a1 McGill University
There is no more central feature of Francis Hutcheson's moral philosophy than his theory of the moral sense. In the past this sense or faculty was widely understood to be a distinctive and independent sense devoted to the apprehension of moral qualities, but William Frankena has in recent years challenged this traditional view of Hutcheson's theory, and offered in its place an emotivist interpretation. Without question Frankena's study was of the first importance, in that it seems to have overturned the much too simplistic traditional view of the moral sense. Unfortunately, however, Frankena's own interpretation of the moral sense is as inadequate and misleading as the view he overturns, for he concludes that the moral sense is not at all a cognitive faculty, that it does not, that is, apprehend moral qualities, but, rather, is a faculty that enables and motivates us to feel, express, and evoke moral emotions. The moral sense, he argues, is “the source of the feelings involved” in moral approbation or disapprobation, and this approbation is “wholly non-cognitive, very much as it is on Ayer's more recent [emotivist] view … This, I shall show, is much too narrow a view; Hutcheson did not limit the moral sense to a single function, nor did he — lacking as he did twentieth-century perspectives — find it either necessary or desirable to assume that the domains of the cognitive and the emotive (or affective) were mutually exclusive.
* I wish to thank Professors H. M. Bracken, S. Moore, D. D. Raphael, and A. Stroll who read and commented on earlier versions of this paper.