Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
Interest in what has been called a ‘moral sense’ originated in the late 17th century, as part of a philosophical debate about humans’ moral nature. Participants in the debate agreed on rejecting four views of human morality commonly held at the time. They found (1) the Cambridge Platonists’ moral rationalism and (2) Gershom Carmichael’s (and others’) natural law theories of morality too remote from actual processes of moral judgment and decision making; (3) they rejected Thomas Hobbes’ psychological egoism as excessively reductive; and (4) they found moral relativism objectionable on normative grounds, since they were committed to the defence of moral universalism. The article provides an overview over the history of moral sense theories. It briefly presents the versions developed by Thomas Burnet, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, Joseph Butler, and Henry Home Lord Kames, and then provides a brief account of the moral theories by David Hume and Adam Smith who, while adherents of moral sentimentalism, rejected the assumption of a moral sense.