Inquiry Concerning Virtue  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In his Inquiry Concerning Virtue (1699), Shaftesbury had postulated that the moral sense in humans is natural and innate and based on feelings rather than resulting from the indoctrination of a particular religion. Like many of his contemporaries, Shaftesbury was reacting to Hobbes's famous formulation (in justification of royal absolutism), that in a state of nature men are depraved and their lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". The notion of the state of nature itself derives from the republican writings of Cicero and of Lucretius, both of whom enjoyed great vogue in the eighteenth century, after having been revived amid the optimistic atmosphere of Renaissance humanism.

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