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Which Platonism for Which Modernity? A Note on Shaftesbury’s Socratic Sea-Cards

  • Laurent Jaffro
Part of the International Archives of the History Of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 196)

I will not speculate about Shaftesbury’s alleged Platonism in his Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711). Of course it cannot be denied that the philosophy of the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) might sound Platonic, especially when it makes use of such topics as the scale of beauties in The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody. Besides, it is well known that Shaftesbury’s criticism of Hobbes drew heavily on the Cambridge Platonists; his first publication was a preface to Benjamin Whichcote’s Select Sermons in 1698, in which he restated the claims of moral realism against the mercenary spirit of Hobbesian ethics. However 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.

Keywords

Moral Realism Ancient Philosophy Divine Command Theory Modern Writer Projected Book 
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© Springer 2008

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  • Laurent Jaffro

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