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Moral Sentimentalism and the Foundations of Morality

A two-day conference at the College of the Holy Cross
November 14-15, 2014 • Rehm Library

In recent years there has been a tremendous resurgence of philosophical interest in moral sentimentalism, an ethical and meta-ethical tradition first articulated in the context of the Scottish Enlightenment and particularly associated with David Hume and Adam Smith. This renewed interest in moral sentimentalism is best understood as being due to the convergence of a vigorous philosophical debate about the nature of and interdisciplinary research into the psychological mechanisms underlying our capacity for moral judgment and moral agency. The speakers in this two-day conference will highlight both the promises and potential pitfalls of moral sentimentalism and suggest ways of thinking through its problems.

All conference sessions are free and open to the public, but please e-mail  if you plan to attend.



9:00- 9:05 a.m.: Welcome

9:05-10:00 a.m.: Interdisciplinary before the Disciplines: Moral Sentimentalism and the “New Science of Man”
Michael Frazer, Harvard University

10:00-11:00 a.m.: Evolutionary Debunking Arguments, Explanatory Structure, and the Appeal of Sentimentalism
Karl Schafer, University of Pittsburgh

11:00-11:30 a.m.: Break

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: A Modest Feminist Sentimentalism: Empathy and Moral Understanding
Diana Tietjens Meyers, University of Connecticut

12:30-2:00 p.m.: Lunch break

2:00-3:00 p.m.: The Authority of Empathy
Remy Debes, University of Memphis

3:00-4:00 p.m.: Smithean Constructivism: Elucidating the Reality of Reasons
Karsten Stueber, College of the Holy Cross

4:00-4:30 p.m.: Break

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Moral Sentimentalism in Early Confucian Thought
David Wong, Duke University

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Sentimentalism, Relativism, & Bias
Simon Blackburn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and New College of the Humanities, London


10:00-11:00 a.m.: Fittingness for Sentimentalists
Justin D’Arms, The Ohio State University, and
Daniel Jacobson, University of Michigan

11:00 a.m.- Noon: The Normative Significance of Sentimentalism
Antti Kauppinen, Trinity College, Dublin

12:00-1:30 p.m.: Lunch break

1:30- 2:30 p.m.: What Are Sentiments And When Do They Fit?
Sabine Döring, Uni­ver­sität Tübin­gen

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Reactive Attitudes & Second-Person Address
Michelle Mason, University of Minnesota

3:30-4:00 p.m. Break

4:00-5:00 p.m.: Neo-Classical Sentimentalism
Jesse Prinz, City University of New York

5:00-6:00 p.m.: Sentimentalism & Realism
Peter Railton, University of Michigan