Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury, 3d earl of

Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3d earl of, 1671–1713, English philosopher. The philosopher John Locke, adviser to the 1st earl, his grandfather, was in charge of Shaftesbury's education, which was largely classical. Ill health restricted his political life, although he served (1695–98) in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords after his accession to his title in 1699. Shaftesbury's chief contributions were in the fields of moral philosophy and aesthetics. He reacted against rationalism as an ethical basis and found true morality in a balance between egoism and altruism. That balance is possible because there is a harmony between society and the individual that makes the general welfare identical with individual happiness. Humans are innately equipped with spontaneous instincts or affections to promote such harmony. In the ethical field Shaftesbury called those instincts the moral sense, the first use of that term. His influence, especially in Germany, was considerable; his ideas were further developed by the British philosopher Francis Hutcheson. Shaftesbury collected most of his important essays in Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711).

See biography by R. Voitle (1984); S. Grean, Shaftesbury's Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (1967); J. A. Bernstein, Shaftesbury, Rousseau, and Kant (1980); see also G. B. Walters, The Significance of Diderot's Essai sur le merite et la vertu (1971), a study of Diderot's translation of a work by Shaftesbury.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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