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Conscience, Consciousness and Ethics in Joseph Butler's Philosophy and Ministry

Conscience, Consciousness and Ethics in Joseph Butler's Philosophy and Ministry

Volume: 26
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Conscience, Consciousness and Ethics in Joseph Butler's Philosophy and Ministry
    Book Description:

    Joseph Butler [1692-1752] is perhaps Britain's most powerful and original moral philosopher. He exercised a profound influence over the contemporary Protestant Churches, the English moralists and the Scottish philosophical school but his theory of the "affections", grounded in Newtonian metaphysics and presenting an account of human psychology, also set the terms of engagement with questions of education, slavery, missions and even labour relations. In the nineteenth-century English-speaking world he was an authority of first resort for Evangelicals, Tractarians, philosophers, scientists, psychologists, economists, sociologists, lawyers and educationalists alike. He remains a key reference point for modern American and British philosophers, from Broad to Rawls and beyond. Many analyses of Butler, however, have been distorted by aggressively secular readings. This book is based on a comprehensive reassessment of his published work and the surviving manuscripts and archival materials. These are set within an account of his spiritual and intellectual development and his ministerial vocation, from the protracted and painful process of conforming to the Church of England to his initial observations on a social philosophy. Demonstrating that even ‘The Analogy’ originated in liturgical preaching, this book offers a refreshed and detailed account of Butler's key terms - conscience, consciousness, identity, affections, charity, analogy, probability, tendency - and suggests that exploration of his methods may contribute to modern thinking about ethics, language, the role of the Church, and the religion and science debates. BOB TENNANT taught English Literature at the University of Sussex, was a senior manager in adult education, and also a trade union and political activist serving leading organisations at local, regional and national levels. He has written on political, economic and trade union matters for many newspapers and periodicals and is a founder of ‘The British Pulpit Online’, an online catalogue of all printed British sermons from 1660 to 1901.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-939-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Joseph Butler (1692–1752) is a major figure in the history of the anglophone world. In terms of influence and the sales of his works he was perhaps the most successful British theologian and moral philosopher of the eighteenth century. Later, in the nineteenth century, his influence grew further, in the British Empire and the USA, because of the rapid increase in university-level education. The question was asked seriously and frequently, whether he or Newton were the greater thinker.¹ It is probable that more copies of his works were produced in the nineteenth century than of all other eighteenth-century British...

  6. 1 Student Main texts: the Butler-Clarke letters
    (pp. 19-37)

    This chapter discusses the correspondence between the youthful Butler and Samuel Clarke, who, although prevented by his suspected Trinitarian heterodoxy from high office in the Church,¹ was the friend and translator of Isaac Newton² and was at this time considered Britain’s leading metaphysician. Clarke had given the Boyle lectures for 1704 and 1705 and published them under the titles, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God: more particularly in answer to Mr. Hobbs, Spinoza, and their Followers. Wherein the Notion of Liberty is Stated, and the Possibility and Certainty of it Proved, in Opposition to Necessity and Fate...

  7. 2 Fifteen Sermons Main texts: Fifteen Sermons (first edition, 1726; second edition, 1729)
    (pp. 38-75)

    It is noteworthy that Butler’s entry to the clerical profession did not take the usual route of a college fellowship followed by preferment: it continued the hesitant and improvised nature of his life since Tewkesbury. To remember that it was John Wesley, not he, who was ‘ordained as a Fellow of a College’ and launched his career by publishing a university sermon preached in St Mary’s¹ is to identify the curiously lumbering quality of his life. He graduated B.A. on 11 October 1718. He was ordained by William Talbot (Bishop of Salisbury and the father of his close friend Edward):...

  8. 3 The Analogy Main texts: The Analogy (1736); Of Personal Identity (1736); Of the Nature of Virtue (1736)
    (pp. 76-123)

    The Analogy was published in London and Dublin in 1736 (Butler signed the work off with a short Advertisement dated May). A second, corrected, edition appeared in the same year. The book was considered important enough for Edward Bentham, a fellow and tutor at Oriel, immediately to set to work compiling an index of the first edition, which Butler amended and supplemented.¹ Since Butler did not publish the index, it was presumably used by Bentham in his teaching then and (after Butler’s death) when delivering an annual course of lectures as Regius Professor of Divinity, for which post he was...

  9. 4 Bishop
    (pp. 124-145)

    This chapter will consider the practical application of Butler’s thought to the conduct of his episcopal responsibilities, presenting readings of a selection of material which, for the most part, he did not publish.

    From the first, The Analogy had a greater sale (judging by the number of editions) than Fifteen Sermons¹ and made Butler, perhaps reluctantly, a theological authority of first resort: he spent several years avoiding David Hume and Bartlett describes how he was approached by Henry Home (Lord Kames) in 1737,

    … from an earnest desire … to have some doubts removed … [about] the Evidences of Natural...

  10. 5 Six Sermons Main texts: The six occasional sermons, 1739–48
    (pp. 146-176)

    In Fifteen Sermons and The Analogy Butler was concerned with giving an account of the human mind, the introvert (self-love) and extrovert (benevolence), the dynamic relationship between them prompted by the conscience and the fundamentally ethical nature of the consciousness. In the last chapter we looked at several texts, mostly not intended for publication, which documented his personal application of his doctrine and the ministerial praxis founded on it. In the present chapter we turn to the six occasional sermons on questions of public policy. It is to be expected that such documents will be exemplars of the charitable application...

  11. 6 The Long Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 177-210)

    Since their first publication Butler’s major works, Fifteen Sermons and The Analogy, have probably never been out of print somewhere in the anglophone world. In Butler’s lifetime The Analogy was printed, with his own emendations, in 1736 (twice in London, once in Dublin), 1740 and 1750. Fifteen Sermons was printed in 1726, 1729, 1736 and 1749, all in London.

    In the second half of the eighteenth century The Analogy was published in London, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Boston (USA) and Fifteen Sermons in London and Glasgow. In the nineteenth century there was a spectacular increase in editions, probably exceeding the reissues...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 211-218)

    Butler was a major, even at times a dominant, figure in the Enlightenment, Romantic and Victorian periods, so that the case for a refreshed reading of his works scarcely needs arguing. We have reviewed, and in some instances criticized, the enormous range of thinkers who drew on him and noted the multitude of seemingly incompatible narratives to which he was acknowledged, or claimed, to have contributed. An exploration of this proliferation of Butlers, and Butler’s contribution to anglophone intellectual and social history, cannot be done unless we also agree to investigate what he actually said. Regrettably, we have noted instances...

  13. Appendix Some lexical features of SPG annual sermons, 1741–1800 (see Chapter 6)
    (pp. 219-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-246)
    (pp. 247-251)