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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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The Shackles of Virtue: Allegiance to Government

The Shackles of Virtue: Allegiance to Government

(p.215) 8 The Shackles of Virtue: Allegiance to Government
Hume's Morality

Rachel Cohon (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers a virtue that is obviously created after the founding of human governments: deference to the civil authorities. There are difficulties in conceiving this as a virtue or even a character trait at all. There is also a fundamental puzzle in political philosophy that interests Hume: that of how masses of people can ever, by any means, be induced to obey the laws or their rulers, given that the people are so much more numerous than the enforcers. It is argued that Hume's account overcomes these difficulties and is consistent with the rest of his understanding of the artificial virtues. Hume identifies yet another fundamental human disability (the preference for the near-term good over the distant but greater good) that can be outmaneuvered by collectively fabricating a character trait and manufacturing approval of it (using our natural tendencies as raw materials). The disability is different, and so the prosthesis is different, but the basic strategy is the same.

Keywords:   Hume, artificial virtues, human government, deference, civil authorities

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