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Hume Studies Volume 30, Number 2, November 2004, pp. 423-426 ISABEL RIVERS. Reason, Grace, and Sentiment: A Study of the Language of Religion and Ethics in England 1660-1780. VolumeII, Shaftesbury to Hume. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. xiv + 386. ISBN 0-521-38341-2, cloth, £50/$75. This two-volume masterpiece mirrors its title. The prose is lyrical and lucid, the discussions evince intellectual integrity and rigor, and the author's voice allows readers to successfully navigate the philosophical, religious, and literary waters of formal academic and religious institutions of middle to late seventeenth- and most of eighteenth-century Britain. Both volumes are chronologically arranged, revealing the actual participants' inquiries and debates rather than placing them into particular schools or movements. Rivers's purpose for this structuring is much like D.D. Raphael's, expressed in British Moralists, 1650-1800, " [to show] how the thought of the British Moralists developed and was modified by their criticism."1 While the second volume alone—Shaftesbury to Hume—is the subject of this review, some discussions may be applicable to both, particularly given the overall general influence of religious beliefs upon theological and philosophical ethics documented in this study. Specifically, Rivers traces the critical modern evolution of British ethical thought. This very evolution was set into motion by conceptual shifts (if not revolutions) in Anglican religious and intellectual thinking about questions concerning the connection between God, human nature, reason, free will, the nature of divine grace and what constitutes a truly good life. These shifts were inspired by a particular group of Anglican thinkers, latitudinarians or the "latitude men," and their varying commitments to theological truths, to particular liturgical practices, and to formal religious structures. The intellectual predecessors of enlightenment "freethinking," the latitudinarians refocused Anglicanism as the "religion of reason" and their positions ranged from working within a religious framework in order to reconcile religious doctrine and belief with ethics to jettisoning ethics from any kind of religious framework. One of their central concerns was whether morality can be located within human nature itself or whether the source of moral goodness is in God alone. Rivers's analyses utilize most if not all of the writings of those British Moralists that are included in Raphael's British Moralists. Three works are very thoroughly engaged: Shaftesbury's Characteristicks and Hume's Enquiries and Treatise. Discussions in volume 1 are generally restricted to an exploration of English supporters of and dissenters to the Church of England. Rivers's investigation covers only the British Isles and does not include "prolonged attention to Roman Catholics, non-jurors, high-church Anglicans, or Quakers" (1:2). In volume 2, Hume Studies 424 Book Reviews Rivers focuses on the further development of their ideas, particularly Shaftesbury 's; she paints a picture of a place and a time more accurately understood as "Shaftesburian," extending from England to Ireland and Scotland. Rivers frames her discussions in terms of five fundamental questions that dominated seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British debates about the connection between religion and ethics (2:1). These are: 1. Is there a viable religion of nature separate from revealed religion? 2. Is the foundation of morals to be sought in human nature, or beyond it, in reason, the affections, the moral sense, sentiment, the will of God, the Nature of things, or some combination of these? 3. If the constitution of human nature is the starting point for moral enquiry, does it necessarily lead to God, or is this an irrational leap? 4. Is the separation of ethics from religion advantageous or damaging to the latter? 5. Is an atheist morality possible? Rivers begins her investigations in the second volume with a lively discussion of the difficulty associated with the labels of freethinking, deism, and atheism, one similar in kind to challenges posed by the term "latitudinarian." Part of the problem rests with ascertaining the true reasons various thinkers held such positions and the rationale for ascribing these labels (particularly freethinking versus deism); for example, there are three possible tempers which may be associated with freethinkers. One is "a general anti-Christian stance" (8). The second is "epistemological and methodological," resting on the role of reason in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 423-426
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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