The First Motive to Justice: Hume's Circle Argument Squared

Hume Studies 33 (2):257-288 (2007)
Hume argues that respect for property (“justice”) is a convention-dependent (“artificial”) virtue. He does so by appeal to a principle, derived from his virtue-based approach to ethics, which requires that, for any kind of virtuous action, there be a “first virtuous motive” that is other than a sense of moral duty. It has been objected, however, that in the case of justice (and also in a parallel argument concerning promise-keeping) Hume (i) does not, (ii) should not, and (iii) cannot recognize such a motive. This paper defends Hume’s argument against these three objections.
Keywords Hume  justice  fidelity  artificial  virtue
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