Moral Sense Theories

Discipline: Philosophy

Theories postulating a special moral sense which either enables us to perceive special moral qualities of virtue and vice in action (which thereupon affect us favorably or unfavorably), or else simply arouses feelings of approval or disapproval in us on contemplating the ordinary qualities of actions (it is not always clear which alternative is intended).

These theories were popular in the 18th century, and are associated especially with Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) and Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746).

Though sometimes classed as a version of intuitionism, the theories stood in contrast to contemporary intuitionism which claimed that we intuit moral facts about actions, rather than being sensitively affected by their qualities.

D D Raphael, The Moral Sense (1947)


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