Louis Loeb has argued that Hume is pessimistic while Peirce is optimistic about the attainment of fully stable beliefs. In contrast, we argue that Hume was optimistic about such attainment but only if the scope of philosophical investigation is limited to first-order explanatory questions. Further, we argue that Peirce, after reformulating the pragmatic maxim to accommodate the reality of counterfactuals, was pessimistic about such attainment. Finally, we articulate and respond to Peirce's objection that Hume's skeptical arguments in T 1.4.1 and (...) his commitment to common sense indicate that Hume was confused about whether we could have stable beliefs at all. (shrink)
In this paper I present an in-class game designed to simulate the dynamics of the state of nature. I first explain the mechanics of the game, and how to administer it in the classroom. Then I address how the game can help introduce students to a number of important topics in political philosophy. In broad terms, the game serves to generate discussion regarding to main questions. (1) How does civil society come about? (2) Is the state of nature and the (...) arrangement which arises from it fair? In so doing I suggest how the game can further student understanding of figures such as Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Marx, and Rawls. (shrink)
Hume states that if a group of powerless, rational creatures lived amongst human beings, then humans would be required to treat this species with humanity but not with justice. Michael Ridge has argued that this implies humans would be required to engage in a morally dubious form of paternalism toward this imagined species. I argue that a proper understanding of why this imagined species is excluded from the scope of justice shows Hume has a plausible moral reason for requiring paternalism (...) in this instance. The reason the imagined species is excluded is that they are incapable of feeling what I term “the pain of dependence,” or unease arising from complete dependence upon those who are more powerful. Those capable of the pain of dependence will have reason to resent exclusion from the scope of justice. However, I contend that Hume did not think that the imagined species was capable of feeling the pain of dependence. This means that the imagined species would not consider themselves wronged when subject to paternalistic treatment, and, consequently, there is good reason to think the sort of paternalism that Hume's theory allows is not morally objectionable. (shrink)
Hume believes that distinctively moral sentiments can only be felt from a disinterested perspective. While much scholarly attention has been paid to the question of how Hume believes we “correct” our moral sentiments to form a coherent moral language, less has been paid to the question of why we first adopt this disinterested vantage point. Answering this question involves determining what, for Hume, enables our disinterested point of view to influence us despite the fact that the sentiments produced by our (...) parochial vantage points are originally stronger. I term this the “influence question.” I contend that Hume has two answers to this question: one in the Treatise and one in the second Enquiry. While the former is based upon our ability to share sentiments with others via sympathy, the latter holds that our disinterested vantage point enables us to found the “party of humankind” upon the universal principle of humanity. I argue that Hume saw this latter answer as rectifying a certain deficiency in his Treatise explanation and that his later answer supports Hume’s aim of demonstrating that morality is a fundamentally social phenomenon. (shrink)
David Hume: Moral Philosophy Although David Hume is commonly known for his philosophical skepticism, and empiricist theory of knowledge, he also made many important contributions to moral philosophy. Hume’s ethical thought grapples with questions about the relationship between morality and reason, the role of human emotion in thought and action, the nature of moral … Continue reading David Hume: Moral Philosophy →.
Smith thinks it possible to sympathize with certain non-sentient beings, such as the human dead. Consequently, some commentators argue that Smith’s theory supports ecocentrism. I reject that Smith’s theory has this implication. Sympathizers in Smith’s theory can imagine themselves as non-sentient beings, but they will lack the relevant evaluative concerns. The situation of a non-sentient being, as that being confronts the situation, remains inaccessible to the sympathizer. I will also address the limits of sympathetic concern within Smith’s theory,; highlight a (...) related problem about how our efforts to sympathize with others should be constrained,; and suggest a solution. (shrink)