Cyrus’ Strategy. Shaftesbury on Human Frailty and the Will

L. Jaffro (2014). Cyrus’ Strategy. Shaftesbury on Human Frailty and the Will. In P. Müller (ed.), New Ages, New Opinions. Shaftesbury in his World and Today. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 153-166.

In Soliloquy or Advice to an Author (part I, sect. 2), Shaftesbury tells the ‘story of an amour’ in order to illustrate ‘how far a lover by his own natural strength may reach the chief principle of philosophy, and understand our doctrine of two persons in one individual self’. This ten page narrative, which silently draws on Xenophon’s story of Araspas and Pantheia (Cyropaedia, 5. 1 and 6. 1) deserves our attention for several reasons: (a) embodying Shaftesbury’s attempt to convey ancient philosophy to a modern ear, the story is a good instance of the method of teaching philosophy by fables; (b) it explores what may be termed a case of multiple self and thus reveals Shaftesbury’s views on the will and connected issues (the questions how we should construe cases of weakness of will and whether the will is free); (c) it shows the significance, for Shaftesbury, of the Stoic topos of the dangers of ‘admiration’ and of the necessity for beginners of repressing desire and practising ‘aversion’. The aim of this paper is to unfold Shaftesbury’s way of grounding the control of practical choice in the control of ‘opinion’, i.e. of judgement. According to the strongly cognitivist (Socratic) view that Shaftesbury finds in the Roman Stoics, personal integrity, practical rationality, and moral identity are dependent on our ability to respond to truth.