Hume's sentimentalism: Not non-cognitivism

Belgrade Philosophical Annual 1 (34):95-111 (2021)

Abstract

This paper considers and argues against old and recent readings of Hume according to which his account of moral judgement is non-cognitivist. In previous discussions of this topic, crucial metaethical distinctions-between sentimentalism and non-cognitivism and between psychological and semantic non-cognitivism-are often blurred. The paper aims to remedy this and argues that making the appropriate metaethical distinctions undermines alleged support for non-cognitivist interpretations of Hume. The paper focuses in particular on Hume's so-called 'motivation argument' and argues that it is a poor basis for non-cognitivist interpretations. While there is textual support for attributing to Hume what may be called 'modally weak' motivational internalism, there is no solid textual support for attributing to him either psychological or semantic non-cognitivism. The paper also challenges briefly some further alleged support for non-cognitivist interpretations. It concludes by offering some positive evidence against such interpretations, namely that Hume appears to hold that there are moral beliefs and moral knowledge.

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Jonas Olson
Stockholm University

References found in this work

The Moral Problem.Michael Smith (ed.) - 1994 - Wiley.
The Language of Morals.Richard Mervyn Hare - 1952 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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