Directing the Conscience and Cultivating the Mind: Practical Ethics in Eighteenth Century Britain


ACLS Fellowship Program




Histories of eighteenth century British moral philosophy have focused on debates concerning the nature and ground of moral judgment, will, and value—debates that British moralists like Hutcheson, Hume, and Reid would have included under the “theory of morals.” But this leaves out the other half of moral philosophy, namely, “practical ethics,” which both presented systems of duties, virtues, or rights in order to direct the conscience “in the general conduct of human life,” and claimed to cultivate the mind’s moral capacities. This is the first book-length study to examine different accounts of practical ethics. It offers, first, a new way of conceptualizing a vital period in moral philosophy, and, second, valuable insight into the goals and structure of present-day moral philosophy.