The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today

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Organisational units


Although known as "the age of reason," the eighteenth century was actually an era in which many leading moral and political philosophers placed equal emphasis on feeling. While Enlightenment rationalists such as Immanuel Kant separated reflective reason from the unreflective mental faculties which must obey its commands, their sentimentalist contemporaries such as David Hume, Adam Smith, and J. G. Herder did not. Instead, they saw moral and political reflection as the proper work of the mind as a whole. Without emotion, imagination and the imaginative sharing of emotion then known as "sympathy," we would be incapable of developing the reflectively-refined moral sentiments which are the basis of our commitment to justice and virtue. This book seeks to reclaim the sentimentalist theory of reflection as a resource for enriching social science, normative theory, and political practice today.


Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press, Oxford
Number of pages248
ISBN (Print)9780199866687, 9780195390667
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


    Research areas

  • Adam Smith, David Hume, Emotion, Empathy, Immanuel Kant, Johannn Gottfried von Herder, Justice, Moral sentiments, Political psychology, Reason

Bibliographic note

This book appears in Chinese translation as "同情的启蒙:18世纪与当代的正义和道德情感" published by Yilin press, ISBN 9787544765152, translated by Jing Iris Hu.

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