Tag Archives: Shaftesbury

Psychological and Political Balances: The Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s Reading of James Harrington

L. Jaffro (2018). Psychological and Political Balances: The Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s Reading of James Harrington. In P. Müller (ed.), Shaping Enlightenment Politics. The Social and Political Impact of the First and Third Earls of Shaftesbury. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 149-162.

The chapter investigates why James Harrington’s vocabulary, especially that of ‘balance’ and of ‘interest’, pervades Shaftesbury’s psychological discourse in Characteristicks. It turns out that the Earl’s discreet use of Harrington was not simply a conniving glance at fellow Old Whigs, unhappy with the conversion of Country to Tory, but that it included broader concerns in terms of a philosophical as well as political agenda. Shaftesbury was sensitive to the way in which Harrington revived the ancient analogy between political constitution and the human soul, constitutional balance and psychological temper, thus reconnecting the question of political justice with that of justice in the individual.

The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson

L. Jaffro (2017). The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. In A. Cohen and R. Stern (eds.), Thinking About the Emotions. A Philosophical History. Mind Association Occasional Series, Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2017, 130-149. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780198766858.001.0001/oso-9780198766858-chapter-7

The third Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson considered laughter as a passion in its own right. The hilarious response is not reducible, as Hobbes believed, to the facial expression of the sudden awareness of our own superiority. Ridicule is however an important kind of laughter; it is also an action, part of a strategy against the seriousness of fanaticism. Shaftesbury gives much importance to the politics of laughter and to the caustic power of ridicule, but also to the capacity to laugh at one’s laughter, which is crucial to what he calls good humour. Hutcheson and Shaftesbury interestingly disagree on the question of how to regulate laughter and limit its abuse.

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. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01011032/document

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.

Shaftesbury’s Pathologia. In two parts

Ch. Maurer & L. Jaffro (2013). Reading Shaftesbury’s Pathologia: An Illustration and Defence of the Stoic Account of the Emotions. History of European Ideas, 39(2), 207-220. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01916599.2012.679795

L. Jaffro, Ch. Maurer & A. Petit (2013). Pathologia, A Theory of the Passions. History of European Ideas, 39(2), 221-240. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01916599.2012.679796

The present article is an edition of the Pathologia (1706), a Latin manuscript on the passions by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713). There are two parts, i) an introduction with commentary (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2012.679795), and ii) an edition of the Latin text with an English translation (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2012.679796) . The Pathologia treats of a series of topics concerning moral psychology, ethics and philology, presenting a reconstruction of the Stoic theory of the emotions that is closely modelled on Cicero and Diogenes Lærtius. It contains a most detailed typology of the passions and affections as well as an analysis of a series of psychological connections, for example between admiration and pride. On the basis of his reconstruction of Stoic moral psychology and ethics, Shaftesbury argues that in one of his phases, Horace should be interpreted as a Stoic rather than as an Epicurean. The translation and the commentary draw attention to the relations between the Pathologia and Shaftesbury’s English writings, most importantly Miscellaneous Reflections and the Inquiry Concerning Virtue, or Merit, which sheds light on several features of Shaftesbury’s relation to Stoicism.

John Toland and the Moral Teaching of the Gospel

L. Jaffro (2012). John Toland and the Moral Teaching of the Gospel. In R. Savage (ed.), Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain. New Case Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 77-89. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227044.001.0001/acprof-9780199227044-chapter-5

According to John Toland, the only intelligible content of the Gospel is the commendation of mutual love as a social virtue. The chapter situates this claim in the context of Toland’s rhetorical use of the primitive Church as an authority for a pluralistic account of society, and tries to determine his stance on the question of the foundation of morality. In spite of his constant recourse to the vocabulary of natural law, there is little doubt that Toland does not share Shaftesbury’s Stoic views and that he locates the foundation of morality, not in the providential organization of the universe and its acceptance by a self-cultivating individual, but in the interest of society. The moral teaching of the Gospel is somewhere between Epicureanism, the doctrine of utility, and the nineteenth-century idea of a religion of mankind.

Shaftesbury on the ‘Natural Secretion’ and Philosophical Personae

L. Jaffro (2008). Shaftesbury on the ‘Natural Secretion’ and Philosophical Personae. Intellectual History Review, 18(3), 349-359.

The third Earl of Shaftesbury devoted a great deal of effort, both theoretical and practical, to improving and controlling his personae, whether philosophical, literary or social. Far from being only a matter of rhetorical strategy, the meticulous care with which he made use of those masks makes sense within a conception of philosophy in the ancient fashion that includes the cultivation of oneself at its core. According to the perfectionist ethics of which Shaftesbury found a paradigm in the Roman Stoics, the task of self-fashioning was an essential ingredient of the education of the philosopher. Following Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, Shaftesbury referred to it as prokopê (self-improvement). Shaping a philosophical self necessarily involves creating personae, at least two: one that suits the needs of the apprentice and is fitted for keeping the askêsis away from prying eyes, and another one (or possibly a full set of personae, in accordance with the various literary genres that may be adopted to that end) to which the mature philosopher – the writer – has recourse when he teaches or, as Shaftesbury puts it, ‘gives advice’ to the reader.

Which Platonism for Which Modernity? Shaftesbury’s Socratic ‘Sea-Cards’

L. Jaffro (2008). Which Platonism for Which Modernity? Shaftesbury’s Socratic ‘Sea-Cards’. In S. Hutton and D. Hedley (eds), Platonism at the Origins of Modernity : Studies on Platonism and Early Modern Philosophy. International Archives in the History of Ideas, Dordrecht: Springer, 255-267.

The so-called Platonism of Shaftesbury is mainly a reconstruction through which commentators claim to understand Shaftesbury better than he understood himself. For he used to view himself as a disciple of Socrates; in his opinion being a disciple of Socrates meant that he was not a Platonist but a Stoic, insofar as the Stoics drew the ultimate consequences of the Socratic idea of virtue as knowledge. The chapter reconsiders Shaftesbury’s relationship to ancient philosophy by drawing unpublished manuscripts, especially his Design of a Socratic History.

Shaftesbury on the Cogito. An Intermediary between Gassendism and the Common Sense School

L. Jaffro, Shaftesbury on the Cogito. An Intermediary between Gassendism and the Common Sense School. In G. Carabelli and P. Zanardi (eds.), Nuovi saggi su Shaftesbury. Padova: Il Poligrafo, 2003, 111-125.

Shaftesbury’ fourth Miscellany (1711) starts with a brief criticism of Descartes’ cogito. He rejects the modern metaphysical account of ‘egoity’ in the name of the ancient Stoic conception of a moral discipline of the self.  We do not need the metaphysical certitude of cogito sum as a foundation stone, nor any ‘wonderfully refined speculations’ on the nature of the ego; on the contrary, the ordinary and pre-philosophical experience of my own existence as a subject is ‘sufficient ground for a moralist’.