About this topic
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.
Key works

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 2006), 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 2006 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 2000 is notable as a comprehensive study of Hume's aesthetics. Árdal 1966 is a classic treatment of Hume's theory of the passions.
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  1. How to Prove Hume’s Law.Gillian Russell - 2021 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 51 (3):603-632.
    This paper proves a precisification of Hume’s Law—the thesis that one cannot get an ought from an is—as an instance of a more general theorem which establishes several other philosophically interesting, though less controversial, barriers to logical consequence.
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  2. Demarcating the Social World with Hume.Matthew J. Cull - 2022 - Philosophical Papers 51 (1):69-88.
    Where lies the boundary between the natural and social worlds? For the local constructionist, who wants to say that whilst global constructionism is false, nonetheless there remains a domain of soc...
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  3. David Hume’s Universalism of Moral Precepts.Tom L. Beauchamp - 2022 - Dialogue and Universalism 32 (1):33-46.
    This article presents an original interpretation of David Hume’s eighteenth-century writings in moral philosophy as universalistic and normative, and not as merely psychological, metaethical, empirical, and the like, which has been common in many interpretations of Hume. Whether his views should or should not be regarded as a type of general moral theory such as utilitarianism is not considered, although I argue that Hume is deeply committed to a form of virtue ethics. I also argue that Hume sees the fundamentals (...)
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  4. Hume, Epicureanism, and Contractarianism.Aaron Alexander Zubia - 2020 - Hume Studies 46 (1):121-144.
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  5. The Broader Context of Sympathy in Book 2 of the Treatise.Hynek Janoušek - 2020 - Hume Studies 46 (1):33-55.
  6. A Humean Social Ontology.Angela M. Coventry, Alex Sager & Tom Seppalainen - 2019 - In Angela M. Coventry & Alex Sager (eds.), The Humean Mind. Routledge.
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  7. Hume on Art, Emotion, and Superstition: A Critical Study of the Four Dissertations.Amyas Merivale - 2018 - Routledge.
    This book offers the first comprehensive critical study of David Hume¿s Four Dissertations of 1757, containing the Natural History of Religion, the Dissertation on the Passions, and the two essays Of Tragedy and Of the Standard of Taste. The author defends two important claims. The first is that these four works were not published together merely for convenience, but that they form a tightly integrated set, unified by the subject matter of the passions. The second is that the theory of (...)
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  8. History and Nature in the Enlightenment: Praise of the Mastery of Nature in Eighteenth-Century Historical Literature.Nathaniel Wolloch - 2011 - Routledge.
    "The maestry of nature was viewed by eighteenth-century historians as an important measure of the progress of civilization. Modern scholarship has hitherto taken insufficient notice of this important idea. This book discusses the topic in connection with the mainstream religious, political, and philosophical elements of the Enlightenment culture. It considers workd by Edward Gibbon, Voltaire, Herder, Vico, Raynal, Hume, Adam Smith, William Robertson, and a wide range of lesse- and better-know figures. It also discusses many classical, medieval, and early modern (...)
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  9. David Hume's Political Economy.Margaret Schabas & Carl Wennerlind - 2007 - Routledge.
    Hume’s Political Discourses won immediate acclaim and positioned him as an authoritative figure on the subject of political economy. This volume of thirteen new essays definitively establishes the central place of political economy in Hume’s intellectual endeavor, as well as the profound and far-reaching influence of his theories on Enlightenment discourse and practice. A major strength of this collection is that the contributors come from a diverse set of fields – philosophy, economics, political science, history and literature. This promotes a (...)
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  10. David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality.D. G. C. Macnabb - 1951 - Routledge.
    This book, first published in 1951, is an examination of Hume's 'Treatise of Human Nature', 'An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals', and 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding'. It lucidly clarifies and makes alive the new discoveries of Hume's works in a study that makes plain the importance of this philosopher to the world today.
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  11. «Something Else Too Abominable to Be Nam'd». David Hume and Greek Love.Emilio Mazza - 2022 - Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia 1:51-80.
    «Greek Love is a modern invention», asserts the classical scholar. David Hume can claim the title of inventor. In his 1751 Dialogue on morals he used the phrase to account for the relationship between a university boy and a man of merit. How did Hume come to this expression? Pederasty was a traditional sceptical topic against a universal standard for morals. What did Hume think of this practice and its origin? When he accounts for pederasty and homosocial arrangements by negative (...)
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  12. Belleza y moral en Yuriko Saito.M. ª Jesús Godoy Domínguez - 2022 - Pensamiento. Revista de Investigación E Información Filosófica 77 (296):787-807.
    Este trabajo pretende abordar los juicios estético-morales establecidos por Yuriko Saito en el ámbito reciente de la estética de lo cotidiano, a la luz de la belleza funcionalista del pensador ilustrado David Hume. Para ello, se desentraña el mecanismo afectivo sobre el que descansa la experiencia estética tanto en el caso del objeto intrascendente de todos los días sobre el que teoriza Saito, como en el caso del objeto utilitario sobre el que discurre Hume y que demuestra que el juicio (...)
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  13. La Question de la Gr'ce Dans la Philosophie Morale de David Hume.Frédéric Lelong - 2022 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 1:39-52.
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  14. 8. Civility and Slavery: The Problematic Basis of Civilised Society in Hume’s History of England.Naohito Mori - 2021 - In R. J. W. Mills & Craig Smith (eds.), The Scottish Enlightenment: Human Nature, Social Theory and Moral Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Christopher J. Berry. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 173-198.
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  15. 4. The Stickiness of Manners? The Progress of Middling Rank Manners in David Hume, Adam Smith and John Millar.Spyridon Tegos - 2021 - In R. J. W. Mills & Craig Smith (eds.), The Scottish Enlightenment: Human Nature, Social Theory and Moral Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Christopher J. Berry. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 98-114.
  16. Reply to My Critics.Jacqueline A. Taylor - 2019 - Hume Studies 45 (1):179-186.
    I thank Genevieve Lloyd for her generous and thought-provoking comments and questions. She raises two distinct issues: one regarding how to think about the way in which Hume's account of pride might be innovative, and the other about how a genre of philosophical writing limits or opens up what and how an author might discuss the subject at hand. She sets both issues in the context of comparing Spinoza with Hume.Lloyd reminds us that A. O. Hirschman, in The Passions and (...)
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  17. Social Theory, Ethics, and Autonomy: Comments on Taylor's Reflecting Subjects.Dario Perinetti - 2019 - Hume Studies 45 (1):169-178.
    Reflecting Subjects offers a bold and original reading of Book 2 of the Treatise, and presents a problem that has been little explored by Hume scholarship. Jacqueline Taylor's book argues that we can reconstruct what she calls a "social theory" out of Book 2 of the Treatise. Based on a detailed account of the passions that constitute social selves, the social theory of the Treatise offers, according to Taylor, rich and fine-grained explanations of the causes of difference and inequality among (...)
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  18. The Social Aspects of Pride: Comments on Taylor's Reflecting Subjects.Genevieve Lloyd - 2019 - Hume Studies 45 (1):161-168.
    My comments on Jacqueline Taylor's rich and interesting study1 will focus on a theme which I found particularly thought provoking: the discussion of Hume's treatment of pride. I think the topic of pride is central to the book's structure—closely integrated with the recurring consideration of what is distinctive in Hume's approach to the social significance of the passions.I am going to come at this theme indirectly—through consideration of the differences between Hume and Spinoza on the nature and significance of pride. (...)
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  19. Hume as a Social Theorist: Comments on Taylor's Reflecting Subjects.Willem Lemmens - 2019 - Hume Studies 45 (1):147-159.
    Reflecting Subjects by Jacqueline Taylor is a book of genuine Hume scholarship and a delight to read. Central to this monograph is a reconstructive reading of Hume's moral philosophy, and of Hume's account of the way the indirect passions and sympathy shape the practical and social identities of human subjects. Starting from a meticulous analysis of Books 2 and 3 of the Treatise, Taylor integrates into her reading a challenging interpretation of Hume's Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals and some (...)
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  20. Précis of Reflecting Subjects: Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume's Philosophy.Jacqueline A. Taylor - 2019 - Hume Studies 45 (1):143-145.
    In chapter 1, I argue that Hume well understands the experimental method and its role as what Geoffrey Cantor refers to as "a discourse of power," insofar as establishing facts in terms of efficient causation properly delimits what counts as a science, which is, in Hume's case, a science of human nature. With respect to the passions, I focus on parts 1 and 2 of Treatise Book 2, as an extended set of experiments meant to explain the origin, nature, and (...)
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  21. David Hume und die Unterscheidung von natürlichen und künstlichen Tugenden.Jens Kulenkampff - 2021 - In Christoph Halbig & Felix Timmermann (eds.), Handbuch Tugend Und Tugendethik. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden. pp. 213-230.
    Hume ist ein Vertreter der Moral-Sense-Schule der Ethik. Unter Tugend versteht er die Disposition zu tugendhaftem, d. h. selbstlosem Handeln. Der positive Wert tugendhaften Handelns besteht in seinem Nutzen, sei es für das Wohlergehen der betroffenen Individuen, sei es für die Gesellschaft als ganze durch die Stabilisierung ihrer institutionellen Ordnung. Dieser Doppelfunktion entsprechend, unterscheidet Hume zwischen den natürlichen Tugenden des Wohlwollens und den künstlichen Tugenden der Gerechtigkeit. Hume glaubte, den Hobbes zugeschriebenen Egoismus widerlegen zu müssen: Aus der überwältigenden empirischen Evidenz, (...)
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  22. Hobbes and Hume on Human Nature: “Much of a Dispute of Words?”.Alexandra Chadwick - 2021 - In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes. pp. 463-477.
    According to Hume, the question of the “dignity” or “meanness” of human nature comes down to a comparison of its “different motives or actuating principles”: that is, whether “our selfish and vicious principles” are “predominant above our social and virtuous” (Hume 1987, 84). Hume was responding in part to Hobbes, and comparison between the two philosophers on this question is common, with Hobbes placed on the “selfish” side, and Hume on the other. But, as Hume immediately goes on to say, (...)
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  23. Dual Minds: Lessons From the French Context of Hume's Social Theory.Catherine Dromelet - 2021 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (3):203-217.
    Hume's theory of mind is often interpreted in associationist terms, portraying the mind as psychological and social. It is also argued that in his most famous philosophical works Hume has an irreligious agenda. These views are problematic because they overlook the issue of social obedience to political authority. By contrast, I examine the connections between Hume's works and those of Bayle and Montaigne. I argue that the French context of Hume's social theory sheds a new light on the dual mind. (...)
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  24. As "Men of Sense": Godwin, Baroja, Bateson and Hume's "Of National Characters".Emilio Mazza - 2021 - Belgrade Philosophical Annual 1 (34):159-182.
    Men of sense, Hume says, condemn the extreme undistinguishing judgments concerning national characters; yet, he adds, they also allow that each nation has a national character or a peculiar set of resembling manners. Hume's "Of national characters" was published at the end of 1748 in unclear circumstances, but it is still the object of several discussions for different reasons. William Godwin, Julio Caro Baroja and Gregory Bateson seem to refer to it, even though only the first two acknowledge it. Godwin (...)
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  25. Hume's Sentimentalism: Not Non-Cognitivism.Jonas Olson - 2021 - Belgrade Philosophical Annual 1 (34):95-111.
    This paper considers and argues against old and recent readings of Hume according to which his account of moral judgement is non-cognitivist. In previous discussions of this topic, crucial metaethical distinctions-between sentimentalism and non-cognitivism and between psychological and semantic non-cognitivism-are often blurred. The paper aims to remedy this and argues that making the appropriate metaethical distinctions undermines alleged support for non-cognitivist interpretations of Hume. The paper focuses in particular on Hume's so-called 'motivation argument' and argues that it is a poor (...)
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  26. Reading Hume on the Passions.Gabriel Watts - 2021 - Belgrade Philosophical Annual 1 (34):73-94.
    This paper provides a reception history of Book Two of the Treatise-Of the passions-as well as an attempt to reconcile Hume's ambitions to systematicity in Book Two with the distracted and distracting nature of the text. We currently have, I think, a good sense of the philosophical importance of Book Two within Hume's science of human nature. Yet we have not made much progress on understanding Book Two on its own terms, and especially why Book Two so often seems on (...)
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  27. Recasting Hume and Early Modern Philosophy: Selected Essays.Paul Russell - 2021 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
    In this collection of essays, philosopher Paul Russell addresses major figures and central topics of the history of early modern philosophy. Most of these essays are studies on the philosophy of David Hume, one of the great figures in the history of philosophy. One central theme, connecting many of the essays, concerns Hume's fundamental irreligious intentions. Russell argues that a proper appreciation of the significance of Hume's irreligious concerns, which runs through his whole philosophy, serves to discredit the deeply entrenched (...)
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  28. Self-Love or Diffidence? Malebranche and Hume on the Love of Fame.Alison McIntyre & Julie Walsh - 2022 - Journal of Modern Philosophy 4 (1):2.
    Hume’s discussion of pride and sympathy in the _Treatise_ shows direct engagement with Malebranche’s discussion of ‘imitation’ in the _Search_. For Malebranche, imitation—both of passions and belief—and our tendency to judge ourselves by comparison, generate the passion of pride or grandeur, which plays a useful social role. However, as both cause and effect of the admiration of others, grandeur is ungrounded and thus imaginary. Hume disagrees. He invokes the principle of sympathy to explain how the evaluations of others can support (...)
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  29. The Problem of Partiality in 18th Century British Moral Philosophy.Getty L. Lustila - 2019 - Dissertation, Boston University
    The dissertation traces the development of what I call “the problem of partiality” through the work of certain key figures in the British Moralist tradition: John Locke, Catharine Trotter Cockburn, Anthony Ashley Cooper (the Third Earl of Shaftesbury), Francis Hutcheson, John Gay, David Hume, Joseph Butler, and Adam Smith. On the one hand, we are committed to impartiality as a constitutive norm of moral judgment and conduct. On the other hand, we are committed to the idea that it is permissible, (...)
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  30. Hume’s Stoicism: Reflections on Happiness and the Value of Philosophy.Hsueh Qu - 2022 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 60 (1):79-96.
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  31. Társiasság és tekintély: esztétikai politika a 18. századi Angliában [Sociability and Authority: Aesthetic Politics in 18th-Century Britain].Endre Szécsényi - 2002 - Budapest, Hungary: Osiris Kiadó.
    This monograph analyses the aesthetic dimensions of politics and political philosophy in 18th-century British thought, by focusing on Lord Shaftesbury, David Hume and Edmund Burke.
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  32. The Transformative Function of Imagination in Hume's Account of Sympathy.Saja Parvizian - manuscript
  33. Hume's Passion and Aristotle's Virtue: Ethics of Caring and Their Application to the Natural World.Catherine Butler-Ricketts - 1993 - .
  34. Baggini, Julian, What David Hume Can Teach Us about Being Human and Living Well. [REVIEW]Álvaro Silva - 2021 - Mayéutica 47 (103):212-213.
  35. Notas sobre as traduções das obras de David Hume para o português.Jaimir Conte - 2020 - Revista Estudos Humeanos 2 (8):13-24.
    Este texto sistematiza e reorganiza uma comunicação apresentada em 06 de novembro de 2020 no evento online comemorativo dos 20 anos do Grupo Hume da UFMG, idealizado pela professora Lívia Guimarães, grande incentivadora dos estudos sobre a filosofia de David Hume no Brasil.
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  36. Reason and Feelings in the Treatise of Man During the Age of Enlightenment.Edmundas Krakauskas - 1997 - Problemos 51.
    The mechanical view of this problem is characteristic of rationalists. D. Hume is more original and productive. His philosophical image of man is contradictory, but real. From this point of view, D. Hume and I. Kant are similar and the most interesting thinkers.
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  37. Deregulation and Privatisation: Hume Papers on Public Policy 3.3.Hector MacQueen (ed.) - 2019 - Edinburgh University Press.
    This is an issue of our quarterly journal Hume Papers on Public Policy - the journal of the David Hume Institute.
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  38. Contempt for the Poor, Esteem for the Rich: The Interplay of Comparison and Sympathy in Hume’s Treatise.Martin Hartmann - forthcoming - The European Legacy:1-20.
    Hume’s concept of sympathy is often discussed in isolation from the concept of comparison, which plays an important role in his social and moral philosophy. If both concepts are discussed at all in...
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  39. A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume’s Treatise.Annette C. Baier - 1991 - Harvard University Press.
    Annette Baier's aim is to make sense of David Hume's Treatise as a whole. Hume's family motto, which appears on his bookplate, was True to the End. Baier argues that it is not until the end of the Treatise that we get his full story about truth and falsehood, reason and folly. By the end, we can see the cause to which Hume has been true throughout the work. Baier finds Hume's Treatise of Human Nature to be a carefully crafted (...)
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  40. Reading Hume on the Principles of Morals Ed. By Taylor Jacqueline.Philip A. Reed - 2021 - Hume Studies 44 (2):278-280.
    Readers of this journal know that Hume regarded an Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals as his finest work. It was, Hume said, "incomparably the best." Yet, most of the scholarly work on Hume's moral philosophy in recent decades focuses on the Treatise, which Hume wrote some three decades prior to the Enquiry.There are good reasons to focus on the older work. It is much longer, so there is more to sink our scholarly teeth into. Many discussions and discursions appear (...)
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  41. Hume's Use of "Moral Distinctions" in Treatise 3.1.1.Dejan Šimković - 2021 - Hume Studies 44 (2):209-247.
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  42. Naturalness and Artificiality in Humean Virtue Theory.Emily Kelahan - 2021 - Hume Studies 44 (2):249-276.
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  43. Giving Our Humanity Its Due.Candace Vogler - 2021 - The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 21 (3):391-396.
    In this paper, the author takes the perspective of the patient who is very ill and facing death and examines the traditional ethical question of whether forgoing medical treatment, including artificial hydration and nutrition, is equivalent to suicide. She approaches this question by way of a discussion of St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle and via a critical look at David Hume. At the end, she turns to Elizabeth Anscombe for the light that this twentieth-century philosopher sheds on the question.
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  44. Passionate Enlightenment Redeeming Modernity Through David Hume.Meng Zhang - 2021 - Dialogue and Universalism 31 (3):197-215.
    This paper aims to redeem part of the Enlightenment project through a critical appreciation of David Hume’s practical philosophy. It argues that Hume’s practical philosophy, if interpreted correctly, is immune to two major charges leveled against the Enlightenment in critical theories and in philosophical ethics, respectively. One trend is represented by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, who claim that inherent to the advocacy of rationality typical of the Enlightenment is the irrational adoration of instrumental reason, which obliterates individual particularity, commodifies (...)
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  45. A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning Into Moral Subjects and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.David Hume - 1739 - London, England: Printed for John Noon, at the White-Hart, Near Mercer's Chapel, in Cheapside.
    Influencing ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of science, David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature remains unrivalled by perhaps any other works in philosophy. The Treatise is of interest, and not merely historical interest, to professional academic philosophers. It is remarkable that it can, and often does, also serve as one of the best introductions to philosophy-to what philosophers really do-for the novice.
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  46. Natural Fiction and Artifice in Hume's Treatise.Brent C. Delaney - 2021 - Dissertation, York University
    David Hume's early philosophy appeals to fiction and artifice to explain several important features in our cognitive and social activity. The exact meaning of these concepts, however, remains ambiguous because of the unsystematic way in which Hume employs them. In this dissertation, I develop a typology of Humean fictions and artifices to clarify and render his account consistent. In so doing, I identify a special class of fictions I divide into natural fictions and natural artifices. I argue that this special (...)
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  47. Hume’s Law as Another Philosophical Problem for Autonomous Weapons Systems.Robert James M. Boyles - 2021 - Journal of Military Ethics 20 (2).
    This article contends that certain types of Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) are susceptible to Hume’s Law. Hume’s Law highlights the seeming impossibility of deriving moral judgments, if not all evaluative ones, from purely factual premises. If autonomous weapons make use of factual data from their environments to carry out specific actions, then justifying their ethical decisions may prove to be intractable in light of the said problem. In this article, Hume’s original formulation of the no-ought-from-is thesis is evaluated in relation (...)
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  48. The Opinion of Mankind: Sociability and the Theory of the State From Hobbes to Smith.Karl W. Schweizer - forthcoming - The European Legacy:1-3.
    An impressive scholarly achievement, The Opinion of Mankind aims to highlight the depth and originality of David Hume and Adam Smith as political theorists by demonstrating how their respective wri...
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  49. On the Liberty of the English: Adam Smith’s Reply to Montesquieu and Hume.Paul Sagar - forthcoming - Political Theory:009059172110397.
    This essay has two purposes—first, to identify Adam Smith as intervening in the debate between Montesquieu and Hume regarding the nature, age, and robustness of English liberty. Whereas Montesquieu took English liberty to be old and fragile, Hume took it to be new and robust. Smith disagreed with both: it was older than Hume supposed, but not fragile in the way Montesquieu claimed. The reason for this was the importance of the common law in England’s legal history. Seeing this enables (...)
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  50. Hume’s Best Book: Why Hume Called His Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals ‘Incomparably the Best’ of Everything He Wrote.Wolfgang Kienzler - 2018 - Disputatio 7 (8).
    In this article, I explore why Hume regarded his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals “incomparably the best” of everything he wrote, while this judgement of his is not confirmed at all by the rankings in popularity of his works. Hume’s main reason for this judgment was the conviction that regarding the principles of morals he had reached the most satisfying, systematical and evidently true results of all his work. I argue that the general rejection of Hume’s own judgement is (...)
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