Ethical rationalism has recently dominated the philosophical landscape, but sentimentalist forms of normative ethics (such as the ethics of caring) and of metaethics (such as Blackburn's projectivism and various ideal-observer and response-dependent views) have also been prominent. But none of this has been systematic in the manner of Hume and Hutcheson. Hume based both ethics and metaethics in his notion of sympathy, but the project sketched here focuses rather on the (related) notion of empathy. I argue that empathy is essential to the development of morally required caring about others and also to deontological limits or restrictions on self-concern and other-concern. But empathy also plays a grounding role in moral judgement. Moral approval and disapproval can be noncircularly understood as empathic reflections of the concern or lack of concern that agents show towards other people; and moral utterances can plausibly be seen not as projections, expressions, or descriptions of sentiment but as "objective" and "non-relative" judgements whose reference and content are fixed by sentiments of approval and disapproval.
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