3rd Earl of Shaftesbury


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(Anthony Ashley Cooper), (1671–1713)

British moral philosopher. His grandfather was the patron of Locke, and upon being made Shaftesbury's guardian (the father being incapable: a ‘shapeless lump’, according to the poet Dryden), he had Locke direct much of his grandson's education. Shaftesbury suffered from poor health, which encouraged him to exchange a political life for a literary one, and died in Naples escaping from the rigours of the English climate. His Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, and Times (1711) collect together his elegant and stylized writings. His main philosophical remnant is the ‘Inquiry Concerning Virtue’ (collected in the Characteristics but completed in 1699), which contains the first occurrence of the phrase ‘moral sense’, later exploited by Hutcheson. He was attacked as a deist by contemporary Christian apologists, including Berkeley. In his own time his reputation was variable: he was much admired by the Scottish thinker Lord Monboddo (1714–99), and by Diderot, but viewed as a high-flown declaimer by Mandeville. However, Leibniz said that he found almost all his own Theodicy in the Characteristics, but more agreeably turned.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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