The Moral Sense: An Appraisal
In the eighteenth century the doctrine of the moral sense1 appeared to many to be a breath of fresh air blowing against the rational and intellectual currents then in vogue. Its supporters contested the claim of reason to be the source of moral distinctions, and introduced feeling and sentiment as the font of morality. In our own time Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka2 has challenged the rationalism of traditional phenomenology and has reintroduced the position that the moral sense is the true source of morality and society. Her version of the moral sense doctrine, however, is radically different from its antecedents in the eighteenth century, since it is developed in a metaphysical context rather than a psychological one. The moral sense is considered as part of a cosmic process and appears in the course of evolutionary development prior to the appearance of reason and intentional consciousness; it has its own independent and autonomous sense-bestowing function, as well as its own unique principles and criteria for their application. This remarkable doctrine has interesting and far reaching implications for both ethics and the social sciences. I propose to begin my appraisal by first sketching some of the features of the metaphysical context in which the doctrine is located, and then to turn to specific features of the doctrine for further comment and criticism.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Life Process Moral Sense Rational Reflection Ontological Claim
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- 1.Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, “The Moral Sense: a Philosophical Discourse in the Phenomenological Foundation for the Social World and Ethics,” Analecta Husserliana, Vol. XV (1983). Also, “The Moral Sense and the Human Person Within the Fabric of Communal Life,”Analecta Husserliana,Vol.XX 1986).Google Scholar
- 2.Hutcheson and Shaftesbury were the most outspoken supporters of the moral sense doctrine, while Hume and Adam Smith supported the claims of sentiment as the foundation of morality.Google Scholar
- Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka,Leibniz’Cosmological Synthesis(Assen: Van Gorcum and Comp.N.W., 1964).Google Scholar
- 4.Eugene T. Gndlin,“Process Ethics and the Politics Question,”Analecta Husserliana,Vol. XX (1986),pp. 265–75.Google Scholar