On Knaves and Rules. (An Approach to the 'Sensible Knave' Problem from a Tempered Rule Utilitarianism).

Daimon: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 52:117-140 (2011)
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In the attempt of defending an interpretation of David Hume's moral and political philosophy connected to classical utilitarianism, intervenes in a key way the so called problem of the " Sensitive Knave " raised by this author at the end of his more utilitarian work, the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. According to the classic interpretation of this fragment, the utilitarian rationality in politics would clash with morality turning useless the latter. Therefore, in the political area the defense of a moral utilitarianism would be an auto contradictory task. In order to show that, first, Hume does not say anything similar to this and second, that even indicates the way of overcoming this apparent contradiction between morality and rationality, we analyze briefly the arguments from which there comes basically this "anti-utilitarian" standard interpretation, and we defend an interpretation of the humean discussion on the problem of the supposed conflict between morality and rationality, or of rational incentives for immoral behavior, which allows to explain better Hume's position on this problem. Finally, we propose an instance of overcoming the contradiction morality/ rationality by a rule adjusted utilitarianism centered on the idea of the "progressive development of artificial institutions of reinforcement of morality", that Hume himself would suggest in other places in which he approaches the topic of the apparent contradiction between "morality" and "knavery". We propose also possible lines of future development of this idea, between them its use to clarify the relation of David Hume's thought with certain forms of contemporary liberalism.



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José L. Tasset
Universidade da Coruña

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