Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Corey Dyck


This dissertation investigates a number of ways in which an eighteenth century British philosophical movement known as “moral sense theory” influenced the development of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) moral theory. I illustrate that Kant found both moral sense theory’s conception of moral judgement and its conception of moral motivation appealing during the earliest stage of his philosophical development, but eventually came to reject its conception of moral judgement, though even in his early writings Kant preserves certain features of its conception of moral motivation. In the mature presentation of his moral philosophy Kant offers detailed objections to moral sense theory’s conception of moral judgement, but I illustrate that, in opposition to the claims of many recent interpreters, his considered understanding of moral motivation has only a few superficial features in common with the view presented by Hutcheson in particular. Important for an understanding of Kant’s mature conception of motivation is also the thought of Adam Smith (1723-1790), a thinker who is not part of but was highly influenced by moral sense theory. I illustrate that Smith’s notion of the attitude of “regard” for what he calls the “general rules of conduct,” as well as his conception of the “sense of duty,” influenced Kant’s conception of “respect [Achtung]” for the moral law. Finally, I illustrate that Kant’s understanding of the pleasure associated with acting morally, what he calls “self-contentment [Selbstzufriedenheit],” can be clarified in light of how Hutcheson solves a problem related to the pleasure of the moral sense.