Motivation and the Moral Sense in Francis Hutcheson’s Ethical Theory

Review of Metaphysics 26 (3):538-539 (1973)

Jensen limits himself mainly to the early work of Hutcheson, i.e., Inquiry Concerning Moral Good and Evil and Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with brief mention of his later work. This seems to be quite justified in that the more interesting and perhaps more creative work of Hutcheson appears in his earlier writings. The main thrust of this study is to examine Hutcheson’s theory of motivation and his moral sense theory, first individually and then in their interrelationship. Jensen’s presentation of Hutcheson’s moral sense theory makes use of the work and scholarship of such writers as Broad, Frankena, Blackstone and Peach, although Jensen assesses these authors, and in the last chapter, offers his own suggestions for the improvement of Hutcheson’s theory. The real forte of this book lies in the author’s original examination and reflection upon Hutcheson’s theory of motivation. It is this theory, Jensen declares, which "... constitutes one of his most valuable contributions to moral philosophy." It seems to be by virtue of this theory that Hutcheson can be understood as stressing the practical and dynamic dimensions of morality. Yet coupled with the moral sense theory, the results, as Jensen takes care to show, are somewhat disastrous. Some of the problems arising from this union are the following: how the moral sense influences motivation, how "justifying reasons" relate to action, and how obligation relates to motivation. This book is a scholarly work in philosophy which illumines some perennial philosophical perplexities in the light of recent philosophical work, thus making these problems intelligible and meaningful to philosophers today.—P. R.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632  
DOI revmetaph197326329
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