Published Humanitas, Volume XXIX, Nos. 1 and 2, 2016
New York University
British Romantic writers advance an ethics that absorbs, resists, and transforms other ethical schools of the time, from Hobbesian egoism to an ethics of moral sense and the sentiments to Kantian formalism to hedonistic utilitarianism. These amateurs profoundly advance the work of philosophy. They seek a rich plurality of values against a backdrop of what they regard as a diminishment of values, seen in the flawed ethical systems of the day, in the early promise of the French Revolution betrayed, and in what they regard as the bleak ethical implications of the emergent Industrial Revolution, where persons are increasingly conceived of as things. As embattled radical humanists aware of their own deficits and contradictions, the Romantics give strong voice to a will to value—a value pluralism not limited to pleasure or happiness, as the hedonistic utilitarians argue, and with a concept of conscience that does not fracture the self, as Kantian formalism seems to do.