The further development of theological utilitarianism was conditioned by opposition to the Moral Sense doctrine of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson.
They erred from ignorance, from a perverted moral sense rather than from any mean or selfish motive, and exhibited extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of what seemed to them the cause of God and of their country.
Theological and political utilitarianism alike had been individualistic. But Darwin shows how the moral sense or conscience may be regarded as derived from the social instincts, which are common to men and animals.
Such a religion appeals for its self-verification not to its agreement with cosmological conceptions, either ancient or modern, or with theories of philosophy, however true these may be, but to the moral sense of man.
Calm self-love Hutcheson regards as morally indifferent; though he enters into a careful analysis of the elements of happiness,' in order to show that a true regard for private interest always coincides with the moral sense and with benevolence.
The very sincerity of her piety and strength of her religious convictions led her more than once, however, into great errors of state policy, and into more than one act which offends the moral sense of a more refined age; her efforts for the introduction of the Inquisition into Castile, and for the proscription of the Jews, are outstanding evidences of what can only be called her bigotry.
In his own character it produced the somewhat blunted moral sense which led to the few incidents in his career which need moral defence, his performance of the marriage ceremony between his first patron Lord Devonshire and the latter's mistress, the divorced wife of Lord Rich, an act completely at variance with his principles; his strange intimacy with Buckingham; his love of power and place.
This doctrine of the moral sense is sometimes represented as Shaftesbury's cardinal tenet; but though characteristic and important, it is not really necessary to his main argument; it is the crown rather than the keystone of his ethical structure.
This argument has been met in recent times by the application to mind of the physiological theory of heredity, according to which changes produced in the mind (brain) of a parent, by association of ideas or otherwise, tend to be inherited by his offspring; so that the development of the moral sense or any other faculty or susceptibility of existing man may be hypothetically carried back into the prehistoric life of the human race, without any change in the manner of derivation supposed.
Both these writers, more particularly the latter, had postulated in controverting Hobbes the existence of a moral sense to explain the fact that we approve benevolent actions, done either by ourselves or by others, which bring no advantage to ourselves.