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Title:The Concept of Virtue: The Influence of European Ethics, Metaphysics, and Theology on American Ideas of Virtue, 1670-1770
Author(s):Boughton, Lynne Courter
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, General
Abstract:Since the beginning of the sixteenth century, two conflicting theories of virtue were present in British thought. One theory, supported by Calvinist theology, maintained that virtue was a standard arbitrarily created by God and revealed in nature and Scripture to distinguish the behavior of the man guided by sovereign grace from the behavior of those moved by self-interest to attain merely dutiful, ethical, or "moral" obedience to civil or natural law. The other concept of the nature of virtue was grounded in the proposition that a good and wise God conformed to an enternal and objective (or "real") standard of virtue and that he revealed this standard in order to demonstrate his moral perfection and inspire men to make use of reasons, revelation, or grace to overcome the sinfulness that inhibited virtue.
This dissertation evaluates the relative importance of each of these traditions in the British colonies in North America between 1670 and 1770 by tracing: the role of Puritan theology and church polity in promoting a Calvinist view of virtue; the effect of Thomas Hobbes's materialism, determinism, and relativism in provoking scholars to emphasize man's rational capacity to understand and pursue virtue; the question of whether belief in man's innate ideas of virtue was the inevitable source of Deism or a sound basis of orthodoxy; the development of a philosophy of moral realism by the Cambridge Platonists; the emergence of a Cartesian and Platonist influence in American thought; the American ambivalence to Locke's moral thought; the changes in ethical ideas presented at Harvard and Yale; the influence of Platonist realism upon eighteenth-century "intellectual" and "sentimental" schools of moral thought; the role of the Great Awakening in prompting religious thinkers to adopt, attack, or abandon the belief in the reality of an eternal standard of virtue; the development of a form of sentimentalism that denied the existence of objective standards of virtue; and the formation and development of schools of ethical thought in American colleges between 1740 and 1770.
Issue Date:1982
Description:511 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8218437
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1982

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