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Hume Studies Volume 30, Number 1, April 2004, pp. 196-208 James Fieser, ed. Early Responses to Hume, Vols. 1 and 2: Early Responses to Hume's Moral, Literary, andPolitical Writings. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2005. Pp. 819. ISBN 1-84371-117-6, Paperback, $120. Hume's Moral Philosophy is the first volume of the first pair in the ten volume series, Early Responses to Hume. Edited by James Fieser, this series brings together eighteenth- and nineteeth-century reactions to Hume's philosophical, literary, political, religious, and historical writings as well as observations on his life and reputation. Early Responses contains material that originally appeared in a variety of formats—critical reviews, essays, pamphlets, and chapters or excerpts from books—written by philosophers, historians, economists, and clerics. Although some of the selections, especially those written by such well-known philosophers as Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and Henry Sidgwick are readily available to scholars, the series includes selections that have not been reprinted since they were first published, some of which were tracked down by Fieser, and some first translations into English. Originally published between 1999 and 2003, a revised edition of Early Responses appeared in 2005. Fieser added new pieces and proofed all of the responses against their originals for this edition. Unfortunately, he failed to correct a number of mistakes, which mars the volume. Since the new edition is available in paperback , it should be easier for scholars to purchase selected volumes of interest to them. Fieser's Bibliography of Hume's Writings and Early Responses is available on the Thoemmes Press and the Hume Society websites. Hume's Moral Philosophy follows the format adopted for the series. In his introduction to the volume, Fieser summarizes Hume's moral philosophy and provides a short overview of the responses. In addition, prior to each response, he provides a few biographical details about the author, tells us when and where the piece was first published, and briefly summarizes the reaction. If critical reviews of the author's work were published, or if Hume and the author corresponded, Fieser includes excerpts, many of which I found especially interesting. Covering, as do all the volumes, a 160-year period, Hume's Moral Philosophy begins with an anonymous critical review of A Treatise of Human Nature that was published in 1741 in Bibliothèque raisonnée, a French journal devoted to reviewing new books; it ends with the American professor, Ernest Albee, whose A History of English Utilitarianism was originally published in 1901 and includes a chapter on Hume. The first volume contains 37 responses, representing 34 authors. Understandably , the responses for the eighteenth century are more exhaustive than those for the nineteenth century. Book Reviews 197 Reading Hume's Moral Philosophy is an eye opener. Writing the year he died, Hume famously remarks in My Own Life that the Treatise "fell dead-born from the press. " The selections in this volume support Hume's claim. Critics largely ignored the Treatise's account of morality. During the period between the publication of Book 3 of the Treatise in 1740 and the publication of the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals in 1751, there seem to have been just one unpublished and three published reactions to the Treatise. The only writers to seriously engage with the Treatise's account of morality after the publication of the Enquiry and whose work is included in this volume are Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, and James Beattie. The early respondents to the Treatise were a diverse group. As Fieser notes in his overview, the first response—one not intended for publication—was most likely Francis Hutcheson's letter to Hume, in which he reacts to a draft of Book 3 Hume had sent him. While we no longer have that letter, Hume's reply makes it clear what Hutcheson's criticisms were. The first published response is the anonymous review that appeared in Bibliothèque raisonnée. Complaining that only those steeped in metaphysics would be able to understand Hume's abstract speculations, the reviewer confesses he wasn't up to it, so he read only the first four sections of Book 3 of the Treatise—Hume's arguments against...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 196-208
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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