder called ‘the beloved Plato of Europe’ is probably the main person through...

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