This is the theme of an early letter from Lord Chesterfield to his son, one of the series which is probably the eighteenth century’s most comprehensive course in social instruction. Chesterfield, from the very beginning, selects for particular insinuation the concept that the potentially successful man is he who becomes aware that propriety is neither more nor less than the collective opinion of other people — ‘you would be reckoned a fool’, ‘gain the approbation of mankind’. The man who conforms by instinct alone will be an acceptable member of society, but whoever attains to a positive consciousness of this first principle of social morality may manipulate and exploit his knowledge to his own considerable advantage.
KeywordsSocial Morality Collective Opinion Natural Impulse Early Letter Emotional Ambivalence
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