By S. L. Goldberg
Brokers and Lives deals a brand new and significant 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 advanced, open and exploratory figuring out 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 fresh money owed of literature provided by way of ethical philosophers reminiscent of Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Rorty.
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Additional resources for Agents and Lives
He never knew prosperity and adversity, passion nor satiety: he never had even the experiences which sickness gives; he lived from childhood to the age of eighty-five in boyish health. He knew no dejection, no heaviness of heart. 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.
Yet when he ends this passage by endorsing Socrates' ' opinion' - that ' we are placed here' (in this theatre of man's life, so to speak) in order to discover 'how to do good, and avoid evil' — the stress seems to fall predominantly on moral conduct in the smaller sense of the term. As Johnson puts it here, it would seem that our entire life as 'moralists', all of our 'intercourse with intellectual nature', is (or ought to be) dominated and shaped by the observance of moral right and wrong. Indeed, the value both of literature and of education can be virtually reduced to their specifically moral function: of informing and encouraging ' right' thought and conduct.
The first addresses itself to our reason and conscience; the second to our imagination; the third to our human fellow-feeling. According to the first, we approve or disapprove; according to the second, we admire or despise; according to the third, we love, pity, or dislike. The morality of an action depends on its foreseeable consequences; its beauty, and its loveableness, or the reverse, depend on the qualities which it is evidence of. Thus, a lie is wrong, because its effect is to mislead, and because it tends to destroy the confidence of man in man; it is also mean, because it is cowardly - because it proceeds from not daring to face the consequences of telling the truth - or at best is evidence of want of that power to compass our ends by straightforward means, which is conceived as properly belonging to every person not deficient in energy or in understanding.
Agents and Lives by S. L. Goldberg