"Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury" in the Digital Encyclopedia of British Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century

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Anthony Ashley Cooper, third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), is unarguably among those authors who contributed most fundamentally to defining the concept of ‘sociability’ for thinkers in both Great Britain and the Continent. He understood sociability both as a natural human impulse and as a disciplinary practice for cultivating this ‘natural affection,’ which grounded virtue and human flourishing. The almost all-encompassing importance of the term links it to other seminal ideas in Shaftesbury's thought, such as politeness, toleration, liberty, and cosmopolitanism. Given the influence of the Earl's thought across Europe, any account of the decidedly British contribution to Enlightenment ‘sociability’ must remain incomplete without an understanding of his extended treatment of the term.