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The Enlightenment of SympathyJustice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century and Today$
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Michael L. Frazer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390667

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390667.001.0001

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Hume’s Free-Standing Sentimentalism

Hume’s Free-Standing Sentimentalism

(p.40) Chapter 2 Hume’s Free-Standing Sentimentalism
The Enlightenment of Sympathy

Michael L. Frazer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that Hume provides a free-standing ethics built from a psychologically holistic account of moral reflection. The chapter begins with Hume’s description of how sympathy gives rise to our unrefined moral sentiments. In order to support stable, widely shared moral standards, our initial moral sentiments then undergo a considerable process of refinement and correction. Mature, corrected moral sentiments then have genuine authority over our evaluations and behavior. The reflective stability of a mind governed by such sentiments, Hume argues, is a necessary component of human happiness. Far from advocating a form of moral skepticism, Hume’s sentimentalist ethics is intended to help us better commit ourselves to genuine virtue, while rejecting both our own immediate inclinations and the false virtues we may mistakenly endorse.

Keywords:   David Hume, moral skepticism, normativity, eudemonism, reflective equilibrium, reflexivity, moral development, fact/value distinction, virtue

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