Shaftesbury’s Theory of a “Moral Sense” Sets the Direction of the British Enlightenment (Part 2)
(Walter Donway, May 9, 2024, Liberty Fund: Online Library of Liberty)


Still, his essential message emerges. We can answer Hobbes and Locke if we think of moral goodness as analogous to beauty. We all have a sense of beauty: we all respond to visual and other harmony, for example. We all respond to proportionality. That is why art and music exist in every known culture. There is a universal “sense of beauty” that is a response to form not content. Man’s moral goodness can be grounded in objective features of the world, not arbitrarily but in an empiricist framework. Again, speaking broadly: moral beauty is the harmony and proportionality of our choices and actions with what advances and preserves the life of creatures of our species—the life of man qua man, man living as man.