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181 David Hume: Common-Sense Moralist, Sceptical Metaphysician . By David Fate Norton (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982) Pp. xii, 329. £17.70. The publication of Norman Kemp Smith's The Philosophy of David Hume in 1941 marked a turning-point in Hume scholarship, and it might even be said that a good part of the Hume literature of the past decades consists of footnotes to Kemp Smith. An obeisance in the direction of his shade has become almost de rigueur. But what is the substance of the honour in which Kemp Smith is held? Does it entail acceptance of his view that Hutcheson's influence on Hume was decisive? Is his theory regarding the order of composition of the books of the Treatise considered plausible? Can one assent to his opinion that the central utterance of Hume's philosophy is contained in the sentence, "Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions..."? Or is it not rather that Kemp Smith forced his readers to think anew about Hume's philosophy by showing that it was by no means necessary to accept the traditional view, associated with the names of Reid, Beattie and Green, and still, it seems, complacently regurgitated by most· of those who are not Hume scholars, that Hume was merely a destructive force in the history of western philosophy. Kemp Smith, it would appear, is justly revered, but less for the actual contents of his works on Hume than for his challenge to Hume commentators to consider Hume's philosophy as being in its essence a new and constructive synthesis, to which his critical activity was subservient. Professor D. F. Norton's book attempts to provide a corrective to the interpretations of Kemp 182 Smith and of Reid et al. From the dates of the author's many articles on Hume, several of which are incorporated in the present volume, it seems that the work has been a long time in gestation. The manuscript (or parts of it) was read by several well-known Hume specialists. As the book's title indicates, Norton maintains that Hume's scepticism is restricted to his theoretical philosophy, and he emphasizes that only in Hume's practical philosophy is sentiment the standard of truth. The expression "common-sense moralist" is based on CD. Broad's use of such a designation to denote the view that moral approbation or disapprobation arises from the contemplation of actions or characters, which are virtuous or vicious in themselves, whether or not they are perceived. Norton refers to this opinion as "moral realism", harking back to Shaftesbury, who called himself "a realist in morality", and he contrasts this with "moral scepticism", which denies the objectivity of moral distinctions. Lest the terminological purist be offended, Norton notes that there are ample precedents for the applied use of the term "scepticism" in the moral sphere, including that set by Hume himself, when he criticised the theories of Hobbes and Mandeville. As for scepticism in metaphysics, the author sees little use in a simplistic characterisation of scepticism as such, the mere word "doubt", for example, being uninformative. Norton believes, however, that present-day theorists, taking their cue from Reid and Beattie, tend to see scepticism as a kind of negative dogmatism. He considers Hume's scepticism to be basically a matter of his inability to provide a foundation in reason for "natural beliefs". According to Norton, Hume's speculative and practical philosophies differ from each other both in 183 origin and in execution, each being conceived in response to the two crises of the epoch, the moral crisis and the speculative or Pyrrhonian crisis. Only if, says the author, one grasps the important differences between Hume's metaphysical and moral theories, can one do justice to Hume's thought. Norton aims at interpreting Hume in his historical context, and he prefaces his interpretation of Hume's moral philosophy with chapters on moral scepticism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on Francis Hutcheson's theory of the moral sense. In the first of these he sets the scene by recalling the collapse of the Scholastic synthesis as a result of the voyages of discovery...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 181-192
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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