Front Page Titles (by Subject) section iv: Shewing the Use of Reason concerning Virtue and Vice, upon Supposition that we receive these Ideas by a Moral Sense. - An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense
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section iv: Shewing the Use of Reason concerning Virtue and Vice, upon Supposition that we receive these Ideas by a Moral Sense. - Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense 
An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections, with Illustrations on the Moral Sense, ed. Aaron Garrett (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Shewing the Use of Reason concerning Virtue and Vice, upon Supposition that we receive these Ideas by a Moral Sense.
Truths about Morals, four sorts.[275/280] Had those who insist so much upon the antecedent Reasonableness of Virtue, told us distinctly what is reasonable or provable concerning it, many of our Debates had been prevented. Let us consider what Truths concerning Actions Men could desire to know, or prove by Reason. I fancy they may be reduced to these Heads. 1. “To know whether there are not some Actions or Affections which obtain the Approbation of any Spectator or Observer, and others move his Dislike and Condemnation? ” This Question, as every Man can answer for himself, so universal Experience and History shew, that in all Nations it is so; and consequently the moral Sense is universal.2. “Whether there be any particular Quality, which, wherever it is apprehended, gains Approbation, and the contrary raises Disapprobation? ” We shall  find this Quality to be kind Affection,  or Study of the Good of others; and thus the moral Senses of Men are generally uniform. About these two Questions there is little reasoning; we know how to answer them from reflecting on our own Sentiments, or by consulting others. 3. “What Actions do really evidence kind Affections, or do really tend to the greatest publick Good?” About this Question is all the special Reasoning of those who treat of the particular Laws of Nature, or even of Civil Laws: This is the largest Field, and the most useful Subject of Reasoning, which remains upon every Scheme of Morals. 4. “What are the Motives which, even from Self‐Love, would excite each Individual to do those Actions which are publickly useful?” ’Tis probable indeed, no Man would approve as virtuous an Action publickly useful, to which the Agent was excited only by Self‐Love, without any kind Affection: ’Tis also probable that no view of Interest can raise that kind Affection, which we approve as virtuous; nor can any Reasoning do it, except that which shews some moral Goodness, or kind Affections in the Object; for this never fails, where it is observed or supposed in any Person to raise the Love of the Observer; so that Virtue is not properly taught.
[277/282] Yet since all Men have naturally Self‐Love as well as kind Affections, the former may often counteract the latter, or the latter the former; in each case the Agent is uneasy, and in some degree unhappy. The first rash Views of human Affairs often represent private Interest as opposite to the Publick: When this is apprehended, Self‐Love may often engage Men in publickly hurtful Actions, which their moral Sense will condemn; and this is the ordinary Cause of Vice. To represent these Motives of Self‐Interest, to engage Men to publickly useful Actions, is certainly the most necessary Point in Morals. This has been so well done by the antient Moralists, by Dr. Cumberland, Puffendorf, Grotius, Shaftesbury; ’tis made so certain from the divine Government of the World, the State of Mankind, who cannot subsist without Society, from universal Experience and Consent, from inward Consciousness of the Pleasure of kind Affections, and Self‐Approbation, and of the Torments of Malice, or Hatred, or Envy, or Anger; that no Man who considers these things, can ever imagine he can have any possible Interest in opposing the publick Good; or in checking or restraining his kind Affections; nay, if he had no kind Affections, his very Self‐Love and Regard to his private Good might excite  him to publickly  useful Actions, and dissuade from the contrary.
What farther should be provable concerning Virtue, whence it should be called reasonable antecedently to all Affection, or Interest, or Sense, or what it should be fit for, one cannot easily imagine.
Perhaps what has brought the Epithet Reasonable, or flowing from Reason, in opposition to what flows from Instinct, Affection, or Passion, so much into use, is this, “That it is often observed, that the very best of our particular Affections or Desires, when they are grown violent and passionate, thro’ the confused Sensations and Propensities which attend them, do make us incapable of considering calmly the whole Tendency of our Actions, and lead us often into what is absolutely pernicious, under some Appearance of relative or particular Good.” This indeed may give some ground for distinguishing between passionate Actions, and those from calm Desire or Affection which employs our Reason freely: But can never set rational Actions in Opposition to those from Instinct, Desire or Affection. And it must be owned, that the most perfect Virtue consists in the calm, unpassionate Benevolence,  rather than in particular Affections.
How we judge of our Moral Sense. If one asks “how do we know that our Affections are right when they are kind?” What does the Word [right] mean? Does it mean what we approve? This we know by Consciousness of our Sense. Again, how do we know that our Sense is right, or that we approve our Approbation? This can only be answered by another Question, viz. “How do we know we are pleased when we are pleased?”—Or does it mean, “how do we know that we shall always approve what we now approve?” To answer this, we must first know that the same Constitution of our Sense shall always remain: And again, that we have applyed our selves carefully to consider the natural Tendency of our Actions. Of the Continuance of the same Constitution of our Sense, we are as sure as of the Continuance of Gravitation, or any other Law of Nature: The Tendency of our own Actions we cannot always know; but we may know certainly that we heartily and sincerely studied to act according to what, by all the Evidence now in our Power to obtain, appeared as most probably tending to publick Good. When we are conscious of this sincere Endeavour, the evil Consequences which we could not have foreseen,  never will make us condemn our Conduct. But without this sincere Endeavour,  we may often approve at present what we shall afterwards condemn.
How our Moral Sense is corrected by Reason.If the Question means, “How are we sure that what we approve, all others shall also approve?” Of this we can be sure upon no Scheme; but ’tis highly probable that the Senses of all Men are pretty uniform: That the Deity also approves kind Affections, otherwise he would not have implanted them in us, nor determined us by a moral Sense to approve them. Now since the Probability that Men shall judge truly, abstracting from any presupposed Prejudice, is greater than that they shall judge falsly; ’tis more probable, when our Actions are really kindand publickly useful, that all Observers shall judge truly of our Intentions, and of the Tendency of our Actions, and consequently approve what we approve our selves, than that they shall judge falsly and condemn them.
If the Meaning of the Question be, “Will the doing what our moral Sense approves tend to our Happiness, and to the avoiding Misery?” ’Tis thus we call a Taste wrong, when it makes that Foodat present grateful, which shall occasion future Pains, or Death. This Question  concerning our Self‐Interest must be answered by such Reasoning as was mentioned above,  to be well managed by our Moralists both antient and modern.
Thus there seems no part of that Reasoning which was ever used by Moralists, to be superseded by supposing a moral Sense. And yet without a moral Sense there is no Explication can be given of our Ideas of Morality; nor of that Reasonableness supposed antecedent to all Instincts, Affections, or Sense.
“But may there not be a right or wrong State of our moral Sense, as there is in our other Senses, according as they represent their Objects to be as they really are, or represent them otherwise?” So may not our moral Sense approve that which is vicious, and disapprove Virtue, as a sickly Palate may dislike grateful Food, or a vitiated Sight misrepresent Colours or Dimensions? Must we not know therefore antecedently what is morally Goodor Evil by our Reason, before we can know that our moral Sense is right?
To answer this, we must remember that of the sensible Ideas, some are allowed to be only Perceptions in our Minds, and not Images of any like external Quality, as  Colours, Sounds, Tastes, Smells, Pleasure, Pain. Other Ideas are Images of something external,  as Duration, Number, Extension, Motion, Rest: These latter, for distinction, we may call concomitant Ideas of Sensation, and the former purely sensible. As to the purely sensible Ideas, we know they are alter’dby any Disorder in our Organs, and made different from what arise in us from the same Objects at other times. We do not denominate Objects from our Perceptions during the Disorder, but according to our ordinary Perceptions, or those of others in good Health: Yet no body imagines that therefore Colours, Sounds, Tastes, are not sensible Ideas. In like manner many Circumstances diversify the concomitant Ideas: But we denominate Objects from the Appearances they make to us in an uniform Medium, when our Organs are in no disorder, and the Object not very distant from them. But none therefore imagines that it is Reason and not Sense which discovers these concomitant Ideas, or primary Qualities.
Just so in our Ideas of Actions. These three Things are to be distinguished, 1. The Idea of the external Motion, known first by Sense, and its Tendency to the Happiness or Misery of some sensitive Nature, often inferr’d by Argument or Reason.2.Apprehension or Opinion of the Affections  in  the Agent, concluded by our Reason: So far the Idea of an Action represents something external to the Observer. 3. The Perception of Approbation or Disapprobation arising in the Observer, according as the Affections of the Agent are apprehended kindin their just Degree, or deficient, or malicious. This Approbation cannot be supposed an Image of any thing external, more than the Pleasure of Harmony, of Taste, of Smell. But let none imagine, that calling the Ideas of Virtue and Vice Perceptions of a Sense, upon apprehending the Actions and Affections of another does diminish their Reality, more than the like Assertions concerning all Pleasure and Pain, Happiness or Misery. Our Reason does often correct the Report of our Senses, about the natural Tendency of the external Action, and corrects rash Conclusions about the Affections of the Agent. But whether our moral Sense be subject to such a Disorder, as to have different Perceptions, from the same apprehended Affections in an Agent, at different times, as the Eye may have of the Colours of an unaltered Object, ’tis not easy to determine: Perhaps it will be hard to find any Instances of such a Change. What Reason could correct, if it fell into such a Disorder, I know not; except suggesting to its Remembrance its former  Approbations, and representing the general Sense of Mankind.  But this does not prove Ideas of Virtue and Vice to be previous to a Sense, more than a like Correction of the Ideas of Colour in a Person under the Jaundice, proves that Colours are perceived by Reason, previously to Sense.
If any say, “this moral Sense is not a Rule:” What means that Word? It is not a strait rigid Body: It is not a general Proposition, shewing what Means are fit to obtain an end: It is not a Proposition, asserting, that a Superior will make those happy who act one way, and miserable who act the contrary way. If these be the Meanings of Rule, it is no Rule; yet by reflecting upon it our Understanding may find out a Rule. But what Rule of Actions can be formed, without Relation to some Endproposed? Or what Endcan be proposed, without presupposing Instincts, Desires, Affections, or a moral Sense, it will not be easy to explain.