Hume pp 131-162 | Cite as

Morality and Society

  • Terence Penelhum
Part of the Philosophers in Perspective book series (PHPE)


Hume’s ethics is a twofold psychological enquiry into human nature. He is concerned to ask in what way we make the moral discriminations that abound in our discussions of human affairs, and he is concerned to uncover the ways in which these discriminations influence our actions. These enquiries are not the same as those which philosophers undertake in what are now often called Normative Ethics and Meta-Ethics, even though many of Hume’s arguments have been put into the service of each of these enterprises, and can often be adapted to them without much change. Reforming or defending our moral opinions, and analysing the meaning of moral terms or the relationship moral statements have to other statements, are not part of Hume’s programme, even though he may commit himself incidentally on such questions as he goes about the pursuit of his own objectives. He would of course have insisted that, in so far as these philosophical tasks were known to him through the works of his contemporaries, they could not profitably be pursued except in subordination to the science of man. But it is one thing to relate our concerns to his, and quite another to translate his claims into the language of ours.


Human Nature Moral Judgement Moral Evaluation Moral Truth Secondary Quality 
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Notes and References

  1. 6.
    J. Kemp, Ethical Naturalism (Macmillan, 1970) p. 44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Terence Penelhum 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence Penelhum
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CalgaryCanada

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