Philosophia 45 (1):299-315 (2017)

Authors
Philip Reed
Canisius College
Abstract
This paper attempts to give a complete and coherent account of how Hume’s moral psychology can explain the cultivation of moral character. I argue that the outcome of a fully formed moral character is an agent who strengthens her calm moral sentiments into settled principles of action. I then take up the question of how the process of strengthening moral sentiments might occur, rejecting the possibilities of sympathy, “reflection,” and “resolution” because either they are too weak or else they make the passion violent, preventing the essential calm nature of moral sentiments. I next argue that custom and the non-moral motives of pride and the love of fame play the critical roles in character formation. Custom can be considered as both the process of education, whereby certain impressions are habitually and formally inculcated into us by educators, and the process of experience in society and conversation, whereby we learn to associate pleasure with the virtues and pain with the vices. In both these processes, Hume implicitly appeals to certain non-moral motives, especially pride and the love of fame, in order to launch the effects of custom.
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-016-9765-0
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