While Diderot believes that the emotions have a generally deleterious influence on moral judgment, his work nonetheless tends to the conclusion, in parallel with Hume’s primacy of the passions, that they are at its very foundation. However, because the emotions are hard to control and easy to sway, Diderot believes that every moral judgment people make has some potential for being self-serving or otherwise untrustworthy. Diderot does, however, identify two types of judgment that can mitigate this potential unreliability: judgment by people from later times and judgment by people from other cultures. These types of judgment combine the emotions with thorough research and a neutral viewpoint, allowing Diderot to concede the essentiality of the emotions in moral judgments while also endowing them with something of an empirical basis. From such a perspective, which recalls Adam Smith’s ideal spectator, moral judgment bears a strong resemblance to the aesthetic judgment of art and literature. Although both moral and aesthetic judgment are meaningless without the emotions, they both gain in depth and nuance from impartiality.


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pp. 1-17
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