Re-evaluating the principle of virtuous motives: abilities, justice, and the concept of natural virtue

Xiao Qi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Hume claims in the Treatise that all virtuous actions derive their moral merit only from virtuous motives. Many scholars regard this statement as a universal axiom in Hume’s moral theory, and others read it as applying to all natural or non-artificial virtues. This paper challenges both of these readings. It argues that Hume does not endorse this statement universally since many virtuous qualities in his catalogue are not characterized by motives, and that he does not need to endorse it given his conception of character and theory of moral sentiment. Moreover, many qualities not characterized by motives can also be classified as natural, according to the distinction between natural and artificial virtues offered in part 3, Book 3 of the Treatise. Finally, I propose some alternative interpretations of the proper scope and function of this principle of virtuous motives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHume Studies
Volume50
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Jun 2024

Keywords

  • David Hume
  • Virtue
  • Character
  • Moral sentiment
  • Justice

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