Smith and Hume on Animal Minds

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 16 (3):227-243 (2018)
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This paper situates Hume's views on animals in the context of the Scottish Enlightenment by contrasting them with the views of Adam Smith. While Smith is more central to the philosophical establishment of the Scottish Enlightenment, their views on morals resemble each other greatly and both think that the analogies between humans and non-human animals are useful for thinking about morals. Their estimation of the nature and extent of those analogies, however, differ widely from one another. This has been historically obscured by the fact that in no single work does Smith precisely detail what he thinks non-human animals are capable of. I argue that Smith thinks non-human animal minds are different in kind from human minds. This is evident from Smith's view of how language facilitates and co-creates certain aspects of human cognition. Hume, by contrast, seems to hold that non-human animal minds differ merely by degree from human minds. After reconstructing Smith's view, I contrast it with Hume's, providing historical context to show how Hume falls outside the mainstream on this issue and Smith within it. Their views on animals reflect, broadly, their standing with respect to the wider Scottish philosophical community.



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Richard J. Fry
Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Citations of this work

The Role of Instinct in David Hume's Conception of Human Reason.James Hill - 2020 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 18 (3):273-288.

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References found in this work

The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals.David Hume & Tom L. Beauchamp - 1998 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 190 (2):230-231.

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