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Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times In Three Volumes
Birmingham: Birmingham: Printed by John Baskerville, 1773, 1773. Three volumes. Pp. [2], iv, [2], 364; 443; [4], 410, [48] index. Contents leaf misbound in volume 1. Copper-engraved frontis portrait, title page vignettes, and chapter head vignettes by Simon Gribelin. Finely bound by Bayntun of Bath in three-quarter crimson morocco over marbled boards, spine elegantly gilt in compartments with central floral ornaments, titled direct in gilt, citron edges. Bindings show only slight edgewear, lacking original blanks, and errata leaf in vol. 3, fly leaves darkened, earlier armorial bookplates and another more recent; overall, a splendidly bound, remarkably clean, crisp set. The First Baskerville Edition of one of the great English philosophical works of the 18th century. First published in 1711, Shaftesbury's Characteristics is a collection of previously published essays, including "An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit" (1699), "A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm" (1708), "Sensis Communis, An essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour" (1709), "The Moralists, A Philosophical Rhapsody" (1709), and "Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author" (1710). These writings embody the author's principal ethical and aesthetic theories, presented in an elegant and refined, though entirely unsystematic fashion. In these essays, Shaftesbury argues for freedom of thought, toleration, and an enlightened view of religion. He even suggests the use of humour as an antidote to dogmatism, arguing that there is no better test of religious truth than its ability to withstand ridicule. On the subject of ethics, Shaftesbury insists that morality exists independently of religion, and - against Hobbes - that man is naturally virtuous (which is not to say that all men are actually virtuous). Here he also parts company with his childhood mentor John Locke, viewing Locke's attack on innate ideas as undermining man's essential virtue. He describes man's natural love of virtue as his "moral sense", a term which is taken up by his philosophical heirs, Francis Hutcheson and David Hume. Shaftesbury's ideas, which owed much to the 'Cambridge Platonists', achieved widespread acceptance by his contemporaries, especially the English deists, and greatly influenced such Continental thinkers as Leibnitz, Lessing, Voltaire, and Diderot. Gaskell 49. Rothschild 1831.. Fifth Edition, First Baskerville Edition. Hard Cover. Very Good. Octavo.
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