Hume's General Point of View, Smith's Impartial Spectator, and the Moral Value of Interacting with Outsiders

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 19 (1):19-37 (2020)

Abstract

Here is an appealing position: one reason to pursue interaction with people from backgrounds that differ from our own is that doing so can improve our moral judgment. As some scholars have noticed, this position seems pedigreed by support from the famed philosophers of human sociability, David Hume and Adam Smith. But regardless of whether Hume or Smith personally held anything like the appealing position, neither might have had theoretically grounded reason to do so. In fact, both philosophers explain moral judgment in ways that seem to present obstacles to the acceptance of the appealing position. This paper entertains the possibility that either of their moral theories contains resources to overcome these obstacles and implies the appealing position. I argue that Smith's theory does so more straightforwardly than Hume's does. This difference, I also argue, reveals something important about the Hume-Smith philosophical relationship. I close by sketching a way to fit the source of the appealing position in Smith's moral psychology with his focus on the desire for mutual sympathy.

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Author's Profile

John McHugh
Denison University

References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40).David Hume - 1978 - Oxford University Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Intelligent Virtue.Julia Annas - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
A Treatise of Human Nature: 2 Volume Set.David Hume - 2007 - Oxford University Press UK.

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