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The long eighteenth century is a crucial period in the history of ethics, when our moral relations to God, ourselves and others were minutely examined and our duties, rights and virtues systematically and powerfully presented. Colin Heydt charts the history of practical morality - what we ought to do and to be - from the 1670s, when practical ethics arising from Protestant natural law gained an institutional foothold in England, to early British responses to the French Revolution around 1790. He examines the conventional philosophical positions concerning the content of morality, and utilizes those conventions to reinterpret the work of key figures including Locke, Hume, and Smith. Situating these positions in their thematic and historical contexts, he shows how studying them challenges our assumptions about the originality, intended audience, and aims of philosophical argument during this period. His rich and readable book will appeal to a range of scholars and students.Read more
- Provides a new approach to a key era of moral thought, focusing on the content of morality rather than on the theory of morals
- Presents an overview of the conventional moral philosophy of the period which situates the work of prominent philosophers in relation to each other, improving readers' understanding of contextual and thematic issues
- Engages with a variety of topics, including natural rights and secularization, and with a range of philosophers, including Locke, Hume, and Smith
Reviews & endorsements
'… the development of British moral philosophy in this period is irreducibly complex; Heydt's book is an immensely valuable contribution to our understanding of it.' Tim Stuart-Buttle, Journal of Scottish PhilosophySee more reviews
'Heydt explains clearly - with reference to a very wide variety of primary sources, some well-known, most unfamiliar - how teachers of moral philosophy in Britain in the eighteenth century presented their students with their duties to God, to themselves, and to others. All in all, this is a marvellous book … what especially struck me was the light it sheds on what the majority of moral philosophers in this place and time thought was the real point of their work.' James A. Harris, Journal of the History of Philosophy
'Heydt's scholarship is formidable. For those immersed in the literature of the period, this book will further their researches. For those, like this reviewer, who lack background knowledge in which to place the great figures, Heydt supplies a huge amount of information that could not otherwise be obtained except by great (and even tedious) labour. All those interested in [eighteenth-century] ethics are in his debt.' David McNaughton, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
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- Date Published: June 2019
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781108431316
- length: 297 pages
- dimensions: 230 x 153 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.42kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Foundations:
1. 'Morality not in accordance with virtues but in accordance with duties': the Pufendorfian shift in moral philosophy
2. The structure of practical ethics: duty and virtue
3. The structure of practical ethics: duty and right
Part II. Relations to God:
4. Duties to God, revelation, and morality's history
5. Breaking with convention: Hume, Smith, moral philosophy, and the God of natural religion
Part III. Relations to Self:
6. Moral relations to self and the significance of self-harm
7. Anthropological optimism, pessimism, and the scope of self-cultivation
Part IV. Relations to Others:
8. Relating to others: natural rights and community
9. Why not polygamy? Natural law and the family
10. Political jurisprudence and its limits.
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