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On Moral Nose

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2022

Fabrizio Turoldo*
Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Palazzo Malcanton-Marcorà Calle Contarini Dorsoduro, 3484/D 30123 Venezia, Italy
Corresponding author. Email:
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There are many authors who consider the so-called “moral nose” a valid epistemological tool in the field of morality. The expression was used by George Orwell, following in Friedrich Nietzsche’s footsteps and was very clearly described by Leo Tolstoy. It has also been employed by authors such as Elisabeth Anscombe, Bernard Williams, Noam Chomsky, Stuart Hampshire, Mary Warnock, and Leon Kass. This article examines John Harris’ detailed criticism of what he ironically calls the “olfactory school of moral philosophy.” Harris’ criticism is contrasted with Jonathan Glover’s defense of the moral nose. Glover draws some useful distinctions between the various meanings that the notion of moral nose can assume. Finally, the notion of moral nose is compared with classic notions such as Aristotelian phronesis, Heideggerian aletheia, and the concept of “sentiment” proposed by the philosopher Thomas Reid. The conclusion reached is that morality cannot be based only on reason, or—as David Hume would have it—only on feelings.

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John Harris’ Criticism of Moral Nose

In many of his writings, John Harris criticises what he calls—with his distinctive irony—the “olfactory school of moral philosophy.” According to Harris, this philosophical school is guilty of excessively relying on what George Orwell, following in Friedrich Nietzsche’s footsteps, termed “moral nose.”Footnote 1

One of the first texts in which we find Harris making this criticism is the 1974 article Williams on Negative Responsibility and Integrity, Footnote 2 later included in the 1980 volume Violence and Responsibility. Footnote 3 In this text Harris quotes a fine page from the end of Anna Karenina, where Tolstoy describes Levin in the following words:

Whether he was acting rightly or wrongly he did not know -indeed, far from laying down the law, he now avoided talking or thinking about it.

Deliberation led to doubts and prevents him from seeing what he ought and ought not to do. But when he did not think, but just lived, he never ceased to be aware of the presence in his soul of an infallible judge who decided which of two courses of action was the better and which the worse, and instantly let him know if he did what he should not.Footnote 4

Harris juxtaposes this page with a brief text by Bernard Williams, in which the philosopher upholds the moral nose so clearly described by Tolstoy as something remarkably good:

Instead of thinking in a rational and systematic way either about utilities or about the value of human life, the relevance of the people at risk being present and so forth, the presence of the people at risk may just have its effect. The significance of the immediate should not be underestimated… very often, we just act, as a possibly confused result of the situation in which we are engaged. That, I suspect, is an exceedingly good thing.Footnote 5

Among the authoritative representatives of the “olfactory school of moral philosophy”, John Harris also includes Noam Chomsky, quoting his claim that

by entering into the arena of argument and counter-argument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, one has already lost one’s humanity.Footnote 6

There are two reasons why, in his essay, Harris argues that moral nose is not a morally reliable instrument. Both reasons for this are quite convincing and worthy of the utmost consideration. The first is the fact that moral nose seems to have a very limited range of action. It allows us to have an immediate reaction to what we see and feel, what lies before us here and now, or—to quote Harris—what lies “within sniffing distance”.Footnote 7 In this regard, Harris writes

This insistence on the moral priority of nose is disturbing. For much if not most of what should concern us morally takes place beyond the limited range of our organs of moral sense. (…).

‘Out of sight’ must not become the justification not only for ‘out of mind’ but also ‘out of account’. (…).

The poor are often hidden away in slums, the sick or dying in hospitals, the eccentric or depressed in asylums, the aged are left to die of malnutrition or bronchitis or of cold in the privacy of their own homes, and famine victims live in foreign countries. Moral nose cannot be relied on to prompt us to action on behalf of these people.Footnote 8

The second reason is the fact that moral nose is not established on solid argumentative bases or on solid and rationally well-founded moral judgements. Moral nose cannot be subjected to critical vetting. It is impossible to find some kind of intersubjective agreement on the basis of it. Harris writes

The other obvious drawback of moral nose is that we shall want, or we ought to want, to know whether our response to the immediate is the right one; and this we can only find out by trying as best we can in the perhaps limited time available to weight all the relevant considerations and come to a grounded judgement.Footnote 9

Harris further develops his criticism of moral nose in the book Wonderwoman and Superman,Footnote 10 as well as in the 1998 article Cloning and Human Dignity Footnote 11 (later reprinted in the volume On Cloning Footnote 12). In these two texts, Harris first of all identifies David Hume as the founder of the “olfactory school of moral philosophy.” He notes that in A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume argues that morality is “more properly felt than judg’d of”Footnote 13

The idea that moral sentiments, or indeed, gut reactions must play a crucial role in the determination of what is morally permissible is tenacious. This idea, originating with David Hume (who memorably remarked that morality is “more properly felt than than judg’d off”), has been influential in the work of a number of contemporary philosophers.Footnote 14

In the two texts in question, Harris also adds Stuart Hampshire to his list of contemporary authors—referring to the work Morality & Pessimism Footnote 15—as well as Mary Warnock. Harris notably quotes the following excerpt from Warnock’s writing

If morality is to exist at all, either privately or publicly, there must be some things which, regardless of consequences should not be done, some barriers which should not be passed.

What marks out these barriers is often a sense of outrage, if something is done; a feeling that to permit some practice would be indecent or part of the collapse of civilisation.Footnote 16

In Harris’ view, Warnock makes the mistake of identifying all outrage as moral outrage. However, Harris observes, not all feelings are moral feelings. Therefore, while acknowledging that it is important to respect other people’s feelings and beliefs even when we do not share them, he notes that we are not required to respect other people’s prejudices or brutal aversions, even when they rest on very intense feelings. In the past, the feeling of outrage and moral nose have served to justify prejudices. The revulsion that some people felt at the sight of Jews, Blacks, interracial couples, homosexuals, and so on counted as a moral judgment, with no need for any justification.

According to Harris, to avoid justifying prejudices a criterion is therefore required to allow us to distinguish between moral feelings and prejudices, and this criterion cannot in turn be constituted by a feeling.

In the article Cloning and Human Dignity, Harris discusses Leon Kass’ well-known article The Wisdom of Repugnance, published after Wonder Woman and Superman. Harris quotes the following passage from Kass’ article:

We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear.Footnote 17

Harris describes Kass’ argument as “highly sophisticated and thoroughly mischievous,”Footnote 18 because

[i]n Kass’s suggestion (he disarmingly admits revulsion “is not an argument”) the giveaway is in his use of the term “rightfully.” How can we know that revulsion, however sincerely or vividly felt, is occasioned by the violation of things we rightfully hold dear unless we have a theory, or at least an argument, about which of the things we happen to hold dear we rightfully hold dear? The term “rightfully” implies a judgment that confirms the respectability of the feelings. If it is simply one feeling confirming another, then we really are in the situation Wittgenstein lampooned as buying a second copy of the same newspaper to confirm the truth of what we read in the first.Footnote 19

Jonathan Glover’s Defence of Moral Nose

In a text devoted to John Harris,Footnote 20 Jonathan Glover develops a careful and subtle analysis of moral nose. First of all, Glover observes that moral nose can be employed in different ways: it can serve as a rigid “excluder” or, more simply, as an “early warning system.” Leon Kass—previously quoted by Harris—uses moral nose as an excluder when he states that cloning must absolutely be rejected, on account of the revulsion it elicits. As Glover notes, another philosopher who uses moral nose as an excluder and who is not found among those mentioned by Harris, is G.E.M. Anscombe. She is especially known for the following claim:

if someone really thinks, in advance, that it is open to question whether such an action as procuring the judicial execution of the innocent should be quite excluded from consideration – I do not want to argue with him; he shows a corrupt mind.Footnote 21

Glover observes, however, that moral nose can more simply be employed as an “early warning system,” for we may feel revulsion toward a given course of action without necessarily ruling it out. In this case, revulsion simply tells us that

the action is something we should not do unless serious thought convinces us either that there is a morally over-riding justification or that our moral nose was mistaken.Footnote 22

The reason why moral nose should work as an early warning rather than excluder lies in the fact that it can sometimes be distorted by prejudices and therefore prove misleading. As a striking example of a moral nose distorted by prejudices, Glover quotes some excerpts from a 1965 text entitled The Enforcement of Morals. Its author, Lord Devlin, writes

I do not think one can ignore disgust if it is deeply felt and not manufactured. Its presence is a good indication that the bounds of toleration are being reached. Not everything is to be tolerated. No society can do without intolerance, indignation and disgust; they are the forces behind the moral law. (…).

There is, for example, a general abhorrence of homosexuality. We should ask ourselves in the first instance whether, looking at it calmly and dispassionately, we regard it as a vice so abominable that its mere presence is an offence. If that is the genuine feeling of the society in which we live, I do not see how society can be denied the right to eradicate it.Footnote 23

In addition to distinguishing between two different ways in which moral nose works, Glover also distinguishes between three different kinds of moral nose. The first is what Glover calls “ trained moral nose. ” This is a moral nose conditioned by conceptual and theoretical assumptions. For instance, if I am asked to smell different scents blindfolded, my reaction will vary according to my expectations (“whether you have told me it is a rare wine or a sample of elephant’s urine”Footnote 24). Likewise, mores and religious beliefs can condition a person’s moral nose. Revulsion toward practices such as experimentation on embryos depends on implicit theoretical conceptions about their status. According to Glover, this first kind of moral nose is the least interesting because it depends on the soundness of the theories on which it rests. “In such cases,” he notes “moral nose has no independent authority. It is as strong—or as weak—as the moral code or theory that it draws upon.”Footnote 25

The second kind of moral nose, which Glover calls the “ strange smell response,” comes into play when something seems to fall outside certain mental categories that are deeply rooted in us. We feel revulsion toward strange and unfamiliar things. Mary Douglas has studied this phenomenon in detail in her in-depth analysis of the concepts of purity, pollution, and taboo.Footnote 26 Westerns are appalled by the thought that in certain areas of China and Korea people eat dog meat, just as Englishmen are disgusted at the sight of horse meat being served as food in France or Italy. Similarly, in the past, some people would feel revulsion at the sight of men with long hair or women with short hair and trousers.

The third kind of moral nose, which Glover calls “ human response,” is the one which George Orwell refers to in the following text discussing Charles Dickens:

Dickens, of course, had the most childish views on politics, etc., but I think that because his moral sense was sound he would have been able to find his bearing in any political or economic milieu. So I think would most Victorians. The thing that frightens me about the modern intelligentsia is their inability to see that human society must be based on common decency, whatever the political and economic forms may be. [Sir Richard Acland] is apparently incapable of seeing that there is something wrong with the present Russian regime. Private property has been abolished, therefore (so he argues) everything must be more or less right. This seems to me to indicate the lack of moral nose. Dickens, without the slightest understanding of socialism, etc., would have seen at a glance that there is something wrong with a regime that needs a pyramid of corpses every few years. All people who are morally sound have known since about 1931 that the Russian regime stinks.Footnote 27

The aversion we feel toward the piles of bodies of those murdered on Stalin’s orders stems from the fact that “we can feel sympathy for other people when they suffer, and have the capacity to care when they are denied respect.”Footnote 28 Glover explains as follows:

If we see one person humiliating another, as when someone spits on a beggar or ridicules another person’s disability, we are outraged or distressed. These responses also act as powerful inhibitors of any of our own actions that might cause someone suffering or would show a lack of respect for their dignity.Footnote 29

These responses are so natural and immediate that political systems that have planned genocides have been forced to find a way to deaden these responses, or have opposed them by fomenting hatred or by invoking certain motivations to counterbalance them. Furthermore, in each of us these spontaneous responses to other people’s pain may be counterbalanced by the opposite tendencies:

Self-interest, lack of imagination, distance, or ‘compassion fatigue’ may damp down the human responses. Anger, sadism, or the desire for revenge may make us enjoy someone’s suffering or humiliation.Footnote 30

Glover therefore believes that this spontaneous response to other people’s pain is a sign of humaneness and that its absence is something pathological.

At this point, the difference between Lord Devlin’s revulsion toward homosexuality and the disgust we may feel at the sight of a defenseless person’s suffering seems quite clear. In Lord Devlin’s case, we clearly find the first and second kinds of moral nose at work. Glover puts it as follows:

The explanation of Lord Devlin’s ‘abhorrence’ of homosexuality’ can plausibly be sought in some combination of trained moral nose and the strange smell version. The conventional moral outlook of the period in which he grew up included the idea that gay sex was both immoral and disgusting. (…) The strange smell version also seems to have had an influence: his phrase ‘unnatural vice’ suggests awareness of a threat to conventional categories of ‘natural’ sex.Footnote 31

Aversion toward torture or cruelty instead has a completely different psychological basis, as Glover explains

Disgust at torture, or at cruelty and humiliation in general, has a different psychological basis. The human responses are independent of worries about strange smells or about blurred categories. And, while they may by supported by theoretical considerations, they are usually spontaneous rather than a case of trained moral nose. Their origins are in empathy and imagination. Because we empathise with other people, we can feel sympathy when they suffer, or outrage when we witness their humiliation.Footnote 32

Glover ends his detailed analysis by noting that only the third kind of moral nose, which he calls “human response,” has genuine moral value. Moreover, according to Glover, moral nose—understood as a “human response”—must not be regarded as an excluder, but only as an early warning system. A doctor who treats a sore may cause pain to his patient, but if he decides not to treat the patient because he gives in to his first and immediate “human response,” he will cause even greater suffering, since the sore will eventually start festering. Likewise, according to Glover, revulsion toward the cruelty of a war may sometimes be overridden by the prospect of even greater suffering should a war of defense not be waged.

Therefore, according to Glover, we can certainly overcome our “human response” in certain cases, but the reasons for us to do so must be compelling. In other words, the burden of proof falls on those who go against the “human response.” Glover establishes two conditions for going against it. The first is the “lesser evil requirement”: causing suffering is the lesser evil, as in the case of the doctor inflicting pain while treating a sore. The second condition is the “validation requirement”: the reasons to overcome the first and immediate level of the human response must be rooted in the human response itself (as in the case of the doctor who is driven to treat the sore by imagining even worse suffering in the future, thereby triggering a second-level human response). The “lesser evil” condition makes it possible to avoid radical and absolutist positions. The “validation requirement” condition sets strong restrictions on what reasons can be adduced to overcome the first and immediate human response: for such reasons cannot be abstract. According to Glover, a war of defense can be waged, even though it will cause suffering, only to avoid greater suffering, but not to pursue abstractions such as “national interest, empire, geopolitical balance, world domination, religious or ideological victory, national loyalty, etc., except in the very rare case that those abstractions are linked to avoiding human disasters that would arouse our human responses.”Footnote 33

Glover concludes his reflection by affirming the fundamental role of intuitions in the moral sphere because an ethics that is based on reason alone and does not take emotions into account, would be an ethics for Martians, not humans. At the same time, however, this affirmation of the role of emotions in ethics does not at all deny the fundamental role of reason, which in any case has the last word:

This approach takes intuitions seriously as a source of morality. Trying to ground morality in reason alone, independent of emotion or intuition, risks creating a morality for Martians rather than humans. Here Kant was a bit of a Martian. Morality rooted in human values has to listen to our intuitive responses.

But Kant also said that understanding the world also needs thinking as well as observation. He said we should interrogate nature not like ‘a pupil who listens to everything the teacher chooses to say’, but like a ‘judge who compels the witnesses to answer questions which he has himself formulated’.Footnote 34 We should approach our moral intuitions in this way too.Footnote 35

To these remarks made by Glover, Harris objects that torture can be rejected not just on the basis of moral nose, but also—and just as swiftly—on the basis of moral arguments. Besides, a philosopher cannot limit himself to his moral nose: precisely because he is a philosopher, he will certainly feel the need to rationally justify his feelings. And if moral nose and reason are found to go in the same direction, then all the better. But if, on the contrary, they go in opposite directions, a method of arbitration between the two must be found, and this cannot be provided by moral nose, but only by reason. In other words, according to Harris, morality can be founded on reason alone, but not on intuitions alone, even though intuitions can be a source of morality—yet only in the sense that they are “one reason we might have to look for a moral reason.”Footnote 36

The Moral Nose of the Aristotelian Wise Man (Phronimos): The Nicomachean Ethics and the Concept of “Deliberative Desire”

In order to further investigate the issue of moral nose, it may be useful to refer to Aristotle’s thought. Aristotle is far from being a sentimentalist or irrationalist: as is widely known, he believes that rationality plays a fundamental role in ethics. However, Aristotle is keen to distinguish between different forms of rationality, which are not all the same. For example, he distinguishes between theoretical rationality and ethical rationality. Aristotle observes that morality has to do with changing things, which are the object of the “reckoning” or “deliberative” part of the soul (as opposed to the “scientific” one). The deliberative part of the soul is the seat of decision-making, which Aristotle refers to as “deliberative desire.”Footnote 37 Aristotle writes

Deliberate choice is either desiderative understanding or thought-involving desire, and this sort of starting-point is a human being.Footnote 38

The expressions “deliberative desire,” “desiderative understanding,” and “thought-involving desire” are particularly interesting for our discussion on moral nose, since the latter could also be described as a combination of reason and desire, or argumentation and empathy—which is to say, as reasoned empathy. In the field of bioethics this kind of empathic, desiderative reason often comes into play when difficult or tragic choices are to be made. Take the following question a patient might ask his doctor: “What would you do in my situation?” One might address the same question to a close friend. Or the father of a young patient might ask: “What would you do if this were your son?” The answer we expect in each of these cases is not one based on sheer rational argumentation: it is a reasonable answer (no doubt!), yet at the same time one that is strongly marked on the emotional and empathic level. If moral nose coincides precisely with this kind of “deliberative desire,” then I would have no doubt as to how to answer John Harris’ question of which I would pick in the event of a conflict between my moral nose and sheer reason: I would go with my moral nose!

According to Aristotle, the most significant difference between theoretical reason and ethical reason lies in the fact that the latter, unlike the former, cannot be drawn upon by everyone on the same level. Ethical knowledge presupposes a series of other elements in addition to reason—for example, experience. The question mentioned above (“What would you do in my situation?”) is one we would feel more inclined to pose to someone who has more life experience than us; someone who has known suffering or who has found himself in a situation similar to our own. In other words, whereas theoretical truth is self-evident—as in the case of the principle of identity or that of non-contradiction, for instance—ethical truth is better understood by someone who has made a certain life journey, who has experienced certain things, or who is more empathic. In other words, moral truth is never grasped by a neutral observer or by a gaze from nowhere, for it is always an embodied, situated truth. Aristotle explains that what makes wisdom different from art is also the fact that its principles need to be safeguarded through temperance:

But once someone is ruined by pleasure or pain, to him it does not appear a starting point or that it is for the sake of it and because of it that he should choose and do everything, since vice is ruinous of the starting point.Footnote 39

Following Aristotle’s reasoning and possibly developing our reflection a little beyond it, we might say that the distinction between what is good and what is evil is not merely rational, but also emotional. For there are some people who, while rationally registering the difference between good and evil, and between a serious action and an irrelevant one, are incapable of deeply “feeling” this difference and remain apathetic toward it. The most extreme example of this is the psychopath, whose psyche is—precisely—“apathetic,” which is to say devoid of passion and insensitive. But even without reaching this human limit, psychopathy can simply manifest itself as a limited degree of emotionality, even among highly intelligent people. And a kind of intelligence that becomes detached from feelings can turn into a lucid, cold, cynical, and potentially destructive intelligence (theologians used to describe Satan as intelligentia sine charitate)—in this case, an intelligence incapable of what Glover calls “human response,” and which he rightly describes as “pathological.”

The reference to Aristotle may perhaps help us to partly overcome Harris’ concern that moral nose is unreliable because it is not based on sound arguments or well-founded moral judgments. On the contrary, following Aristotle, I would contend that there is indeed a rationality to moral nose, although it is different from that proper to science or theoretical thought.

In my view, empathic reason also pervades the writings of John Harris, whose thought revolves around the issue of how to reduce suffering and make the world a better place. This concern for other people’s pain and for the responsibilities stemming from it can only originate from a strong empathic identification with other people’s destinies.

Aristotle’s Metaphysics and the Idea of Truth (Aletheia) as “Being in Direct Contact With Something”, as Unveiling

While the Nicomachean Ethics helps us to better define the topic of moral nose through the notion of phronesis, Aristotle’s Metaphysics offers a different, yet equally interesting insight. In Chapter 10 of Book Theta, Aristotle introduces his well-known distinction between truth as the opposite of falsehood and truth as the opposite of ignorance.Footnote 40 This Aristotelian distinction attracted the interest of Martin Heidegger, who saw the notion of truth as the opposite of ignorance, which is to say as aletheia (un-veiling), as expressing the genuine meaning of truth.Footnote 41 In Heidegger’s footsteps, other Continental philosophers, such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, have also focused on this notion of truth. The reason for their interest in this topic lies in the fact that truth as the opposite of ignorance is the kind of truth that is realised when we get to see something in a new and different light; when an old, ossified, and stable interpretation of things is replaced by a new one. Poetry, art, and literature, for example, allow us to see things in a new way. By juxtaposing in an original way what are usually distinct meanings, poetic metaphors allow us to grasp new aspects of reality. These discoveries do not stand in contrast to our old knowledge as truth is opposed to falsehood, however. A person may be used to grasping a certain landscape with the eye of a common man (or surveyor) and then, all of a sudden, discovers new aspects of this landscape by gazing at it through the eyes of a poet or painter, without this new interpretation negating the previous one. Such new knowledge simply broadens my horizons; it does not stand in contrast to my old view as truth is opposed to falsehood. Instead, I realize that I previously ignored certain aspects, and thus my new perception is opposed to the previous one as knowledge is opposed to ignorance.

Art and literature reinforce our imagination in a remarkable way. Novels, for example, allow us to live lives we have never lived in reality. Through the imagination we can feel empathy toward people living in faraway places, or in the past—or even toward future generations. In my view, artistic and literary education can therefore contribute to the development of moral nose. The Aristotelian phronimos is an experienced man, and experience is also acquired through art; indeed, art, literature, and poetry enable us to broaden our experience beyond the immediacy of our everyday contacts. In this respect, it seems like we can also overcome John Harris’ second objection to moral nose, which he criticizes as being limited to the very restricted sphere of “sniffing distance.” Harris might perhaps even follow this lead. After all, he pays a remarkable tribute to literature, poetry, and music in the article The Chimes of Freedom, Footnote 42 where he describes philosophy as “poetry with arguments”Footnote 43 (a definition I enthusiastically endorse).

Conclusion: Moving Beyond Hume

As we have seen, John Harris identifies David Hume as the founder of the “olfactory school of moral philosophy.” Indeed, Hume argues that “morality is more properly felt than judg’d of”.Footnote 44 Hume makes this claim, however, because he envisages that the intellect and the passions are completely separate and different realities. In his view, only a passion can oppose another passion; hence, reason, not being a passion, cannot oppose passions. Hume writes

I shall endeavour to prove first, that reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will; and secondly, that it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will.Footnote 45

Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to volition, I infer, that the same faculty is as incapable of preventing volition, or of disputing the preference with any passion or emotion.Footnote 46

Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, the latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition.Footnote 47

Thus it appears, that the principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and is only call’d so in an improper sense. We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.Footnote 48

The limit of Hume’s conception, however, lies precisely in this separation between the intellect and passions—as though these two realities were completely different and cut off from each other, and there could be no causal relationship between them. But the notions of “deliberative desire,” “desiderative understanding,” and “thought-involving desire,” which we have come across in Aristotle, suggest an idea of reason as something that is not opposite and not completely different with respect to passions. Therefore, if we understand reason as a reality that is not totally detached from desire, we can envisage the possibility of reason acting upon passions and, conversely, of passions acting upon reason. At the same time, we can also conceive of feelings that are not wholly devoid of reason, namely of a “rational feeling,” which is precisely what we mean by “moral nose.”

Some contemporary philosophers like Alasdair MacIntyre,Footnote 49 George Pitcher,Footnote 50 Anthony Kenny,Footnote 51 and John BrickeFootnote 52 have clearly highlighted this limit of Hume’s thought. However, in the essay Reason and Passion: Reid’s Reply to Hume, Footnote 53 Michael Pritchard notes that the first person to criticize Hume with regard to this point was his contemporary Thomas Reid (1710–1796). Reid drew an interesting distinction between mere passions and sentiment. Like Aristotle’s “deliberative desire,” sentiment is a combination of reason and passion; as such, it is more than mere passion, but also more than mere reason. Reid writes

The word sentiment, in the English language, never, as I conceive, signifies mere feeling, but judgment accompanied with feeling. It was wont to signify opinion or judgment of any kind, but, of late, is appropriated to signify an opinion or judgment, that strikes, and produces some agreeable or uneasy emotion. So we speak of sentiments of respect, of esteem, of gratitude; but I never heard of the pain of the gout, or any other mere feeling, called a sentiment.Footnote 54



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