‘Supernatural Charity’: Astell, Shaftesbury and the Problem of Enthusiasm
In Bart'lemy Fair, Mary Astell identifies a significant instability in Shaftesburian sociability when she argues that his Letter concerning Enthusiasm risks pathologising all social intercourse. Rehabilitating enthusiasm as a source of ‘charity’, Astell argues that sociability must be grounded in reason as well as sentiment. Astell's criticisms help us notice that Shaftesbury's attempts elsewhere to integrate a detoxified enthusiasm into his polite sociability falter when he must balance others’ claims with individual autonomy. By questioning politeness's ethical adequacy, Astell's critique provides evidence of contemporary scepticism about the costs of secularising and sentimentalising social ties.
Myers, Joanne E. "Supernatural Charity: Astell, Shaftesbury and the Problem of Enthusiasm." Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies 37.3 (September 2014), 299-314.