Volume 25, Issue 1, Fall 2020
Moral Laws of the Heart
Conscience, Reason, and Sentiments in Rousseau’s Moral Foundationalism
Tensions between sentiments and reason are a well-known feature of Rousseau’s moral theory. To explain these tensions, this paper appeals to Rousseau’s moral foundationalism. In this foundationalism, I argue, feeling and reason operate jointly to establish the content and normativity of moral law. This joint operation is not always smooth, and additionally there is much leeway in this theory, which explains the theory’s ability to accommodate various interpretations and emphases as well as its struggle to delimit specific moral laws, choices, and actions. The most important element of this foundationalism is conscience, which does the work of voicing moral laws with content and normativity grounded in moral sentiments.