Hume on the standard of virtue

Journal of Ethics 6 (1):43-62 (2002)
Among those sympathetic to Hume''smoral philosophy, a general consensus hasemerged that his first work on the topic,A Treatise of Human Nature, is his best. Hislater work, An Enquiry Concerning thePrinciples of Morals, is regarded as scaleddown in both scope and ambition. In contrastto this standard view, I argue that Hume''slater work offers a more sophisticated theoryof moral evaluation. I begin by reviewing theTreatise theory of moral evaluation tohighlight the reasons why commentators find socompelling Hume''s account of the corrections wemake to our moral sentiments. The method isendorsed by philosophers such as Henry DavidAiken and Annette C. Baier because, theyallege, it shows that moral sentiments reflecta process of judgment that includes thepossibility of corrigibility and ofjustification. But Hume''s method of correctionfalls short and does not establish why thesentiments conforming to the standard of virtueshould count as moral judgments. In the secondEnquiry, Hume lays out a different set ofcriteria, including not only the need forcertain virtues of good judgment but attentionto the particular cultural and historicalorigins of the norms governing the virtues ofgood judgment. Hume''s attention to diversityin evaluative outlook in his more matureposition takes seriously the relation betweenmoral authority and public debate.
Keywords common point of view  David Hume  moral judgment  moral sentiment  sentiment-based ethics  standard of virtue  virtue
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DOI 10.1023/A:1015815518479
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