Agents and Lives by S. L. Goldberg

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 knowing 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 contemporary money owed of literature provided by means of ethical philosophers comparable to Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Richard Rorty.

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Sentimentality consists in setting the last two of the three above the first; the error of moralists in general, and of Bentham, is to sink the two latter entirely. This is pre-eminently the case with Bentham: he both wrote and felt as if the moral standard ought not only to be paramount (which it ought), but to be alone; as if it ought to be the sole master of all our actions, and even of all our sentiments; as if either to admire or like, or despise or dislike a person for any action which neither does good nor harm, or which does not do a good or a harm proportioned to the sentiment entertained, were an injustice and a prejudice.

It is wholly empirical; and the empiricism of one who has had little experience. He had neither internal experience nor external; the quiet, even tenor of his life, and his healthiness of mind, conspired to exclude him from both. 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.

After all, there is hardly any aspect of human life that, if we think about it, does not bear upon this question in some way or other. 11 Another, related, confusion in Arnold's thinking appears in a passage shortly after the one quoted above. He now begins to speak not of moral ideas in poetry, but of morals, without noticing his slide of attention or the difference it makes: We find attraction, at times,... e. ' Or we find attractions in a poetry indifferent to them; in a poetry where the contents may be what they will, but where the form is studied and exquisite.

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