- Notes on Contributors
- Locke and His Influence
- Newton and Newtonianism in Eighteenth-Century British Thought
- The Idea of a Science of Human Nature
- Rhetoric and Eloquence: The Language of Persuasion
- Perception and The Language of Nature
- Language and Thought
- The Understanding
- Mind and Matter
- Passions, Affections, Sentiments: Taxonomy and Terminology
- Reason and the Passions
- Liberty and Necessity
- The Government of the Passions
- Self-Interest and Sociability
- Moral Judgment
- The Nature of Virtue
- Practical Ethics
- The Pleasures of the Imagination and the Objects of Taste
- The Faculty of Taste
- The Pleasures of Tragedy
- Genius and the Creative Imagination
- The Origin of Civil Government
- Forms of Government
- Reform and Revolution
- Luxury, Commerce, and the Rise of Political Economy
- Causation, Cosmology, and the Limits of Philosophy: the Early Eighteenth-Century British Debate
- Philosophy, Revealed Religion, and the Enlightenment
- Religion and Morality
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines the philosophical consideration of different forms of government in eighteenth-century Britain. It begins by considering the British constitutional settlement in the wake of the Glorious Revolution and the Union of Parliaments. Taking on board Voltaire and Montesquieu’s praise of the beneficial effects of the settlement (rule of law, toleration, separation and balance of powers), the chapter will examine how British philosophers came to understand the nature of the British constitution. A major theme will be the gradual move away from contract theories of legitimacy and republican notions of citizenship and towards utilitarian calculations of the beneficial social and economic effects of political stability. This becomes particularly apparent in the increasing desire to apply ‘science’ to the understanding of political order.
Craig Smith is a lecturer in the Department of Moral Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Adam Smith's Political Philosophy: The Invisible Hand and Spontaneous Order (Routledge 2006). He is the book review editor of the Adam Smith Review.
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