Like it or not, a big picture of the history of science is something which we cannot avoid. Big pictures are, of course, thoroughly out of fashion at the moment; those committed to specialist research find them simplistic and insufficiently complex and nuanced, while postmodernists regard them as simply impossible. But however specialist we may be in our research, however scornful of the immaturity of grand narratives, it is not so easy to escape from dependence – acknowledged or not – (...) on a big picture. When we define our research as part of the history of science, we implicitly invoke a big picture of that history to give identity and meaning to our specialism. When we teach the history of science, even if we do not present a big picture explicitly, our students already have a big picture of that history which they bring to our classes and into which they fit whatever we say, no matter how many complications and refinements and contradictions we put before them – unless we offer them an alternative big picture. (shrink)
The main line of argument in Bricke’s stimulating and well-written interpretation of Hume’s moral theory runs roughly as follows: Hume holds that, in practical reasoning, beliefs are subordinate to desires, and is therefore a “conativist” ; we must attribute to Hume the view that both desires and beliefs have representational content, so that they are essentially distinguished by their opposite “directions of fit”—otherwise we cannot forestall the cognitivist from simply insisting that intrinsically motivating beliefs are possible; moral sentiments are motivating (...) and must accordingly be founded in desire, not in belief; moral sentiments are therefore neither true nor false, but, since they arise when an impartial point of view is adopted, intersubjective agreement in moral attitude and a measure of objectivity are possible; this in turn helps to explain the cognitive form of moral language; and conventions underlying the artificial virtues originally arise from, and are sustained by, the natural activity and intercourse of our moral sentiments. Bricke concludes with some penetrating thoughts on the nature of Humean free will and the relation of enduring desires to personal identity. (shrink)
Hume’s understanding of sympathy in section 2.1.11 of the Treatise—that it is a mental mechanism by means of which one sentient being can come to share the psychological states of another—has a particularly interesting implication. What the sympathizer receives, according to this definition, is the passing psychological “affection” that the object of his sympathy was experiencing at the moment of observation. Thus the psychological connection produced by Humean sympathy is not between the sympathizer and the “other” as a “whole person” (...) existing through time, but between the sympathizer and the other’s current mental state, detached from his or her diachronic psychological life. Some commentators profess themselves dissatisfied with the impersonality of this “limited sympathy”. John Bricke, for example, argues that the Humean sympathizer sympathizes with “atomistically rendered desires of some individual who is, thus far, of no further concern,” while Philip Mercer writes more bluntly that Hume’s definition omits the “practical concern for the other” that is the essence of sympathy’s contribution to moral psychology. (shrink)
Considers the significance that Hume attached to mental activity -- the "craving ... of the human mind ... for exercise and employment" -- with respect to the phenomena of truth-seeking, amusement and morality.