• Adam Smith (review)
    Philosophical Review 96 (4): 612-615. 1987.
  •  16
    This article presents a limited defense of Humeanism about practical reason. Jonathan Dancy and other traditional objective-reasons theorists argue that all practical reasons, what we think about when we deliberate, are facts or states of affairs in the world. On the Humean view, the reasons that motivate us are belief-desire combinations, which are in the mind. Thus, Dancy and others reject Humeanism on the grounds that it cannot allow that anyone acts from a normative reason. I argue, first, t…Read more
  •  113
    This review offers an overview of Sandis's book and raises a few questions about it.
  • The Nature of Morals Founded on the Human Fabric
    In Esther Kroeker & Willem Lemmens (eds.), Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals: A Critical Guide, Cambridge University Press. pp. 13-32. 2021.
    In section 1 of An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, Hume claims that those who deny the reality of morals are disingenuous. He also notes that philosophy has had a history of disagreements about whether morals originate in reason or in sentiment. Throughout his book, Hume applies an experimental method to find the “universal principles” from which morality is ultimately derived. Then, in Appendix 1, he then argues for the origin of these principles in sentiment or taste, a product of…Read more
  •  32
    Kenny’s Aquinas on Dispositions for Human Acts
    New Scholasticism 58 (4): 424-446. 1984.
  •  16
    Ruly and Unruly Passions: Early Modern Perspectives
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 85 21-38. 2019.
    A survey of theories on the passions and action in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain and western Europe reveals that few, if any, of the major writers held the view that reason in any of its functions executes action without a passion. Even rationalists, like Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth and English clergyman Samuel Clarke, recognized the necessity of passion to action. On the other hand, many of these intellectuals also agreed with French philosophers Jean-François Senault, René…Read more
  • A special issue of Philosophical Studies containing selected papers from the 1999 meeting of the Pacific Division American Philosophical Association (Elizabeth S. Radcliffe, guest editor).
  •  2
    Hutcheson and Hume on Moral Perception
    Dissertation, Cornell University. 1985.
    The eighteenth-century philosopher Francis Hutcheson contends that the morality of an agent's action or character depends on the pleasurable or painful feelings which, through the moral sense, it arouses in an observer. His is the first fully-developed "moral sense" theory in the history of ethics, and there is evidence that David Hume's moral epistemology contains the critical features of such a theory as well. Commentators on the work of these two philosophers have offered widely divergent int…Read more
  •  1
    The author presents a reading of Hume’s theory of passionate self-moderation and explore its application to the question of whether Hume accords any practicality to reason. One of Hume’s well-known arguments concludes that reason cannot exercise control over the passions, many of which cause or motivate action. So, it looks as though actions are inevitable results of unruly passions. Hume’s theory of action, however, embodies principles by which certain passions can moderate the effects of other…Read more
  •  15
    How Hume Influenced Contemporary Moral Philosophy
    In Andrew Valls & Angela Coventry (eds.), David Hume on Morals, Politics, and Society, Yale University Press. pp. 265-289. 2018.
  •  40
    Hume, Passion, and Action
    Oxford University Press. 2018.
    David Hume’s theory of action is well known for several provocative theses, including that passion and reason cannot be opposed over the direction of action. In Hume, Passion, and Action, the author defends an original interpretation of Hume’s views on passion, reason and motivation that is consistent with other theses in Hume’s philosophy, loyal to his texts, and historically situated. This book challenges the now orthodox interpretation of Hume on motivation, presenting an alternative that sit…Read more
  •  33
    Hume’s better argument for motivational skepticism
    with Richard McCarty
    Philosophical Explorations 21 (1): 76-89. 2018.
    On a standard interpretation, Hume argued that reason is not practical, because its operations are limited to “demonstration” and “probability.” But recent critics claim that by limiting reason’s operations to only these two, his argument begs the question. Despite this, a better argument for motivational skepticism can be found in Hume’s text, one that emphasizes reason’s inability to generate motive force against contrary desires or passions. Nothing can oppose an impulse but a contrary impuls…Read more
  •  2
    Acali and Acid, Oil and Vinegar: Hume on Contrary Passions
    In Robert Stern & Alix Cohen (eds.), Thinking about the Emotions : A Philosophical History, Oxford University Press. pp. 150-171. 2017.
    In this paper, I present a close study of Hume’s treatment of contrary passions, asking questions about his description of the psychology of emotional difference and opposition. In treating this topic, I examine two opposed, but noteworthy, psychological functions that Hume imputes to human beings: sympathy and comparison. In brief, sympathy is the mechanism by which we share others’ feelings, and comparison is the function of our minds by which we find ourselves feeling passions opposed to othe…Read more
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    That Hume 's theory can be interpreted in two widely divergent ways-as a version of sentimentalism and as an ideal observer theory-is symptomatic of a puzzle ensconced in Hume 's theory. How can the ground of morality be internal and motivating when an inference to the feelings of a spectator in "the general point of view" is typically necessary to get to genuine moral distinctions? This paper considers and rejects the suggestion that in moral education, for Hume, the inculcation of morality int…Read more
  •  67
    The inertness of reason and Hume’s legacy
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42 (S1): 117-133. 2012.
    Hume argues against the seventeenth-century rationalists that reason is impotent to motivate action and to originate morality. Hume's arguments have standardly been considered the foundation for the Humean theory of motivation in contemporary philosophy. The Humean theory alleges that beliefs require independent desires to motivate action. Recently, however, new commentaries allege that Hume's argument concerning the inertness of reason has no bearing on whether beliefs can motivate. These comme…Read more
  • Review of DANCY, J.-Practical Reality (review)
    Philosophical Books 43 (4): 312-312. 2002.
  •  43
    Moral Sentimentalism and the Reasonableness of Being Good
    Revue Internationale de Philosophie 2013 (no. 263): 9-27. 2013.
    In this paper, I discuss the implications of Hutcheson’s and Hume’s sentimentalist theories for the question of whether and how we can offer reasons to be moral. Hutcheson and Hume agree that reason does not give us ultimate ends. Because of this, on Hutcheson’s line, the possession of affections and of a moral sense makes practical reasons possible. On Hume’s view, that reason does not give us ultimate ends means that reason does not motivate on its own, and this makes practical reasons, strict…Read more
  •  111
    Rachel Cohon's Hume is a moral sensing theorist, who holds both that moral qualities are mind-dependent and that there is such a thing as moral knowledge. He is an anti-rationalist about motivation, arguing that reason alone does not motivate, but allows that both beliefs and passions are motivating. And he is both a descriptive and a normative moral theorist who, despite having resources for putting checks on our sentimentally-based moral evaluations, does end up with a kind of a relativistic a…Read more
  •  132
    Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary (edited book)
    with Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff, and Anand Jayprakash Vaidya
    Wiley-Blackwell. 2007.
    Part of the Blackwell Readings in the History of Philosophy series, this survey of late modern philosophy focuses on the key texts and philosophers of the period whose beliefs changed the course of western thought.
  •  122
    Hume’s thesis that reason alone does not motivate is taken as the ground for this theory: Reason produces beliefs only, and beliefs are mere representations of fact, which, without passions for the objects the beliefs concern, cannot move anyone at all. Discussions of the Humean theory of motivation usually begin with the motivating passions in place without asking about their genesis. This emphasis, I think, overlooks a good deal of what Hume’s thesis concerning the motivational impotence of re…Read more
  •  20
    A Cultivated Reason: An essay on Hume and Humeanism (review)
    Philosophical Review 110 (3): 443-446. 2001.
    The main aim of Christopher Williams’s book is to develop and advocate a Humean account of what it is to be a “reasonable” person. The project is motivated by the fact that Hume depicts reason paradoxically as both a source of skepticism and as a source of belief, as both enslaved to the passions and as important to establishing which passions are morally significant. In his preface, Williams tell us that genre matters to philosophy; how it matters, he says, “is another question”. He sees his pr…Read more