What is MORAL SENSE THEORY? What does MORAL SENSE THEORY mean? MORAL SENSE THEORY meaning

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Published at : 06 Dec 2020
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What is MORAL SENSE THEORY? What does MORAL SENSE THEORY mean? MORAL SENSE THEORY meaning - MORAL SENSE THEORY definition - MORAL SENSE THEORY explanation.

Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.

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Moral sense theory (also known as sentimentalism) is a theory in moral epistemology and meta-ethics concerning the discovery of moral truths. Moral sense theory typically holds that distinctions between morality and immorality are discovered by emotional responses to experience. Some take it to be primarily a view about the nature of moral facts or moral beliefs (a primarily metaphysical view)—this form of the view more often goes by the name "sentimentalism".

Others take the view to be primarily about the nature of justifying moral beliefs (a primarily epistemological view)—this form of the view more often goes by the name "moral sense theory". However, some theorists take the view to be one which claims that both moral facts and how one comes to be justified in believing them are necessarily bound up with human emotions.

Popular historical advocates of some version of the moral sense theory or sentimentalism include the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713), Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746), David Hume (1711–1776), and Adam Smith (1723–1790). Some contemporary advocates include Michael Slote, Justin D'Arms, Daniel Jacobson, Jesse Prinz, and perhaps John McDowell. Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard endorse a non-cognitivist form of sentimentalism.

Some use the term "ethical intuitionism" in moral philosophy to refer to the general position that we have some non-inferential moral knowledge (that is, basic moral knowledge that is not inferred from or based on any proposition). On this definition, moral sense theory is a form of ethical intuitionism.

However, it is important to distinguish between empiricist versus rationalist models of this. One may thus distinguish between rationalist ethical intuitionism for the rationalist version and "moral sense theory" for the empiricist version. (This will be the use of the terms here. However, the terminology is not ultimately important, so long as one keeps in mind the relevant differences between these two models of non-inferential moral knowledge.)

The moral sense is often described as providing information in a way analogous to other sensory modalities, such as sight in the perception of colors. It is contrasted with the way in which one acquires a priori, non-empirical knowledge, such as mathematical knowledge for example.

One way to understand the moral sense is to draw an analogy between it and other kinds of senses. Beauty is something we see in some faces, artworks and landscapes. We can also hear it in some pieces of music. We clearly do not need an independent aesthetic sense faculty to perceive beauty in the world. Our ordinary five senses are quite enough to observe it, though merely observing something beautiful is not by itself enough to appreciate its beauty. Suppose we give a name to this ability to appreciate the beauty in things we see: let’s call it the aesthetic sense.

This aesthetic sense does not come automatically to all people with perfect vision and hearing, so it is fair to describe it as something extra, something not wholly reducible to vision and hearing. As the aesthetic sense informs us about what is beautiful, we can analogically understand the moral sense as informing us of what is good. People with a functioning moral sense get a clear impression of wrongness when they see (or perhaps even imagine) someone being mugged, for example.

However, though the wrongness is obvious, we may find it very difficult to list the features of the scene which account for the wrongness. We discover wrongness through observing natural properties with our five senses. Can we list the necessary and sufficient conditions such that any action which satisfies these conditions is wrong?

The Ethical Naturalist thinks that in principle, we can. For naturalists, rightness and wrongness are nothing more than certain combinations of natural, non-evaluative properties. Since we can in principle build mechanical detectors for all these natural properties, the Ethical Naturalist thinks wrongness is something that a machine could eventually detect.

The ethical intuitionist typically disagrees (although, it is not essential to the view): they see a wide conceptual gap between natural facts and evaluations. There seem to be no valid arguments in which purely descriptive/factual premises entail a prescriptive/evaluative conclusion.....
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