Preserving Practicality: In Defense of Hume's Sympathy-Based Ethics

In Philip A. Reed & Rico Vitz (eds.), Hume’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Psychology. London, UK: Routledge. pp. 170–190 (2018)
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In this essay, I examine the role played by sympathy in preserving the practical dimension of Hume’s ethics. I reconstruct how sympathy works for Hume by differentiating it from the contemporary understanding of empathy, and I counter some of the objections that have been moved against Humean sympathy. I argue that Humean sympathy is instrumental in bringing about a common point of view of morality, and capable of vindicating both how we form moral judgments, and how we are moved by them. I maintain that this is due to the fact that the process of the determination of the point of view of morality via sympathy is reflective in a way that makes it overlap with the perspective of the agent who acts morally. This bears consequences for the Humean notion of ethical objectivity. I conclude by indicating that such an understanding of sympathy in Hume favors an internalist reading regarding the normative status he recognizes moral reasons as having.



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Lorenzo Greco
Università degli Studi dell'Aquila

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On Pride.Lorenzo Greco - 2019 - Humana Mente 12 (35):101-123.

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