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The British Moralists on Human Nature and the Birth of Secular Ethics Paperback – February 17, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0521184403 ISBN-10: 0521184401 Edition: Reissue

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This approach offers an uninterrupted presentation of the historical story, while still tendering to those interested in the many contemporary debates material for their consideration. I give this book a hearty recommendation for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of ethics. One need not be a scholar on these matters to enjoy and benefit from reading it....Michael Gill's book is also indispensable for the scholar. I find myself in awe of his accomplishments here, and his book will undoubtedly be a touchstone for future discussions of early modern moral thought."
Elizabeth S. Radcliffe Nortre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Gill leads us to revise our understanding of the opposition between 'rationalism' and 'sentimentalism'...On the philological level, the work is very well documented and argued."
Laurent Jaffro, Journal of the History of Philosophy

"Gill's discussion is consistently lucid and insightful, examining difficult texts with a deft hand that rarely labors over the subject matter."
18th Century Scotland, Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland- Galway

Book Description

Uncovering the historical roots of naturalistic, secular contemporary ethics, this 2006 volume shows how the British moralists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries completed a Copernican revolution in moral philosophy, effecting a shift from considering morality as independent of human nature to considering it as part of human nature itself.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521184401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521184403
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,056,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SteveN on September 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The evolution of ethics in this time period is simply fascinating, and Gill does a tremendous job recounting it. As someone who has advanced degrees in theology and philosophy, I greatly appreciated his treatment of both subjects as he traces this historical development. If you're at all interested in the intellectual history of this time-period, you should buy this book.
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I wholeheartedly agree that this is an excellent book, and not just for specialists in 17th and 18th century British philosophy, but for anyone who has an interest in human morality. Gill traces the development of the theory that morality is based on an innate "moral sense" from the English Puritans of the civil war era through Shaftesbury and Hutcheson to Hume. In the process he does a masterful job of tracing the evolution of sense-based ethical theory from purely religious origins to the emergence of secular ethics in the writings of Hume. The works referred to in the process are of profound interest to anyone who is interested in the origin and basis of human morality. The authors were not just speculative philosophers, but scientists in the sense that they were careful observers of their own conscious emotions and reactions, and the evidence of similar "sentiments" in others. They demonstrated quite clearly, with arguments that have never been successfully refuted to this day, that morality can never be purely the outcome of reason or learning, that is, what we might refer to today as "culture," but must originate in an innate moral sense. Their arguments are still highly relevant in our own time, not least because, in the meantime, we have experienced the Blank Slate episode in the behavioral sciences, probably the greatest scientific debacle in the history of mankind. It demonstrated that "science" can be completely derailed for decades by ideological narratives. In the case of the Blank Slate orthodoxy, ideology required that the "human nature" demonstrated so clearly by the likes of Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Hume, cease to exist.Read more ›
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The British Moralists on Human Nature and the Birth of Secular Ethics
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