Justice, Sympathy and the Command of our Esteem

Jacqueline Taylor

About author

Prof. Jacqueline Taylor
Professor, Department of Philosophy
University of San Francisco
College of Arts and Sciences
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

E-mail: jtaylor2@usfsca.edu


I have shown here the different roles that sympathy plays in the accounts of justice in the Treatise and Enquiry.  In the former work, a redirected sympathy naturally extends our concern, and subsequently our moral approval or blame, to all those included within the scope of the rules of justice.  In the Enquiry, we find this same progress of sentiments, but Hume’s introduction of the sentiment of humanity allows him to make a stronger case for the importance of those virtues that are useful, particularly the virtues of justice.  The command of our esteem and our moral approval of justice secure a place for justice at the heart of Hume’s ethics.  This does not entail, however, that other useful virtues are not also essential.  Benevolence and the care of children, friendship, and gratitude not only help to sustain sociability, but they are essential for living a properly human life.

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  1. A.C. Baier, “Hume on Resentment,” Hume Studies 6 (2) 1980, p. 133–149. Reprinted in: A.C. Baier, The Cautious Jealous Virtue: Hume on Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2010.
  2. A.C. Baier, “The Interested Affection and Its Variants,” [in:] A.C. Baier, The Cautious Jealous Virtue: Hume on Justice, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2010.
  3. R. Cohon, Hume’s Morality: Feeling and Fabrication, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008.
  4. J.A. Harris, “Hume on the Moral Obligation to Justice,” Hume Studies 36 (1) 2010, p. 25–50.
  5. S. Hope, “The Circumstances of Justice,” Hume Studies 36 (2) 2010, p. 125–148.
  6. D. Hume, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, T.L. Beauchamp (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford 1998.
  7. D. Hume, A Treatise on Human Nature, D.F. Norton, M.J. Norton (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007.
  8. J.A. Taylor, Reflecting Subjects: Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume’s Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2015.



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