Morality and the Nature of Animals

  • Les Brown


In rejecting the ‘state of nature’ as a ‘mere fiction’, an invention similar to that of the golden age of the poets when there was no war, no violence and injustice, no avarice, ambition, cruelty or selfishness, Hume proposed as certain that in the actual world justice derives from the concurrence of man’s ‘selfishness and limited generosity’ with an external situation of ‘the scanty provision nature has made for his wants’.1 His limited generosity notwithstanding, man was also a creature of sympathy, Hume observed. The objects of our sympathy are other human beings, for we sympathise with those who resemble us; indeed, ‘the minds of men are mirrors to one another’ (book 2, part 2, section 5, p. 365). Yet from a broad perspective of all life on earth — ‘a general survey of the universe’ — Hume also noted ‘the force of sympathy thro’ the whole animal creation, and the easy communication of sentiments from one thinking being to another’ (p. 363).


Moral Judgement Animal Behaviour Moral Agent Animal Nature Companion Animal 
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Copyright information

© Leslie Melville Brown 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Les Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesAustralia

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