Moral Commonality in a Diverse World: Help from the 18th Century

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Eighteenth century Scottish philosophers describe a process that can be helpful in today’s global struggle to find a foundation for a common morality and common standards for global community and international struggles. This paper describes the enlightenment approach to moral foundations as conceived in the writings of Hutcheson, Hume, and Smith. The Scots describe a moral attitude and approach that utilizes our understandings of each other and our developing humanity to frame moral standards that not only address differences in moral codes and cultures but also allows for change and development as we continue to learn more about each other and the world. The Scots’ approach that specifically gives an account of the importance and, in fact, necessity of others in formulating not only our moral evaluations but also the very possibility of being human and having an idea of morality at all can and does offer a process that can be intentional in the world today. This same understanding of moral and human development can be enlarged to the idea of developing as global citizens through a process involving contact and relationships with people from around the world. Our morality and what we describe as human must and will change in these relationships and the morality that evolves can be more responsive to contemporary issues than our individual national values and standards. The Scots, it is argued, offer a way of formulating who we are and can be and determine the acceptable ways to interact in the company of others in the world of complexity specifically when there are differing religious, cultural, and societal points of view.


Keywords: Moral Commonality, Moral Foundations, 18th Century Morality, Scottish Enlightenment
Stream: Learning, Education, Training
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Phyllis (Peggy) Vandenberg

Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, Grand Valley State University
Grand Rapids, MI, USA

My academic work is in the area of the Scottish Enlightenment in the modern era (1600 - 1800). Specifically I have been concentrating on the moral theories of Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Hume and Adam Smith. My interest in their work concerns the integral use of relationships in the structuring of moral foundations and the development of humanity.

Ref: D08P0403