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Passions, Judgments, and Motives: Fault-Lines in (Not Just) Hutcheson's Account of Moral Sentiments

 Betrayal of Christ 500x250






Bartolomeo di Tommaso, The Betrayal of Christ,
ca. 1445–50. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Date: Friday 13 September 2013
Time: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Venue: Ira Raymond Room, Barr Smith Library, The University of Adelaide
Keynote Speaker: Dr Glen Pettigrove (The University of Auckland)

The clearest picture of the ethical import of Locke’s philosophical
methodology came not from Locke but rather from Francis Hutcheson.
Beginning in the 1720s Hutcheson developed a systematic account of
the origin of ethical ideas and the nature of ethical judgment that was
rooted in our ‘Passions and Affections’. The resulting project was a
naturalistic ethics that became the progenitor in metaethics of
sentimentalism and in normative ethics of both utilitarianism (via
Bentham and Mill) and a distinctive style of virtue ethics (via Hume and
Smith). Hutcheson concluded his fourth treatise by proposing a
formula for ‘computing the Goodness’ of a person’s character
(Illustrations, VI.ii) which, in many ways, is the natur al conclusion to
the project Hutcheson had undertaken in Treatises 1 through 4.
However, I shall argue, it carries in its wake an unanticipated
consequence that is at odds with a number of Hut cheson’s other
commitments. This problem, I shall suggest, extends well beyond
Hutcheson insofar as it has been inherited by a number of his
intellectual offspring who, like Hutcheson, wish to ground moral
judgments in moral emotions.

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