The British Moralists on Human Nature and the Birth of Secular Ethics
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- Author: Michael B. Gill, University of Arizona
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Uncovering the historical roots of naturalistic, secular contemporary ethics, in this volume Michael Gill shows how the British moralists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries completed a Copernican revolution in moral philosophy. They effected a shift from thinking of morality as independent of human nature to thinking of it as part of human nature itself. He also shows how the British Moralists - sometimes inadvertently, sometimes by design - disengaged ethical thinking, first from distinctly Christian ideas and then from theistic commitments altogether. Examining in detail the arguments of Whichcote, Cudworth, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson against Calvinist conceptions of original sin and egoistic conceptions of human motivation, Gill also demonstrates how Hume combined the ideas of earlier British moralists with his own insights to produce an account of morality and human nature that undermined some of his predecessors' most deeply held philosophical goals.Read more
- Explains how English-speaking moral philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries became disengaged from religion and theology
- Uncovers the roots of the contemporary meta-ethical positions of moral rationalism and moral sentimentalism
- Presents full accounts of the moral thought of some of the most important and unjustly neglected early modern moral philosophers
Reviews & endorsements
This approach offers an uninterrupted presentation of the historical story, while still tendering to those interested in the many contemporary debates material for their consideration. I give this book a hearty recommendation for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of ethics. One need not be a scholar on these matters to enjoy and benefit from reading it....Michael Gill's book is also indispensable for the scholar. I find myself in awe of his accomplishments here, and his book will undoubtedly be a touchstone for future discussions of early modern moral thought."
Elizabeth S. Radcliffe Nortre Dame Philosophical ReviewsSee more reviews
"Gill leads us to revise our understanding of the opposition between 'rationalism' and 'sentimentalism'...On the philological level, the work is very well documented and argued."
Laurent Jaffro, Journal of the History of Philosophy
"Gill's discussion is consistently lucid and insightful, examining difficult texts with a deft hand that rarely labors over the subject matter."
18th Century Scotland, Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland- Galway
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- Date Published: August 2006
- format: Adobe eBook Reader
- isbn: 9780511223044
- availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
Table of Contents
Part I. Whichcote and cudworth:
1. The negative answer of English Calvinism
2. Whichcote and Cudworth's positive answer
3 Whichcote and Cudworth on religious liberty
4. Rationalism, sentimentalism, and Ralph Cudworth
5. The emergence of non-Christian ethics
Part II. Shaftesbury:
6. Shaftesbury and the Cambridge Platonists
7. Shaftesbury's Inquiry: a misanthropic faith in human nature
8. The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody
9. A philosophical faultline
Part III. Hutcheson:
10. Early influences on Francis Hutcheson
11. Hutcheson's attack on egoism
12. Hutcheson's attack on moral rationalism
13. A Copernican positive answer, an attenuated moral realism
14. Explaining away vice
Part IV. Hume:
15. David Hume's new 'science of man'
16. Hume's arguments against moral rationalism
17. Hume's associative moral sentiments
18. Hume's progressive view of human nature
19. Comparison and contingency in Hume's moral account
20. What is a Humean account, and what difference does it make?
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