This new Liberty Fund edition of Characteristicks presents the complete 1732 text of this classic work of philosophy and political theory. Also included are faithful reproductions of the stirring engravings that Shaftesbury created to facilitate the reader's consideration of his meditations on the interrelationships among truth, goodness, beauty, virtue, liberty, responsibility, society, and the state. Click here to view a sample art card.
The grandson of a founder and leader of the English Whigs, and tutored by John Locke, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713), wrote one of the most intellectually influential works in English of the eighteenth century. This was the three-volume Characteristicks, originally published in 1711, but revised in 1714 to accommodate the engravings of illustrations that Shaftesbury himself executed to aid the reader's consideration of his reflections on virtue as a kind of rationally achieved harmony among the affections.
Widely regarded as the first exponent of the view that ethics derives, not from reason alone, but from "sentiment," Shaftesbury criticizes not only Locke but, especially, Hobbes for the dim view that "the state of nature" is "a war of all against all." To the contrary, Shaftesbury argued that human nature responds most fully to representations of the good, the true, and the beautiful, and that human beings naturally desire society. In all of these reflections, he provides a large scope for the exercise of individual liberty and responsibility.
Douglas Den Uyl has for many years been a Professor of Philosophy at Bellarmine College, Louisville, and is Vice President of Educational Programs for Liberty Fund, Inc.