Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy

Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy

Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy

Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy

Synopsis

Eighteenth century British moral philosophy focused on three issues: (a) moral apprehension; (b) moral motivation; and (c) the relationship of moral apprehension to moral motivation. Hume resolved these issues by a Copernican revolution in which the basic perspective is that of an engaged and socially responsible agent as opposed to the classic philosophical perspective of the disengaged theoretician. As a consequence he could distinguish clearly the cognitive from the affective elements in moral apprehension, identify the non-moral origins of moral motivation, and account for the growth of the moral perspective through sympathy.

Excerpt

This book reflects a professional lifetime of preoccupation with the fertile mind of David Hume. Having written and spoken on a wide variety of issues in Hume's philosophy in general and his moral philosophy in particular, I have decided to attempt to construct a coherent account of Hume's moral philosophy both with an eye to those issues which have persistently vexed his readers and commentators and with the intent of underscoring those novel and challenging aspects of his moral philosophy which, in my judgment, remain unnoticed or unappreciated. It is because Hume still represents a significant alternative to much of what has passed in moral philosophy in the last two centuries and because his approach to philosophy and morals is so fundamentally different from most contemporary work that he can still address us as a contemporary voice.

Let me take this opportunity to thank four people, all of whom read the entire manuscript and offered me the inestimable benefit of their constructive criticism: John Kekes, who is the editor of the series in which this book appears and whose scrupulous attention to detail and whose good judgment has earned my deepest admiration; James King and Donald Livingston, with both of whom I have shared a personal as well as a professional dedication to understanding Hume and from both of whom I have learned more than I can recount; and Stuart Warner, who since the time he was my student has pressed me to think more deeply about the text of Hume's writings. All of these readers raised important issues that I was not able to pursue within the constraints of this book. Of course, final responsibility for what is said in this book rests with me. Other Hume scholars to whose work I am indebted and who continue to give life to the renaissance in Hume scholarship include Annette Baier . . .

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