Quotations by Shaftesbury, Earl of


That thro certain Humours or Passions, and from Temper merely, a Man may be completely miserable; let his outward Circumstances be ever so fortunate.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
“An Inquiry Concerning Virtue, or Merit”
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Truth is the most powerful thing in the world, since even fiction itself must be governed by it, and can only please by its resemblance.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1 “A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm” (1711)
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We may have an excellent Ear in Musick, without being able to perform in any kind. We may judge well of Poetry, without being Poets, or possessing the least of a Poetick Vein: But we can have no tolerable Notion of Goodness, without being tolerably good.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm” (1711)
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All Politeness is owing to Liberty. We polish one another, and rub off our Corners and rough Sides by a sort of amicable Collision. To restrain this, is inevitably to bring a Rust upon Men’s Understandings.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “Sensus Communis” (1711)
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True courage … has so little to do with Anger, that there lies always the strongest Suspicion against it, where this Passion is highest. The true Courage is the cool and calm. The bravest of Men have the least of a brutal bullying Insolence; and in the very time of Danger are found the most serene, pleasant, and free. Rage, we know, can make a Coward forget himself and fight. But what is done in Fury, or Anger, can never be plac’d to the account of Courage.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “Sensus Communis” (1711)
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‘Tis the hardest thing in the world to be a good Thinker, without being a strong Self-Examiner.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 1, “Soliloquy: or Advice to an Author” (1711)
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‘Tis not Wit merely, but a Temper which must form the Well-Bred Man. In the same manner, ’tis not a Head merely, but a Heart and Resolution which must compleat the real Philosopher.

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 2 “Miscellany III” (1711)
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For if he wou’d try effectually to acquire the real Science or TASTE of Life; he wou’d certainly discover, “That a RIGHT MIND, and GENEROUS AFFECTION, had more Beauty and Charm, than all other Symmetrys in the World besides.”

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, Vol. 3, “Miscellany III,” ch. 3 (1711)
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‘Twas the saying of an ancient Sage, “That Humour was the only Test of Gravity, and Gravity of Humour. For a Subject which would not bear Raillery is suspicious; and a Jest which would not bear a serious Examination is certainly false Wit.”

Anthony Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) English politician and philosopher
Sensus Communis: An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, Part 1, Sec. 5 (1709)
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Often incorrectly attributed to Aristotle. Shaftesbury, according to his footnote, is paraphrasing from Aristotle quoting Gorgias Leontinus. The Latin translation is "Seria risu, risum seriis discutere" ("In arguing one should meet serious pleading with humor, and humor with serious pleading"). Shaftesbury's second sentence is his own commentary.

In Lord Chesterfield, in a letter to his son (6 Feb 1752), rendered it, "Ridicule is the best test of truth."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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