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

Francis Snare. Morals, Motivation and Convention. Cambridge: University Press, 1991. Let me begin by saying what this book is not. It is not, nor does it claim to be, a neat exegesis ofwhat Hume has to say about moral obligation, justice, and convention in book 3 ofthe Treatise. Its focus is, rather, on the use and claims of contemporary Humeans (such as Davidson, Williams [p. 2], Hart, Rawls, and Mackie [p. 4]) in what Snare calls their (and his) "smug" acceptance of the doctrines central to book 3: "These [doctrines] provide the loci classici of a number of apparently interrelated theses and arguments in moral philosophy, philosophical psychology, social and political philosophy which have become a part of the intellectual baggage of no small number of contemporary philosophers. With only a bit of exaggeration I will call such philosophers and such doctrines Humean' " (p. 1). The doctrine which is central here, to Hume and to Snare, is non-cognitivism and thus sentimentalism. This is not an easy book to read. It is a complex weaving ofintricate patterns ofpropositions,revisions ofpropositions, and conclusionsfrom revised propositions into a fabric of theory and application, a weaving that demands careful attention from its reader. It is a very detailed investigation into what Hume can claim consistently and plausibly about sentimentalism and its influence on moral obligation,justice and convention. While Snare includes himself in the category of the "smug" contemporary Humean, he suggests that he may be a "mole"—he does not accept non-cognitivism and thus sentimentalism with quite the smugness ofhis fellows nor, following these fellows, does he depart from Hume's own view of the relevance of sentimentalism to justice and convention. Part 1 of the book consists of an analysis of non-cognitivism and thus sentimentalism, focusing on the "influence argument": reason is inert, and can have no influence on the passions; the moral distinctions we do in fact make influence the passions; therefore, the moral distinctions we make are not derived from reason. This is Hume's non-cognitivism and thus sentimentalism. Snare argues that the only acceptable version ofits first premise is: "No action, passion, volition, is in its entirety, the sort ofthing that can be either (a) true or (b) false" (p. 72). The next step is to determine whether this premise leads to non-cognitivism. Snare's criticism of his fellow Humeans is that they "smugly" accept the influence argument as conclusively proving non-cognitivism, while Snare regards other arguments, which he does not discuss, to be more promising. Volume XVII Number 2 113 BERYLLOGAN Snare further departs from the company of contemporary Humeans in part 2 of his book—applications of the theory of sentimentalism, particularlyas concernsmotivatingreasonsforacting. Such Humeans, he claims, do not regard sentimentalism as able to provide the theoretical basis for Hume's claims for moral action, particularly with respect tojustice, as there is no "continuity" between sentimentalism and a theory of virtue which they regard to be the theoretical basis for Hume's claims in the latter parts ofbook 3 of the Treatise. While Snare will argue for a thesis of continuity between sentimentalism and a theory ofvirtue, he also sees value in a neutral position, that non-cognitivism is neutral with respect to substantive moral views. My concern with Snare's book is exegetical; book 3 of the Treatise is isolated from the earlier books, and it is not clear that such isolation is valuable or desirable for Snare's purposes. For example, in part 1 Snare does not discuss a theory of belief, important in regard to motivating reasons. This also arises at one point in part 2, in his discussion ofthe imagination in relation to property. Ifthe imagination is only seen as thatfaculty that arbitrarily associates ideas, then Snare is entitled to his characterization ofthe fixation ofcertain rules as being "arbitrary" (he admits this is his word). However, the imagination also associates on the basis of custom and experience, and in this sense is non-arbitrary. The appeal of Snare's book for Hume scholars lies in his exacting unpacking ofwhat Hume does and can argue for in book 3 with respect to sentimentalism and motivating reasons in part...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 113-114
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.