Shaftesbury, Hutcheson and Moral Scepticisms

  • Peter J. E. Kail
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 210)


In this paper I discuss Shaftesbury’s moral sense theory in the context of his response to Locke’s philosophy and, in turn, Hutcheson’s adoption of Shaftesbury. After offering with some general background, I first look at the different senses of ‘scepticism’ at play in Shaftesbury’s work. I then narrow the focus to consider how Shaftesbury considered Locke’s attacks on moral nativism as tantamount to pyrhhonism. I then argued that at the bottom of Shaftesbury’s response to Locke lies a form of platonism. I then turn to Hutcheson, who sees Hobbes and Mandeville as a greater threat than Locke, in as much as that they seek to understand all moral practice as nothing but disguised self-interest. I then try to show that, in light of this difference, Hutcheson’s moral sense has a different character and grounds from the sense of Shaftesbury.


Moral Sense Moral Concept Moral Truth Moral Practice Moral Distinction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Carey, Daniel. 2006. Locke Shaftesbury and Hutcheson: Contesting diversity in the Enlightenment and beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Empiricus, Sextus. 1994. Outlines of scepticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Gill, Michael. 2006. The British moralists on human nature and the birth of secular ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hutcheson, Francis. 2004. Inquiry into the original of our ideas of beauty and virtue. Indianapolis: Liberty Press.Google Scholar
  5. Kail, Peter J.E. 2000. Normativity and function in Hutcheson’s aesthetic epistemology. British Journal for Aesthetics 40: 441–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kail, Peter J.E. 2001. Hutcheson’s moral sense: Realism, skepticism, and secondary qualities. History of Philosophy Quarterly 18: 57–77.Google Scholar
  7. Lee, Henry. 1702. Anti-scepticism: Or, notes upon each chapter of Mr. Locks’s essay. London, Clavel and Harper.Google Scholar
  8. Locke, John. 1979. An essay concerning human understanding. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  9. Mackie, John L. 1977. Ethics: Inventing right and wrong. Basingstoke: Penguin.Google Scholar
  10. Norton, David F. 1982. David Hume: Common-sense moralist, sceptical metaphysician. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Price, A.W. 1986. Doubts about projectivism. Philosophy 61: 215–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper. 1999. Characteristics of men, manners, opinions, times. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. 2006. Moral skepticisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Yolton, John W. 1956. John Locke and the way of ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations