The 'Sub-Rational' in Scottish Moral Science

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 9 (2):225-238 (2011)
Abstract
Jacob Viner introduced the term ‘sub-rational’ to characterize the faculties – human instinct, sentiment and intuition – that fall between animal instinct and full-blown reason. The Scots considered sympathy both an affective and a physiological link between mind and body, and by natural history, they traced the most foundational societal institutions – language and law, money and property – to a sub-rational origin. Their ‘social evolutionism’ anticipated Darwin's ‘dangerous idea’ that humans differ from the lower animals only in degree, not in kind. Darwin had the ability to ‘trade places in the imagination’, as Adam Smith would say, with plants and animals, and ‘think’ as they do. The trend today is to ‘positivize,’ ‘behaviorize’ and otherwise reduce the sub-rational to the purely biological. My suggestion is that we trade places in the imagination with the Scottish moral scientists and Darwin, and try thinking as they did.
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