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Shaftesbury, Third Earl of (Anthony Ashley Cooper) (1671–1713)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L095-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Shaftesbury, whose influence on eighteenth-century thought was enormous, was the last great representative of the Platonic tradition in England. He argued that by natural reason we can see that the world is an intelligible, harmonious system. In reflecting on our character traits we will inevitably approve of those which contribute to the good of humanity and of the whole system. These same personal qualities are also needed for a happy life, so virtue and happiness go hand in hand.

Shaftesbury is often seen as the founder of the moral sense or ‘sentimentalist’ school in ethics, whose members held that morality was based on human feeling rather than on reason. Although leading sentimentalists, such as Hutcheson and Hume, made use of many of his ideas, Shaftesbury himself has more in common with the rationalists, who held that there are eternal moral truths which we can know by the use of reason.

Citing this article:
McNaughton, David. Shaftesbury, Third Earl of (Anthony Ashley Cooper) (1671–1713), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L095-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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