In this paper, I return to the well-known apparent inconsistencies in Hume’s treatment of personal identity in the three books of A Treatise of Human Nature, and try to defend a Humean narrative interpretation of the self. I argue that in Book 1 of the Treatise Hume is answering (to use Marya Schechtman’s expressions in The Constitution of Selves) a “reidentification” question concerning personal identity, which is different from the “characterization” question of Books 2 and 3. That is, I maintain (...) that whereas in Book 1 Hume is using his philosophical empiricism to provide his own version of the problem of how to recognize persons as the same at different times, in Books 2 and 3 he is presenting selves from a different, both sentimental and ethical standpoint, as the focus of people’s concerns. I start by discussing Hume’s notion of personal identity as presented in Book 1 and in the “Appendix.” I then specify the narrative conception of the self Hume relies on when dealing with passions and morality as the self-consciousness persons develop as bearers of characters of or about which they can be morally proud or humble. I finally conclude by distinguishing Hume’s narrative self from the idea of “the unity of human life” that Alasdair MacIntyre puts forward in After Virtue. (shrink)
In this article, I maintain that the anti-theoretical spirit which pervades Williams's ethics is close to the Humean project of developing and defending an ethics based on sentiments which has its main focus in the virtues. In particular, I argue that there are similar underlying themes which run through the philosophies of Hume and Williams, such as the view that a correct ethical perspective cannot avoid dealing with a broader theory of human nature; the conviction that this inquiry cannot be (...) developed in abstraction from the contingencies which are distinctive of the lives of flesh-and-blood human beings driven by passions; and the belief that the notion of character plays a key role in identifying and morally evaluating such lives. Finally, Williams' account of the psychological mechanism of shame in explaining character formation bears a strong resemblance to Hume's treatment of the passion of humility. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] Copyright of Utilitas is the property of Cambridge University Press and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to alls.). (shrink)
In this essay, I examine the role played by sympathy in preserving the practical dimension of Hume’s ethics. I reconstruct how sympathy works for Hume by differentiating it from the contemporary understanding of empathy, and I counter some of the objections that have been moved against Humean sympathy. I argue that Humean sympathy is instrumental in bringing about a common point of view of morality, and capable of vindicating both how we form moral judgments, and how we are moved by (...) them. I maintain that this is due to the fact that the process of the determination of the point of view of morality via sympathy is reflective in a way that makes it overlap with the perspective of the agent who acts morally. This bears consequences for the Humean notion of ethical objectivity. I conclude by indicating that such an understanding of sympathy in Hume favors an internalist reading regarding the normative status he recognizes moral reasons as having. (shrink)
If one looks for the notion of conscience in Hume, there appears to be a contrast between the loose use of it that can be found in his History of England, and the stricter use of it Hume makes in his philosophical works. It is my belief that, notwithstanding the problems Hume’s philosophy raises for a notion such as conscience, it is possible to frame a positive Humean explanation of it. I want to suggest that, far from corresponding to a (...) mental power or to a faculty of some sort, conscience for Hume can be understood as a reflective form of self-surveying. This becomes apparent if the discussion about conscience as presented in A Treatise of Human Nature is integrated with other notions Hume introduces in An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals when discussing the case of the ‘sensible knave’, such as those of inward peace of mind, consciousness of integrity, and reflection on one’s own conduct. To further explicate my line of argument, I shall also contrast Hume’s conclusions with some arguments presented by other authors in this regard, such as Bernard Mandeville and Joseph Butler. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss some elements of Hume’s virtue ethics that distinguish it from the neo-Aristotelian approach. I stress some of its characteristics – its emphasis on character traits rather than on actions, the role it reserves for moral education, its being sentimentalist – and highlight its points of strength with respect to the neo-Aristotelian version. I do that by defending an interpretation of Hume’s virtue ethics in terms of a form of subjectivism hinging on individuals possessing virtuous or (...) vicious characters. (shrink)
In this essay, I offer a survey of Julia Annas’ perspective on virtue ethics. I focus on her most recent work and highlight the role reflection plays in shaping her conception of the virtuous agent. I compare her approach with that of rival moral conceptions, both within and outside virtue ethics, and conclude with a doubt raised from a Humean point of view.
In this paper, I present some reasons in favour of an interpretation of Hume’s moral philosophy as a brand new form of "virtue ethics." By discussing some specific issues within the secondary literature in favour and against this kind of reading, I argue that Hume offers better philosophical tools to redefine the basic notion of virtue ethics than the neo-Aristotelian alternative. In particular, I maintain that the strength of Hume’s proposal lies in its pointing toward the unity of character instead (...) of the unity of the virtues. This allows Hume to develop a nonfinalistic, secular and pluralistic morality in which the individuality of people is seen as a central value to be promoted. (shrink)
There are various forms of teleological thinking central to debates in the early modern and modern periods, debates in which David Hume (1711–1776) is a key figure. In the first section, we shall introduce three levels at which teleological considerations have been incorporated into philosophical accounts of man and nature, and sketch Hume’s criticisms of these approaches. In the second section, we turn to Hume’s non-teleological ‘science of man’. In the third section, we show how Hume has an account of (...) human flourishing that is not dependent on teleology. In the fourth section, we shall speculate as to the relation between Hume’s account of human nature and contemporary evolutionary accounts of morality and reasoning. (shrink)