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Hume on Pride-in-Virtue: A Reliable Motive?

From: Hume Studies
Volume 36, Number 2, 2010
pp. 171-192 | 10.1353/hms.2010.0022



Many commentators have argued that on Hume’s account, pride turns out to be something that is unstable, context-dependent, and highly contingent. On their readings, whether or not an agent develops pride depends heavily on factors beyond her control, such as whether or not her house, which is beautiful, is also the most beautiful in her neighborhood and whether or not her neighbors will admire the beauty of her house rather than become envious of it. These aspects of Hume’s theory of pride, the peculiarity requirement and the social dependency of pride, stand in tension with Hume’s claims that virtue reliably produces pride-in-virtue and that pride-in-virtue serves as a powerful motive to virtue. If pride depends on the affirmation of others and arises only from qualities that are peculiar to their possessor, will the virtuous person reliably develop pride-in-virtue? And if not, can pride-in-virtue serve the motivational role Hume attributes to it? This paper tackles these problems by showing how the virtuous develop pride-in-virtue and how the desire for pride-in-virtue can serve as a powerful and admirable motive to virtue.

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