Hume’s moral sentiments and Humean moral aliefs

Chamberlain, James (2021) Hume’s moral sentiments and Humean moral aliefs. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis addresses the following two questions. How should we understand Hume’s theory of the causes and nature of moral judgements? What can we learn from Hume in these regards?

I begin by reinterpreting Hume’s theory of moral judgement. I argue that Hume claims, inter alia, that all moral judgements are sentiments, and that we experience a sentiment of approbation towards any token action or character trait of any type that we habitually associate with causing happiness to people around us. This interpretation easily reconciles Hume’s claim that we consistently approve of justice because we sympathise with the happiness that it causes with his acknowledgement that many token acts of justice cause only unhappiness. Unlike most interpretations, mine does not entail that we ever correct moral judgements by adopting a ‘common point of view’. I argue that these are positive features of my interpretation.

I then combine several features of Hume’s theory, so understood, with recent theories of intuitive and associative mental states. I argue that typical moral judgements involve what Tamar Szabó Gendler calls ‘occurrent aliefs’: intuitive, associative mental occurrences with representational, affective, and behaviour-inducing content. Moral judgements are typically intuitively produced, as Jonathan Haidt argues. Contra Haidt, I argue that all paradigmatic wrongness judgements involve associations with harm, so that we need not posit fundamentally different kinds of wrongness judgement. I conclude by developing an ‘emotive subjectivist’ theory of the meanings and pragmatics of moral language. I argue that this coheres with several core features of Simon Blackburn’s ‘quasi-realist’ metaethical expressivism.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sinclair, Neil
French, Craig
Noonan, Harold
Keywords: Hume, sentiments, passions, Humean, metaethics, moral judgements, sentimentalism, aliefs, quasi-realism, expressivism, subjectivism, emotivism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Item ID: 64732
Depositing User: Chamberlain, James
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:40
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2021 04:40

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