Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, marks an important dissent from the general trend of early modern philosophy. This dissertation argues that Shaftesbury's book undertakes a restoration of the classical understanding of philosophy in contradistinction to the understanding presented by the writings of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and other modern thin0kers. According to Shaftesbury, modern philosophy introduces a method of radical skepticism in order to combat the moral and political effects of Christianity. This methodical skepticism, however, turns out to be at least as corrosive to moral and political life as the worldview it hopes to undermine. Shaftesbury proposes as an alternative the restoration of the classical critique of religion, which made possible the coexistence of philosophy and religion and was accompanied by political toleration of a variety of religious practices. To this end Shaftesbury distinguishes a noble form of enthusiasm akin to Platonic eros, which in his account is the source of all higher human aspirations, including philosophy. Shaftesbury's primary concern is to preserve and defend the distinctly human things as they come to light in the writings of the ancients. This concern informs both the substance and the presentation of his defense of the noble and beautiful.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.