, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 483–500 | Cite as

Perfecting the Self: From the Moral Sense to Conscience

  • Christina ChuangEmail author

Recent debate in the secondary literature regarding Francis Hutcheson’s place in the history of ethics has focused on the issue of cognitivism.1 In his most influential works, Hutcheson develops a moral theory based on ‘the moral sense.’ According to his theory, human beings have a special perceptual faculty, the moral sense, which enables us to perceive moral qualities. Moral distinctions are determined by an involuntary perception of our mind and these perceptions belong to the moral sense. Thus, Hutcheson is usually associated with moral sentimentalism, according to which our moral distinctions are determined by sense perceptions rather than by reason. Some contemporary ethicists have claimed that the origins of non-cognitivism lie in moral sentimentalism, and thus have claimed Hutcheson’s work as one of the first non-cognitivist theories in the history of ethics.2The debate has been hampered, however, by a disagreement among scholars regarding Locke’s influence on Hutcheson’s...


Francis Hutcheson Christian philosophy History of ethics Scottish Enlightenment Secular ethics 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy ProgrammeNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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