Rachel Cohon
State University of New York, Albany
Hume's moral philosophy makes sentiment essential to moral judgment. But there is more individual consistency and interpersonal agreement in moral judgment than in private emotional reactions. Hume accounts for this by saying that our moral judgments do not manifest our approval or disapproval of character traits and persons "only as they appear from [our] peculiar point of view..." Rather, "we fix on some steady and general points of view; and always, in our thoughts, place ourselves in them, whatever may be our present situation" (T 581-82), in order to "correct" our situated sentiments. This seems to create two serious difficulties for Hume's theory. First, moral evaluations become inductive, empirical beliefs about what we would feel if we really occupied the imagined common point of view, and hence are the deliverances of causal reason; this contradicts Hume's claim that the making of a moral evaluation is not an activity of reason but of sentiment. Secondly, given Hume's thesis that the passions do not represent anything else, he cannot say that our moral evaluations will better represent the object being judged if they are made from the common point of view. This leaves no clear reason to adopt it, rather than making judgments from our real position. Hume says that left to our particular points of view, we will encounter contradictions and be unable to communicate, but it is hard to see why. My interpretation resolves these two difficulties. I argue that every time we reflect upon someone's character from the common point of view, we feel an actual sentiment of approbation or disapprobation, which may alter and merge with the situated sentiment or may fail to do so, leaving two different feelings about the same character. Furthermore, whenever we make moral evaluations we also simultaneously make objective, causal judgments about the love and hatred, pride and humility that the trait will produce. We routinely take up the common point of view in order to achieve truth and consistency in our causal judgments, to avoid grave practical problems
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0031-8205
DOI 10.2307/2953805
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,039
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

A Humean Theory of Moral Intuition.Antti Kauppinen - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):360-381.
Hume's General Point of View: A Two‐Stage Approach.Nir Ben-Moshe - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (3):431-453.
An Adam Smithian Account of Moral Reasons.Nir Ben-Moshe - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):1073-1087.
The Language of Sympathy: Hume on Communication.Anik Waldow - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (2):296-317.

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

System Relativism.Charles Sayward - 1988 - Ratio 1 (2):163-175.
Hume's and Smith's Partial Sympathies and Impartial Stances.Jon Rick - 2007 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 5 (2):135-158.
Hume’s Reasons.Aaron Zimmerman - 2007 - Hume Studies 33 (2):211-256.
Hume's Theory of Moral Imagination.Mark Collier - 2010 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 27 (3):255-273.
Was Hume a Humean?Elijah Millgram - 1995 - Hume Studies 21 (1):75-94.


Added to PP index

Total views
145 ( #80,623 of 2,506,013 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #209,628 of 2,506,013 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes