chapter  7
21 Pages

Preserving Practicality

In Defense of Hume’s Sympathy-Based Ethics
WithLorenzo Greco

In this chapter I examine the role played by sympathy in preserving the practical dimension of Hume’s ethics. I reconstruct how sympathy works for Hume by differentiating it from the contemporary understanding of empathy, and I counter some of the objections that have been moved against Humean sympathy. I argue that Humean sympathy is instrumental in bringing about a common point of view of morality, and capable of vindicating both how we form moral judgments and how we are moved by them. I maintain that this is due to the fact that the process of the determination of the point of view of morality via sympathy is reflective in a way that makes it overlap with the perspective of the agent who acts morally. This bears consequences for the Humean notion of ethical objectivity. I conclude by indicating that such an understanding of sympathy in Hume favors an internalist reading regarding the normative status that he recognizes moral reasons as having.