This book discusses the intersection between philosophy and literature during the British Enlightenment. Its primary focus is the work of moral philosophers during the first half of the eighteenth century, but its larger interest is in understanding how the writing of philosophical fictions relates to the rise of the novel, and the emergence of philosophical aesthetics. Novelists such as Fielding, Sterne, Johnson and Austen are placed in a philosophical context, and philosophers of the empiricist tradition in the context of English literary history.
Introduction: dialogue and Enlightenment; Part I. Strains of Enlightenment: 1. Shaftesbury's characteristic genres: concepts of criticism in the early eighteenth century; 2. Shaftesbury's The Moralists: a dialogue upon dialogue; 3. Berkeley and the paradoxes of empiricism: A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous; 4. Berkeley's Alciphron, or the Christian Cicero; 5. Hume and the end of religious dialogue: Dialogues concerning Natural Religion; Part II. Dialogue, aesthetics and the novel: 6. The Platonic revival: 1740–1770; 7. Anti-Platonism and the novelistic character; 8. Dead conversations: Richard Hurd's late poetics of dialogue; 9. Utopia or conversation: transforming dialogue in Johnson and Austen; Epilogue: some dialectics of Enlightenment.