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Chapter 1 - Johnson, Ethics, and Living

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

This chapter addresses the question of Johnson’s ethical thought and argues that it is in and through his balanced, subtle, and refined writings that we most see it in play. The piece summons Johnson’s own definition of ethics in his Preface to the Preceptor, an educational work written for the publisher Robert Dodsley (1748), and finds in the work of three thinkers – Isaac Watts, William Law, and Cicero – strong influential strands of thought that offered him both Christian and classical models for how humans should behave toward their fellow-beings. Johnson put in play questions of ethical behavior in his periodical writings, allowing him to present complex moral dilemmas from the multiple angles needed to encompass them. The chapter, taking up a hint from John Sitter, summons an ethical Johnson who might help us face twenty-first century problems with grace and inclusivity.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Johnson, Ethics, and Living
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.002
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  • Johnson, Ethics, and Living
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.002
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Johnson, Ethics, and Living
  • Edited by Greg Clingham, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
  • Book: The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson
  • Online publication: 22 September 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108966108.002
Available formats
×