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Exciting Reasons and Moral Rationalism in Hutcheson's Illustrations upon the Moral Sense


One of the most oft-cited parts of Francis Hutcheson's Illustrations upon the Moral Sense (1728) is his discussion of "exciting reasons." In this paper I address the question: What is the function of that discussion? In particular, what is its relation to Hutcheson's attempt to show that the rationalists' normative thesis ultimately implies, contrary to their moral epistemology, that moral ideas spring from a sense? Despite first appearances, Hutcheson's discussion of exciting reasons is not part of that attempt. Mainly, it is part of Hutcheson's comeback to Gilbert Burnet's objections to Hutcheson's Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725).

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