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

53 HUME ON ARTIFICIAL LIVES with a Rejoinder to A.C. Maclntyre The variety of human cultures fascinated Enlightenment thinkers and evoked certain problems for philosophical discussion. Wide experience of other societies, as well as the study of history, disclosed moral systems interestingly different from modern European mores. Also a student of other cultures, historical and contemporary, David Hume is a moderate pluralist on the matter of alternative moral systems. He acknowledges that there are systems of values other than that shared by his readers which qualify as moralities; but more interestingly, he also holds that there are some such systems which, despite the claims of their adherents, fail to qualify as moralities. Thus Hume opposes forms of relativism that allow any system which a community deems to be a moral code has to be acknowledged as constituting a genuine morality. In this paper I address the question of how Hume can discriminate among value systems and declare some to be moralities, some not. Given the design of his philosophical approach to morals, addressing this question is a matter of some importance for Hume, since he maintains that moral reflection takes its departure from everyday moral beliefs and sentiments. This being the case, we might expect that what should count as 'everyday moral beliefs and sentiments' would be whatsoever any individual or group puts forward as a morality, and that Hume's pluralism impedes him from raising a critical challenge to any system advanced, no matter how strange it might be. But Hume holds that certain systems advanced for the guidance of life which are sharply opposed to 54 everyday beliefs and sentiments do not constitute a morality, even if they number many as adherents. It is instructive to observe that A.C. Maclntyre believes that Hume's position is deeply flawed. He asserts that the treatment of rival tables of the virtues constitutes a most serious weakness in Hume's 2 theory of morals. Maclntyre contends that Hume's spurning of the monkish virtues, for instance, or his preference of Cicero's Offices over the Christian Whole Duty of Man, is devoid of theoretical justification and amounts to a matter of personal idiosyncrasy and eighteenth-century class elitism. Thus this seems a problem worthy of discussion. In what follows I shall: (a) lay out the problem of artificial lives as it arises in A Dialogue; (b) describe five points of differentiation between artificial lives and nonartificial lives; (c) review some less than fully satisfactory solutions to the problem; (d) introduce what I take to be the chief considerations supporting Hume's rejection of artificial lives; and finally (e) discuss whether Maclntyre 's objections to Hume's treatment of artificial lives are sustainable. 1. The Context of the Problem Hume deals with diversity of morals most expressly in A Dialogue, the short work appended to the second Enquiry. The essay records an exchange between one Palamedes, a lover of the novel and the striking, and his interlocutor, referred to merely as "I". Palamedes confounds the interlocutor by narrating a story about a distant people (the inhabitants of 'Fourli") whose mores include practices, apparently deemed moral by them, which sharply offend his, and presumably our, moral A sensibilities. Having elicited the interlocutor's 55 felt disapproval of those practices, Palamedes delights in revealing that the people of whom he has been speaking in cloaked terms are none other than the interlocutor's beloved Greeks of classical antiquity. Not satisfied with astonishing the interlocutor , he goes on to draw a strongly relativist conclusion about morals in general. The interlocutor confronts the choice of either abandoning his moral admiration of the civilization of the Greeks or of accepting some measure of the relativism in morals that Palamedes is advocating. The interlocutor does neither. He distinguishes between the principles of moral approbation or disapprobation and specific examples of approval or disapproval (E 333). He grants that there are examples of practices of which the ancients apparently approved and contrariwise we disapprove, but he denies that the existence of some such instances warrants the serious sort of relativism that Palamedes would foist on him. Obviously the number of such discrepancies cannot be overwhelming, otherwise the...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 53-92
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.