By S. L. Goldberg
Brokers and Lives deals a brand new and demanding rethinking of the normal ''humanist'' view of literature. That tradition's valuation of literature for its ''moral import'' is prolonged in a much broader, extra complicated, open and exploratory figuring out of these phrases. Goldberg's argument levels throughout literature because the Renaissance, targeting examples from George Eliot's novels and Pope's poetry. An appendix assesses the connection of his argument to fresh bills of literature provided via ethical philosophers equivalent to Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Rorty.
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Extra resources for Agents and Lives
He never felt life a sore and weary burthen. He was a boy to the last. Self-consciousness, that daemon of the men of genius of our time, from Wordsworth to Byron, from Goethe to Chateaubriand, and to which this age owes so much both of its cheerful and its mournful wisdom, never was awakened in him. How much of human nature slumbered in him he knew not, neither can we know. He had never been made alive to the unseen influences which were acting on himself, nor consequently on his fellow-creatures.
Or to put the point more generally, what else but a moral issue is the manner and the extent to which we ought to be 'materially influenced' in any particular case by Mill's so-called 'aesthetic' and 'sympathetic ' considerations ? Similarly, of course, with Mill's judgment on Bentham and other 'professed moralists', and with the conception of'human nature' he uses in making it. Significantly, it is not clear whether Mill thinks Bentham (like other professed moralists) is 'chargeable' with the wrong action, the 'error', of 'entirely crushing' (by an act of choice) the 'real' human nature in himself, or whether Mill is here only repeating a point he makes several times throughout the essay, that Bentham's moral philosophy is 'one-sided' because Bentham's own nature was that Bentham was a natural Philistine, simply unaware, blank, about certain kinds of things that human beings ought to be Perpetually moralists 19 aware of and feel about, even if it is not a matter of their own choice or action whether they have the relevant capacities.
It is also the sense in which Johnson himself was a great moralist. As he puts it here, our 'intercourse with intellectual nature' is not merely the frequent and the necessary ' business of the human mind'; it is also our 'great' business. In other words, the 'moralist' is a being who lives in a way that is distinctively, and therefore normatively, human. Moreover, as a person's 'intercourse with intellectual nature' engages, so it ' immediately' manifests, his or her ' moral and prudential character' - presumably in both senses of 'immediately': straight away, and without any mediation.