|Summary||Hume's ethics emphasizes our common humanity and our capacity to develop moral sensibilities in response to varying circumstances. He argues that moral distinctions arise from our sympathizing with the effects of character traits on those who have them and the people they interact with. The resulting judgments can have intersubjective validity both because they are rooted in common human nature, and because we can correct our sentimental responses by taking up a "general point of view" in place of a more partial perspective. Hume's aesthetics and politics also reflect the idea that corrected and cultivated passions provide a basis for sound normative judgments. He argues that discerning critics can provide a standard of taste, and that such taste is a significant aspect of human life and character. Although various political parties have claimed him as a supporter, Hume contends that philosophers should be unpartisan. He argues against both Lockean and Hobbesian contract theories and limits the right to resist sovereigns to extreme cases.|
Hume's Treatise of Human Nature contains his initial exposition of his theory of the passions and morals. He later published an edited account of the former in A Dissertation on the Passions. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is Hume's mature statement of his moral theory and the work that he believed to be his best. Although the above works include some material relevant to his aesthetics and political philosophy, the Essays, Moral, Political and Literary contain lengthier discussions of these aspects of Hume's thought. Also relevant, particularly to Hume's political views, is his History of England. The Clarendon Press has published critical editions of the Treatise (Norton & Norton 2007), the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (Beauchamp 1998), and the Dissertation on the Passions (together with The Natural History of Religion) (Hume 2007). Liberty Fund offers editions of both the Essays (Miller 1987) and History of England (Todd 1983).
|Introductions||Norton & Taylor 2008 and Radcliffe 2008 include many helpful articles that could serve as introductions to Hume's ethics, aesthetics, and social and political philosophy. Lists of the many book-length treatments of Hume's ethics and politics are available online at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Zalta 2004, open-access) and The Routledge Encylopedia of Philosophy (Craig 1996, subscription required). Townsend 2001 is notable as a comprehensive study of Hume's aesthetics. Ardal 1966 is a classic treatment of Hume's theory of the passions.|
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