Hume's Enlightenment Tract is the first full study for forty years of David Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. The Enquiry has, contrary to its author's expressed wishes, long lived in the shadow of its predecessor, A Treatise of Human Nature. Stephen Buckle presents the Enquiry in a fresh light, and aims to raise it to its rightful position in Hume's work and in the history of philosophy.
In this book, Buckle provides a historical perspective on the political philosophies of Locke and Hume, arguing that there are continuities in the development of seventeenth and eighteenth-century political theory which have often gone unrecognized. He begins with a detailed exposition of Grotius's and Pufendorf's modern natural law theory, focussing on their accounts of the nature of natural law, human sociability, the development of forms of property, and the question of slavery. He then shows that Locke's political theory takes up (...) and develops these basic themes of natural law. The author argues further that, rather than being a departure from this tradition, the moral sense theory of Hutcheson and Hume represents a not entirely successful attempt to underpin the natural law theory with an adequate moral psychology. (shrink)
The paper argues that Hume's philosophy is best described as sceptical materialism. It is argued that the conjunction is not self-contradictory as long as 'scepticism' is understood in its ancient sense, as the denial of knowledge of the essences of things. It is further argued that scepticism (thus understood) and materialism are natural bedfellows, since a thoroughgoing materialism denies any special status to human rational powers. The content of the "Treatise of Human Nature" is then shown to conform to this (...) understanding: the "Treatise" consistently employs an implicitly materialist faculty psychology in order to arrive at its sceptical standpoint. Finally, it is shown that Hume's philosophy can be understood to be a sceptical rewriting of the dogmatic materialism of Hobbes. (shrink)
Modern virtue ethics is commonly presented as an alternative to Kantian and utilitarian views—to ethics focused on action and obligations—and it invokes Aristotle as a predecessor. This paper argues that the Nichomachean Ethics does not represent virtue ethics thus conceived, because the discussion of the virtues of character there serves a quasi-Platonic psychology: it is an account of how to tame the unruly (non-rational) elements of the human soul so that they can be ruled by reason and the laws it (...) imposes. This is explicitly stated in Book X, where it is also affirmed that the question of which laws reason should impose is addressed in The Politics. The Ethics and Politics can therefore be seen as a unity—as Aristotle's version of Plato's Republic—and it is the failure to recognize this that explains Aristotle's misappropriation by the modern virtue ethicists. (shrink)
The paper begins by situating Singer within the British meta-ethical tradition. It sets out the main steps in his argument for utilitarianism as the ‘default setting’ of ethical thought. It argues that Singer’s argument depends on a hierarchy of reasons, such that the ethical viewpoint is understood to be an adaptation – an extension – of a fundamental self-interest. It concludes that the argument fails because it is impossible to get from this starting-point in self-interest to his conception of the (...) ethical point of view. The fundamental problem is its mixing the immiscible: the Humean subordination of reason to interest with the Kantian conception of reason as universal and authoritative. (shrink)
Hume's Enlightenment Tract is the first full book-length study for forty years of David Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. The Enquiry has, contrary to its author's expressed wishes, long lived in the shadow of its predecessor, A Treatise of Human Nature. Stephen Buckle presents the Enquiry in a fresh light, and aims to raise it to its rightful position in Hume's work and in the history of philosophy. He argues that the Enquiry is not, as so often assumed, a mere (...) collection of watered-down extracts from the earlier work. It is, rather, a coherent work with a unified argument; and, when this argument is grasped as a whole, the Enquiry shows itself to be the best introduction to the lineaments of its author's general philosophy. Buckle offers a careful guide through the argument and structure of the work. He shows how the central sections of the Enquiry offer a critique of the dogmatic empiricisms of the ancient world, and set in place an alternative conception of human powers based on the sceptical principles of habit and probability. These principles are then put to work, to rule out philosophy's metaphysical ambitions and their consequences: religious systems and their attendant conception of human beings as semi-divine rational animals. Hume's scepticism, experimentalism, and naturalism are thus shown to be different aspects of the one unified philosophy - a sceptical version of the Enlightenment vision. (shrink)
New developments in reproductive technology have made headlines since the birth of the world's first in vitro fertilization baby in 1978. But is embryo experimentation ethically acceptable? What is the moral status of the early human embryo? And how should a democratic society deal with so controversial an issue, where conflicting views are based on differing religious and philosophical positions? These controversial questions are the subject of this book, which, as a current compendium of ideas and arguments on the subject, (...) makes an original contribution of major importance to this debate. (shrink)
Hume's account of the passions is largely neglected because the author's purposes tend to be missed. The passions were accepted by early modern philosophers, of whatever persuasion, as the mental effects of bodily processes. The dualist and the materialist differed over whether reason is a higher power able to judge and control them: thus Descartes affirms, whereas Hobbes denies, this possibility.Hume's account lines up firmly behind Hobbes. Although he shies away from Hobbes's dogmatic physiological claims, he affirms all the key (...) elements of the psychology Hobbes based on them: the nature of the will, the compatibility of freedom and necessity, the subservience of reason to passion, and the motivating power of pleasure and pain. Hume's account is thus best regarded as implicitly materialist. It is not, however, merely disinterested analysis: it aims at criticism of orthodox religious values. The passions are not threats to morality, but virtuous or vicious according to their pleasurable or painful nature. Thus the status of pride and humility is reversed. Hume's account of the passions underpins a rejection of orthodox religious morals, and endorses the values of antiquity — of pagan virtue. (shrink)
The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy is a massive achievement, and in more than one sense. The most obvious is its sheer bulk: two volumes totalling 1400 pages, including over 150 pages of bibliography and index and another 100 pages of biobibliographical appendix. This last item, as its name suggests, provides thumbnail biographies of all the main figures referred to in the volumes together with a list of all their main publications with publication dates and also a short list of (...) main secondary sources—and so can be expected to be a lifesaver for harassed scholars desperately trying to track down a missing reference. It is also a pleasure to record that, in an age when production standards... (shrink)
Hume's passing remark that his "ruling passion" was his "love of literary fame" has too easily encouraged the view that he gave up serious philosophizing after writing the _Treatise<D>. The most prominent casualty of this outlook is the first _Enquiry<D>. The article shows "the love of literary fame" to be an entirely appropriate motive for the serious intellectual writer, not an admission of frivolousness. Some further obstacles to taking the _Enquiry<D> seriously are considered, before a short sketch of the _Enquiry<D>'s (...) argument and context shows it to be, not a mere collection of essays, but a sustained argument which reveals the broad thrust of Hume's philosophical vision. (shrink)
Jon Charles Miller argues that the ‘New Humeans’ stress the primacy of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding over A Treatise of Human Nature, and that this is indefensible because it relies on omitting and distorting negative aspects surrounding Hume's statements of this preference. Miller's argument is not successful: first, the battle lines between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Humeans are not reducible to the primacy of either text; nor are his specific objections to the letters convincing. Moreover, the Enquiry is not, as (...) Miller supposes, softer than the Treatise on controversial religious questions. In fact, his particular focus on religious questions provides a plausible explanation for Hume's preference. (shrink)
Raimond Gaita's moral philosophy has a Platonic emphasis on “goodness beyond virtue.” But it also displays an anti-rationalist tendency, subordinating reason to the immediate responsiveness of human beings to each other. However, Gaita's account of the lucidity on which moral life depends fits ill with this subordination. Some Wittgensteinian remarks that have influenced Gaita are deployed to show that a Platonic rationalist psychology better serves his purposes than does his own, implicitly empiricist, psychology. The conclusion notes that Gaita's more recent (...) work evidences less hostility to rationality. (shrink)
Stephen Buckle - The Scottish Enlightenment: Essays in Reinterpretation - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:3 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.3 404-405 Book Review The Scottish Enlightenment: Essays in Reinterpretation Paul Wood, editor. The Scottish Enlightenment: Essays in Reinterpretation. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2000. Pp. xi + 399. Cloth, $75.00. This significant new collection of essays divides into three categories. The first, comprising essays by John Robertson, Charles Withers, and Richard Sher, addresses the continuing controversy over (...) the nature of the Scottish Enlightenment. The second—essays by Anita Guerrini, Fiona MacDonald, and John Wright—are more empirical, but all revolve around questions of medicine and science in the period. The third—essays by James.. (shrink)
David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1748, is a concise statement of Hume's central philosophical positions. It develops an account of human mental functioning which emphasizes the limits of human knowledge and the extent of our reliance on mental habits. It then applies that account to questions of free will and religious knowledge before closing with a defence of moderate scepticism. This volume, which presents a modified version of the definitive 1772 edition of the work, offers (...) helpful annotation for the student reader, together with an introduction that sets this profoundly influential work in its philosophical and historical contexts. The volume also includes a selection of other works by Hume that throw light on both the circumstances of the work's genesis and its key themes and arguments. (shrink)
While Hume remains one of the most central figures in modern philosophy his place within Enlightenment thinking is much less clearly defined. Taking recent work on Hume as a starting point, this volume of original essays aims to re-examine and clarify Hume's influence on the thought and values of the Enlightenment.