Hume and the Guise of the Bad

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 18 (1):39-56 (2020)
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In Treatise Hume provides an explanation of why ‘we naturally desire what is forbid, and take a pleasure in performing actions, merely because they are unlawful’. Hume's explanation of this phenomenon has barely received any attention so far. But a detailed analysis bears fruit for both Humean scholarship and contemporary moral psychology. After putting the passage in its context, I explain why desiring and taking pleasure in performing certain actions merely because they are unlawful poses a challenge to Hume's theory of evaluation. Then I propose a solution of the challenge which draws on Hume's treatment of malice, and highlights the role played by comparison and the self in these apparently paradoxical passions. Finally, I distinguish three views in contemporary discussions of desiring something under the guise of the bad, and I argue that Hume's account stands out as a particularly plausible version of the third view.



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Francesco Orsi
University of Tartu

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References found in this work

A Treatise of Human Nature.David Hume & A. D. Lindsay - 1958 - Philosophical Quarterly 8 (33):379-380.
Intention.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1957 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 57:321-332.
Desiring the bad: An essay in moral psychology.Michael Stocker - 1979 - Journal of Philosophy 76 (12):738-753.

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