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New Ages, New Opinions

Shaftesbury in his World and Today

Patrick Müller

Interest in Shaftesbury is as lively and productive today as it ever was. Indeed, the past decade has seen a veritable international renaissance in studies of his work. The various theoretical approaches of which modern critics and scholars can avail themselves are reflected in the different new interpretations we now have of Shaftesbury. This collection of essays manifests this diversity, offering a representative miscellany which covers a wide range of Shaftesbury’s own intellectual interests. The focus lies on the re-evaluations of his ethics, aesthetics, politics, religion, and literary criticism, as well as examinations of the reception of his works.
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Elegance and Sublimity: The Influence of Shaftesbury on Hume’s Essays


Paola Zanardi, Università di Ferrara

1. Introduction

Although David Hume generally showed little inclination to cite contemporary philosophers and scholars in his works, for Shaftesbury he not only reserved several explicit references, often coupling the Earl’s name with two significant epithets (that he was “elegant” and “sublime”),1 but he also embellished many of these passages with some important indirect citations extrapolated from Characteristicks (in particular Soliloquy, Sensus Communis, and Miscellaneous Reflections). Hume embedded these citations within the literary forms (namely essays and dialogues) which Shaftesbury had so crucially contributed to codifying and whose success he thereby secured within a reform of philosophical prose. Since critics have devoted only limited attention to a detailed reconstruction of Shaftesbury’s influence on Hume, I shall attempt in the following to determine the significance of this influence. My focus will be on the latter’s Essays Moral and Political (1741-42) which, in terms of the chosen titles and contents, recall many quintessentially Shaftesburian issues, particularly those associated with morality, the development of the arts and customs, the interconnection between religion and politics, and the influence of the passions on human coexistence.

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