Mind and Morality: An Examination of Hume’s Moral Philosophy [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 51 (1):140-140 (1997)
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The main line of argument in Bricke’s stimulating and well-written interpretation of Hume’s moral theory runs roughly as follows: Hume holds that, in practical reasoning, beliefs are subordinate to desires, and is therefore a “conativist” ; we must attribute to Hume the view that both desires and beliefs have representational content, so that they are essentially distinguished by their opposite “directions of fit”—otherwise we cannot forestall the cognitivist from simply insisting that intrinsically motivating beliefs are possible; moral sentiments are motivating and must accordingly be founded in desire, not in belief; moral sentiments are therefore neither true nor false, but, since they arise when an impartial point of view is adopted, intersubjective agreement in moral attitude and a measure of objectivity are possible; this in turn helps to explain the cognitive form of moral language; and conventions underlying the artificial virtues originally arise from, and are sustained by, the natural activity and intercourse of our moral sentiments. Bricke concludes with some penetrating thoughts on the nature of Humean free will and the relation of enduring desires to personal identity.



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Andrew Cunningham
University of Toronto, St. George Campus (PhD)

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