Agents and Lives by S. L. Goldberg

By S. L. Goldberg

Brokers and Lives bargains a brand new and critical rethinking of the normal ''humanist'' view of literature. That tradition's valuation of literature for its ''moral import'' is prolonged in a much wider, extra advanced, open and exploratory realizing of these phrases. Goldberg's argument levels throughout literature because the Renaissance, concentrating on examples from George Eliot's novels and Pope's poetry. An appendix assesses the connection of his argument to contemporary money owed of literature provided by way of ethical philosophers equivalent to Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Rorty.

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Example text

It was rather that 'his want of imagination, small experience of human feelings, and ignorance of the filiation and connexion of feelings with one another', made him all too rarely see the relevant 'moral influences'. In those judgments, Mill's use of the term 'moral' clearly shifts towards a large sense, and it does so even more in yet another key passage of the essay, where Bentham's error is now said to have consisted in 'overlooking' the 'moral part of man's nature, in the strict sense of the term [my italics] - the desire of perfection, or the feeling of an approving or of an accusing conscience', and in but faintly recognizing as 'a fact in human nature, the pursuit of any other ideal end for its own sake' [my italics].

In this sense, Bentham's error was to suppose that the ' business part of human affairs' comprised the whole of the ' moral' - ' all at least that the legislator and the moralist has to do with'. It was not that he disregarded 'moral influences' when he saw them. Nor was it that he looked only to the ' moral' view of actions and characters 'as if it were the sole one'. It was rather that 'his want of imagination, small experience of human feelings, and ignorance of the filiation and connexion of feelings with one another', made him all too rarely see the relevant 'moral influences'.

E. Bentham] is chargeable also with another error, which it would be improper to pass over, because nothing has tended more to place him in opposition to the common feelings of mankind, and to give to his philosophy that cold, mechanical, and ungenial air which characterizes the popular idea of a Benthamite. This error, or rather one-sidedness, belongs to him not as a utilitarian, but as a moralist by profession, and in common with almost all professed moralists, whether religious or philosophical: it is that of treating the moral view of actions and characters, which is unquestionably the first and most important mode of looking at them, as if it were the sole one: whereas it is only one of three, by all of which our sentiments towards the human being may be, ought to be, and without entirely crushing our own nature cannot but be, materially influenced.

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