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TitleTechnique of philosophical dialogue in the works of Mandeville, Shaftesbury and Berkley
TitleThe Technique of philosophical dialogue in the works of Mandeville, Shaftesbury and Berkley
AuthorRelich, Mario
Subject(s)Philosophy; History
AbstractThe aim of this thesis is to investigate the dramatic and dialectical techniques of the dialogues of Mandeville, Shaftesbury and Berkeley. In the process of examining these writers, as well as important contemporary authorities on the genre, such as Richard Hurd, Hugh Blair, William Gilpin and Shaftesbury himself, the salient characteristics of philosophical dialogue in the neoclassical mode will emerge. The study of this genre will show not only its great intrinsic value but its historical significance in preparing the way for the greatest British masterpiece of the genre, Hume's Dialogrues Concerning Natural Religion. Broadly speaking, there are two important characteristics that distinguish the neo-classical dialogue from the Platonic and Ciceronian models of the genre. Firstly, the elaborate Ciceronian rhetoric is rejected in favour of a dialectic strictly subordinated to logic. Such a dialectic was recommended as the basis of prose style by the Royal Society and the cornerstone of valid reasoning by Locke. Secondly, however, there is also a rejection of Socratic hair-splitting in favour of reproducing the flow of cultivated, and broad-minded, conversation. The emphasis on rigorous logic inevitably clashed with the requirements of conversational verisimilitude but it is the very tension between these two aims that produced interesting work in the genre. Mandeville, Shaftesbury and Berkeley all found different ways of resolving this tension. For Mandeville, it consists in codifying other genres, notably Restoration comedy, in order to reproduce exchanges where logic is disguised as outrageous paradox which serves as bait to entice the evasive "honnĂȘte homme" into desultory repartee turning into serious philosophical argument when it is too late for him (or the reader) to withdraw. Berkeley solved the problem in two very different ways. In the Three Dialogues both interlocutors are rigorously logical but they also display an earnestness about the moral consequences of their philosophical opinions that makes their exchanges more dramatic than purely intellectual. It is as if both were staking all their most cherished beliefs on the final outcome of their arguments for or against immaterialism. In the Alciphron, two modes of argument are contrasted. One, that of the two Christian interlocutors, is strictly based on reason, and the other, that of the "freethinkers, " is based simultaneously on emotional prejudice and "minute" logic-chopping. It is the contrast between these two modes of argument, and their variations, which is the centre of interest and lends itself to very lively conversational exchanges of every variety. Finally, it is one of the conclusions of this thesis that Shaftesbury in The Moralists evades rather than solves the problem because the exchanges in his dialogue result in a kind of Romantic monologue rather than true dialectical confrontation.
TypePhD Doctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh