Sentimentalist Virtue Ethics

Michael Frazer, Michael Slote

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Moral sentimentalism can be understood as a metaethical theory, a normative theory, or some combination of the two. Metaethical sentimentalism emphasizes the role of affect in the proper psychology of moral judgment, while normative sentimentalism emphasizes the centrality of warm emotions to the phenomena of which these judgments properly approve. Neither form of sentimentalism necessarily implies a commitment to virtue ethics, but both have an elective affinity with it. The classical metaethical sentimentalists of the Scottish Enlightenment—such as David Hume and Adam Smith—were all, to a greater or lesser extent, also virtue theorists. The connection is even stronger in the case of Enlightenment philosophers who were also normative sentimentalists , as with Frances Hutcheson. For Hutcheson, virtue simply is a habit of acting from the warm motive of universal benevolence. Today, neo-sentimentalist metaethicists such as Allan Gibbard, Justin D’Arms and Daniel Jacobson generally remain agnostic on the question of whether virtue ethics is superior to its deontological and consequentialist competitors. Michael Slote, however, has developed a comprehensive theory of sentimentalist care ethics in an unambiguously virtue-centered form.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics
EditorsLorraine Besser-Jones, Michael Slote
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-0415659338
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2015

Publication series

NameRoutledge Philosophy Companions

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