Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Eric Wilson

Second Advisor

Sebastian Rand

Third Advisor

Andrea Scarantino

Abstract

In The Sources of Normativity, Christine Korsgaard argues that in order to avoid the threat of moral skepticism, our moral theories must show how the claims they make about the nature of our actions obligate us to act morally. A theory that can justify the normativity of morality in this way answers what Korsgaard calls “the normative question.” Although Korsgaard claims that only Kantian theories of morality, such as her own, can answer the normative question, I argue that Adam Smith’s sentimentalist moral theory, as presented in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, can answer the normative question as well. As a result, it is possible to respond to the moral skeptic in the way Korsgaard outlines without accepting some of the theoretical drawbacks of Korsgaard’s own moral theory.

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