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Hume's MoralityFeeling and Fabrication$
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Rachel Cohon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199268443

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199268443.001.0001

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Fidelity to Promises and the Peculiar Act of the Mind

Fidelity to Promises and the Peculiar Act of the Mind

(p.190) 7 Fidelity to Promises and the Peculiar Act of the Mind
Hume's Morality

Rachel Cohon (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the artificial virtue of fidelity to promises and contracts. The problem with fidelity is that if we understand it as a natural rather than a conventionally created virtue, we have to pretend that the obligation of a promise is the result of some mysterious (and indeed impossible) mental act. It is argued that an analysis exactly parallel to the one that allows us to explain what Hume says about honesty explains his remarks about fidelity. It shows why the paradox arises about the ‘peculiar act of the mind’ in the case of fidelity to promises, and how Hume proposes to handle it. The solution emerges from understanding fidelity as another prosthetic virtue whose conventional status is covered up by our tendency to assimilate it to natural virtues.

Keywords:   Hume, ethics, virtue, fidelity, promises, contracts

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