Third Earl of Shaftesbury

Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3d earl of

Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury, 3d earl of, 1671–1713, English philosopher. The philosopher John Locke, adviser to the 1st earl, his grandfather, was in charge of Shaftesbury's education, which was largely classical. Ill health restricted his political life, although he served (1695–98) in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords after his accession to his title in 1699. Shaftesbury's chief contributions were in the fields of moral philosophy and aesthetics. He reacted against rationalism as an ethical basis and found true morality in a balance between egoism and altruism. That balance is possible because there is a harmony between society and the individual that makes the general welfare identical with individual happiness. Humans are innately equipped with spontaneous instincts or affections to promote such harmony. In the ethical field Shaftesbury called those instincts the moral sense, the first use of that term. His influence, especially in Germany, was considerable; his ideas were further developed by the British philosopher Francis Hutcheson. Shaftesbury collected most of his important essays in Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711).

See biography by R. Voitle (1984); S. Grean, Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (1967); J. A. Bernstein, Shaftesbury, Rousseau, and Kant (1980); see also G. B. Walters, The Significance of Diderot's Essai sur le merite et la vertu (1971), a study of Diderot's translation of a work by Shaftesbury.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Third Earl of Shaftesbury: A Study in Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory
R. L. Brett.
Hutchinson's University Library, 1951
Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times
Lawrence E. Klein.
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics: A Study in Enthusiasm
Stanley Grean.
Ohio University Press, 1967
Backgrounds of English Literature, 1700-1760
Cecil A. Moore.
University of Minnesota Press, 1953
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Shaftesbury and the Ethical Poets in England"
Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources
Michael G. Moran.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713)" begins on p. 191
Reason, Grace, and Sentiment: A Study of the Language of Religion and Ethics in England, 1660-1780
Isabel Rivers.
Cambridge University Press, vol.2, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Shaftesbury and the Defence of Natural Affection"
The Beautiful Soul: Aesthetic Morality in the Eighteenth Century
Robert E. Norton.
Cornell University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Advent of Modern Ethics in Britain and the Emergence of the Idea of Moral Beauty"
The Power of the Passive Self in English Literature, 1640-1770
Scott Paul Gordon.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "For Its Own Sake: Virtue and Agency in Early Eighteenth-Century England"
John Locke and the Problem of Depravity
W. M. Spellman.
Clarendon Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Shaftesbury, Locke, and the Problem of the Moral Sense"
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