He treats conscience as the moral sense which gives direct knowledge of good and evil. According to that moral sense, beautiful acts are good and ugly acts are bad, and the moral sense knows intuitively the aesthetic value actions. This agreeability of beauty or morality is natural.
Moral Sense at the base of moral Knowledge:
According to Shaftesbury, moral sense resides at the bottom of moral knowledge. This sense is not equally developed in all but it can be developed. Moral knowledge is based, not on pure reason but on moral feeling.
Good conducts includes essentially an artistic interest. Moral good depends upon beauty and beauty, as a whole, upon connection of parts and their balance.
Question of egoism and altruism:
Contrary to Hobbes, Shaftesbury treats the motives of actions as the objects of moral judgments instead of their external forms and results in good, there should be a harmony between part and whole, organ and organism.
Thus, egoism is partial arid incomplete. A good act is one in which the society benefits along with the individual, egoism is compromised with altruism. It is this balance which renders happiness to the person.
According to Shaftesbury, man exhibits three kinds of tendencies-normal, spiritual and abnormal. Normal tendencies pertain to love, pity, sympathy and happiness and are sources of these.
Spiritual feelings are good to a limit while abnormal tendencies are bad both for the person and the society. From this analysis Shaftesbury established the importance of virtues.
The following criticisms have been advanced against moral sense theory of Shaftesbury:
(1) Difference between aesthetic sense and moral sense:
Shaftesbury forgets the difference between aesthetic and moral sense. Morality comments upon art cannot comment upon art.
(2) Morality cannot be interpreted by moral sense:
If education becomes necessary for relined moral sense, then education would become the standard of morality. The standard of morality should be applicable to the common people, and not only for some of developed tastes.
(3) Shaftesbury failed to explain moral conduct:
Shaftesbury did not succeed in criticizing the ultimate egoism of Hobbes. It is difficult to understand the feeling of moral obligation in his theory. A successful explanation of the mutual relation of egoism and altruism cannot be rendered on the basis of his theory.
But not withstanding this, Shaftesbury was the first to analyze human nature and understand the connection between egoistic and altruistic tendencies. He based morality upon feelings, moving it from the basis of reason, and made the feelings, which motivate social duties the focus of morality.
2. Hutcheson’s Moral Sense Theory:
Hutcheson accepted Buder’s theory of moral conscience along with die moral sense theory. Contrary to Hobble’s subjective theory, Hutcheson treated morality as an objective entity, similar to beauty.
Moral laws are everlasting. Although moral sense is not equally awakened in everyone, yet it can be made comprehensive and refined by proper education. Hutcheson adds a religious feeling to his theory of moral sense.
According to him, the ultimate aim of God and the moral sense imparted by Him is maximum universal pleasure. Hutcheson too, holds that the motivation of moral sense proceeds from feelings, not reason.
Hutcheson proves his theories by psychological analysis. He opines that disturbed passions are bad irrespective of circumstances. According to him, benevolence should be unqualified by selfishness. A correct viewpoint in regard to personal pleasure ascertains adjustment of egoism and altruism.
The meaning of moral sense is not, very evident in Hutcheson’s delineation, his having interpreted it hi a variety of ways, like interest, intuitive tendency and sense, etc.
Although, influenced by Butler, he talks of the ability of controlling moral sense, his inability to explain the absolute predominance of moral sense over all actions is evident actually, when moral sense is taken to be interest, it can neither impress or affect the whole person nor retain the absolute nature of its predominance.
3. Moral Intuitionism of Butler:
Butler established moral intuitionism by introspective and external examination. According to him, the order and authority of conscience is supreme, and being supplied by nature, it need not be proved.
In order to explain his theory of internal sense, Butler turns to religious arguments. According to him the teachings of inner sense are the teachings of God, who is pleased when man obeys them.
According to Butler, man is social by nature. In explaining this social tendency, he presents three arguments. First, man is benevolent by nature. Secondly, social tendencies are beyond egoism and altruism and third, moral sense prevails upon and balances the mutually contradictory egoistic and altruistic tendencies.
Man and human society is not merely conglomeration of separate parts but are rather organized constructions. The internal sense or conscience creates an adjustment between these different parts.
It is the most superior element among the four elements of human nature. According to Butler, these elements are (1) specific emotion, (2) passion and tendencies, (3) benevolence, and (4) self love and conscience.
In their own right each element is good but when they violate their limits they become bad. Inner sense is dependent upon other tendencies because it cannot itself create virtue but in spite of it, it supersedes all others.
In this way, inner sense is superior to both benevolence and self love. It is superior to all faculties. It is implicit in every one and is their moral directive. It is normal because it concurs with the nature of human constitution. It is the real self and reason.
In evaluating Butler’s intuitionism, the following things can be said-
(1) Contradiction of asceticism:
Butler’s conception of moral sense contradicts asceticism because according to it, the conscience orders the equitable satiation of all desires.
(2) Religious viewpoint:
Butler compromised Christian spiritual knowledge, pure morality, stoicism and hedonism with theories of Plato, Aristotie and Shaftesbury. His theories clearly reflect his religious nature. According to him, the present life is merely a means to a future life. Thus, man should in this life develop virtues and a religious mind for pleasure and security in the future life.
Butler psychologically refuted the ultimate egoism but did not succeed in explaining the relation of conscience and self love. He tries to resolve the contradiction of pleasure and virtue by means of spiritual knowledge. His utilitarianism and his theory of conscience are mutually incompatible.