- Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury. Standard Edition: Complete Works, Selected Letters and Posthumous Writings
The Standard Edition illustrates how far the Earl subjected himself in private and in public to the “study, pains, or application” [End Page 99] he believed imperative in writing and in life. The planned Chartae Socraticae, conceived as a companion to the virtue and philosophy of the ancients, would have taken the form of a critical edition, offering those Greek texts which, in Shaftesbury’s opinion, preserve for us the life and thought of the historical Socrates (especially Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Apology). The original Greek was to be accompanied in each case by an English translation, copious notes, and “Discourses” containing Shaftesbury’s own interpretations. One aim was to introduce readers who had not learned Greek to Socrates, but to cater, nonetheless, to a more scholarly audience.
The clearly programmatic Chartae Socraticae (the present edition is the first to date) were designed to present Socrates as “the divinest Man that had appear’d ever in the Heathen World,” as someone for whom philosophy was quite rightly “a matter of Practice” and who was able to maintain virtue and morality in every situation. This approach, implying a fundamental concord between the Christian religion and secular philosophy on a moral plane, pervades Shaftesbury’s writings and is noticeable as early as his preface to his edition (1698) of Benjamin Whichcote’s Select Sermons. The present volume, exemplary in its careful and detailed editing, shows Chartae Socraticae, despite its survival as a fragment, to be essential to Shaftesbury’s thinking.