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.
David Hume was a central figure of the Scottish Enlightenment and an active participant in European networks. He believed in the power of sociability, in the fundamental human connections. Sociability is key to understanding the process which made of him both a central and a marginal figure.
Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was the author of The Temple of Nature, in which he considers the concept of sociability as one of the keys to the evolution of species: love and sympathy guide the species toward perfection through the multiple changes caused by transformism.
Thomas Hobbes’ rejection of the social nature of man is the foundation of his philosophy on the origin of State, and provides a rationale for his theory of absolute sovereignty.
William Godwin kept a detailed diary from the late 1780s until shortly before his death in 1836. It is an invaluable source on the radical sociability of the 1790s and its aftermath. But it raises questions about how he reconciled his extensive sociability with his critique of social conventions, manners and fashion.