Secret sentiments: Hume on pride, decency, and virtue

Enrico Galvagni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, I reconstruct Hume's account of decency, the virtue associated with a limited display of pride, and show how it presents a significant challenge to standard virtue ethical interpretations of Hume. In section I, I explore his ambivalent conception of pride as both virtuous (because useful and agreeable to oneself) and vicious (when excessive and disagreeable to others). In section II, I show how the virtue of decency provides a practical solution to these two clashing aspects of pride. In doing so, I demonstrate that decency is a merely behavioural virtue that requires no virtuous motive and consists of nothing more than "a fair outside." I argue that this account of decency represents a serious and underexplored challenge to standard interpretations of Hume as a virtue ethicist committed to the idea that actions derive their moral value from underlying motives. In section III, I reply to some objections.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-155
Number of pages25
JournalHume Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • David Hume
  • Pride
  • Virtue
  • Modesty
  • Decency
  • Virtue ethics
  • Early modern philosophy


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