Justice, Sympathy and the Command of our Esteem

Diametros 44:173-188 (2015)


I have shown here the different roles that sympathy plays in the accounts of justice in the Treatise and Enquiry. In the former work, a redirected sympathy naturally extends our concern, and subsequently our moral approval or blame, to all those included within the scope of the rules of justice. In the Enquiry, we find this same progress of sentiments, but Hume’s introduction of the sentiment of humanity allows him to make a stronger case for the importance of those virtues that are useful, particularly the virtues of justice. The command of our esteem and our moral approval of justice secure a place for justice at the heart of Hume’s ethics. This does not entail, however, that other useful virtues are not also essential. Benevolence and the care of children, friendship, and gratitude not only help to sustain sociability, but they are essential for living a properly human life

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