Utilitarianism and sentimentalism in David Hume


  • Juan Andrés Mercado Pontificia Università della Santa Croce


Hume’s ideas about the foundations of morals are usually explained one-sidedly. Benevolence, utilitarianism and the “judicious expectator” are presented in this work as focal concepts of the philosopher’s proposal. Hume’s must renowned provocations about reason as “the slave of passions” and morality as the outcome of the so called moral sentiment are seriously understated by the strength of a certain and permanent utilitarian way of understanding reason. Hume remains close to Hobbes because of his general determinist view of human nature and the consideration of reason as a calcultor of pain and pleasure. His utilitarianism is softened by his conception of benevolence but hardly keeps him away from Mandeville’s cynism. He is undoubtedly counted in the tradition of the moral sentiment with Shaftesbury and Hutcheson and is a trail blazer of Adam Smith’s idea of the disengaged moral observer. All these elements constitute a “third person” morality system. “First person” theories are more comprehensive to face up to moral basic questions such as the nature of will and moral conscience, as MacIntyre and Giuseppe Abbà among others have insisted in the last decades.



How to Cite

Mercado, Juan Andrés. “Utilitarianism and Sentimentalism in David Hume”. Acta Philosophica 14, no. 2 (September 30, 2005): 203–232. Accessed May 26, 2024. https://www.actaphilosophica.it/article/view/4047.




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