In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Hume Studies Volume XXV, Numbers 1 and 2, April/November 1999, pp. 263-265 PAUL RUSSELL. Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. xi + 200. ISBN 0-19509501 -4, $49.95, cloth. Hume's influential treatment of liberty and necessity has traditionally been understood as a statement of what might be termed the classical compatibilist position. On this view, articulated by empiricists from Hobbes to Schlick, analysis of the concepts of freedom and causal necessity reveals that moral responsibility is consistent with—indeed, requires—the causal determination of voluntary actions. It is not difficult to see why Hume, too, has been counted in this camp: as it appears familiarly in the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, "Of Liberty and Necessity" begins by declaring the long-disputed question of free will to be a merely verbal controversy that a few intelligible definitions should put to rest. In this noteworthy and provocative book, Paul Russell rejects the standard interpretation of Hume as a classical compatibilist . Russell maintains that to read Hume as a classical compatibilist is to overlook the naturalistic account of moral sentiment that provides the crucial context for his treatment of moral responsibility. On Russell's view, Hume's starting point is not, as the standard reading would have it, the conceptual analysis of liberty and necessity, but our actual practices within the moral sphere, and in particular the conditions under which we assign or withhold praise and blame. The failure of the standard reading to appreciate this point has had the result of placing "Of Liberty and Necessity" outside the purview of Hume's science of man even as it is ensconced in the positivisf s primer. According to Russell, this dislocation has also led past interpreters to misconstrue the purport and scope of Hume's theory by treating his account of moral responsibility as'if it were reducible to his account of freedom as liberty of spontaneity. One of Russell's most significant contributions is to show that these are not coextensive, but that, on the contrary, for Hume moral agents may justifiably be held responsible for involuntary attitudes and sentiments as well as for voluntary actions. This and other important ramifications of Hume's account of moral responsibility emerge in Part II of Freedom and Moral Sentiment, where Russell provides a detailed critical examination of issues that, though integral to Hume's developed view, have hitherto been largely neglected; for example, his treatment of moral character, will and intention, punishment and desert. Part I of the book is devoted to the explication and defense, both exegetical and philosophical, of the naturalistic as opposed to the classical compatibilist interpretation of Hume's arguments. Both parts should be of interest to histoVolume XXV, Numbers 1 and 2, April/November 1999 264 Book Reviews rians and ethicists alike, for the interpretive and philosophical gains made by Russell's reading are considerable. On the side of the former, in addition to re-situating Hume's discussion within his descriptive and empirically based treatment of moral subjects, the naturalistic interpretation makes better sense of the role Hume's analysis of causal necessity plays within his larger argument. The classical compatibilist's strategy focuses, first and foremost, on the concept of freedom. This accords ill with Hume's own emphasis on his account of causation as the key to his dissolution of the free will controversy. Russell's naturalistic interpretation assigns the Humean account of causation its proper weight within his treatment of moral responsibility. On this reading, Hume's analysis of causation as constant conjunction and causal inference enables him to show, first, that causal necessity applies to the realm of human actions just as much as to the natural realm, and, second, that, as a matter of fact, our ascriptions of responsibility require that there be causal links between actions, attitudes, character, and our reactive sentiments. Philosophically, Russell's reading brings out Hume's relevance to contemporary naturalist and sentiment-based ethical theory and moral psychology, a relevance underscored by his discussion of Strawson's "Freedom and Resentment."1 Just as Strawson looks to our actual attitudes and practices in order to flesh...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 263-265
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.