Freedom and Moral Sentiment

Freedom and Moral Sentiment : Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility

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BLFirst study devoted entirely to Hume's influential views on freedom and responsibility

David Hume is generally credited with the classic statement of the `compatibilist' position in the free will dispute. It is here argued that Hume's views on this subject, although largely influential, have nevertheless been seriously misrepresented. Classical readings have entirely overlooked Hume's naturalistic concerns and commitments, those very aspects of his general strategy which are of particular significance to the contemporary discussion.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 212 pages
  • 164 x 241 x 20mm | 511g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195095014
  • 9780195095012

Back cover copy

Russell contends that it is the workings of moral sentiment, and not the concept of freedom, that is basic to Hume's account of moral responsibility. The compatibilist strategy that Hume pursues must be interpreted in terms of his detailed description of the circumstances in which people are felt to be responsible. These naturalistic commitments are directly relevant to Hume's complex understanding of how freedom relates to responsibility. It is his view that we must not exaggerate the importance of voluntariness and control for moral responsibility. Hume's naturalism is also essential to his account of the relationship between responsibility and religion. Issues of moral responsibility, Hume maintains, can be understood only within the fabric of human feeling and human society. This perspective on responsibility is central to the philosopher's most basic objective: to secularize our understanding of moral life and practice. The classical reading entirely overlooks Hume's naturalistic concerns and commitments. As Russell demonstrates, however, it is this very aspect that is fundamental to Hume's general strategy and that is of particular significance from a contemporary perspective. The contemporary relevance of Hume's naturalistic approach is examined with P. F. Strawson's influential contribution on this subject especially in view. Freedom and Moral Sentiment addresses issues of wide interest to students and scholars of philosophy, theology, legal theory, and the history of ideas.
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Review quote

Russell's book, which is the first full analysis of Hume's theories on this key theme (freedom), does justice to their complexity and systematic character, and by relating them to more recent debates shows us, once again, why Hume remains such a continual source of philosophical stimulus. It is excellent creative scholarship. * Terence Penelhum, Canadian Journal of Philosophy * This book is a meticulous, wide-ranging reexamination of Hume's views on liberty, necessity, and moral responsibility ... Russell's account imbues Hume's texts with fresh significance and interest. * Ira Singer, Ethics * In general, Russell's book makes an important contribution to the literature on Hume's moral philosophy ... and Russell's discussion of Hume's relevance for contemporary debates over naturalism in ethics will be of interest to a wider philosophical audience. * Donald Ainslie, Philosophical Review * Freedom and Moral Sentiment offers much that will be of interest both to Hume scholars and to those concerned with issues of free will and responsibility. It takes an appropriately critical approach to Hume's positions, which it shows to be of both historical and continuing importance. * Kenneth A Richman, Canadian Philosophical Reviews * this is an interesting and useful book for Hume scholars. * Vere Chappell, Phil & Phen Res *
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