Date of Award

5-14-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Eric Wilson

Second Advisor

Christie Hartley

Abstract

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS), Adam Smith offers an account of moral judgment centered around impartial spectatorship and the human conscience. For Smith, it is our consciences (in the form of imaginary impartial spectators) that we turn to when making moral judgments. However, some philosophers argue that our consciences make for poor judges of morality. Our consciences are shaped by socialization, and insofar as we socialize with biased and prejudiced people, our consciences may be similarly biased and prejudiced. I will argue that Smith’s account of the human conscience is not nearly as vulnerable to this problem as one might initially think. Because our consciences are influenced by socialization—including socialization with outsiders—we can revise our moral judgments in ways that allow us to overcome our parochial biases and prejudices.

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