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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Revolutionary: Giants of The Scottish Enlightenment Parts I and II

In the following video, Prof. James Stacey Taylor discusses the contributions of Francis Hutcheson, an intellectual of the Scottish Enlightenment who was instrumental in advancing the sentimentalist approach to morality. In this approach, Hutcheson acknowledged the conventional five senses, but in addition, identified three additional senses:

1) The public sense
2) The sense of honor
3) The moral sense

Hutcheson had a tremendous influence on his contemporaries, including Adam Smith and David Hume and is still important and influential today.

In the following video, Prof. James Stacey Taylor discusses the contributions of Adam Smith with a particular focus on his philosophy. Smith is most famous for two works:

- The Wealth of Nations
- The Theory of Moral Sentiments

The Wealth of Nations is an important book on economics, so important in fact that he has been called the father of modern economics. Smith's second book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, was heavily influenced by Francis Hutcheson.

In this book, Smith advocates for a form of moral sentimentalism. We naturally link sympathy to either approval or disapproval of an action or reaction. For instance, if an individual insults another person, we attach sympathy to the reaction of the person who was insulted. If the person insulted under reacts or over reacts, we will disapprove the response morally. If the reaction seems right, we will approve of the response morally.

We will also sympathize with parties who are not sharing a similar sentiment. For instance, if a person loses their mental capacity or passes way, we will sympathize with that person even though they themselves are not feeling the same sentiment.

Lastly, using Smith's moral sentimentalism, we can judge our own actions. We can do this by looking at our own actions from a third person point of view.

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Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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