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Moral sentiments

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L093-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Moral sentiments are those feelings or emotions central to moral agency. Aristotle treated sentiments as nonrational conditions, capable of being moulded into virtues through habituation. The moral sense theorists of the Enlightenment took sentiments to provide the psychological basis for our common moral life. Kantian approaches deny the primacy of sentiments in moral personality, and treat moral sentiments as conditioned by our rational grasp of moral principles.

A central issue is whether moral sentiments incorporate moral beliefs. Accounts which affirm a connection with moral beliefs point to the complex intentionality (object-directedness) of such states as resentment or indignation. Against this, some observe that moral emotions may be felt inappropriately.

Of special interest are the sentiments of guilt and shame. These seem to reflect different orientations towards moral norms, and questions arise about the degree to which these different orientations are culturally local, and whether either orientation is superior to the other.

Citing this article:
Wallace, R. Jay. Moral sentiments, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L093-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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