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John Mason

(1706—1763) Independent minister and author


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John Mason was born in Dunmow, Essex, and died at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. A nonconformist clergyman, he appears as a Presbyterian minister at Dorking in 1729, and appears to have moved to Cheshunt in 1748. His most notable work is Self-knowledge. First published in 1746, this work went through sixteen editions in the next fifty years, and was reprinted at least as often in the nineteenth century. Mason argues that self-knowledge is foundational to other kinds of knowledge. Different minds, he says, hunger after different kinds of knowledge – of the world, of God, of science – according to temperament. The need for self-knowledge, however, is common to us all. It consists in asking, and answering, a number of questions, such as what kinds of creatures we are, what are our relations with God and our fellow men, what are our own talents, capacities and faculties, and how do we know and perceive of sin. The means of self-knowledge is self-examination; its end is self-government. By following this system, which Mason says is ‘scientific’, people are led to humility, moderation, decorum, piety and happiness. Mason also wrote on the use of numbers, including a schema for rhetoric based on numbers, after the fashion of Hippocrates and Gorgias. He argued that poetry and rhetoric could both be improved if written and spoken works alike were composed on mathematical principles, just as music. In several works, he lays out schema for such compositions.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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