Any examination of a philosopher should take into account the discussions, controversies, and positions of the various philosophers of his time. Doing this serves two useful functions. First of all, one has less of a tendency to read the philosopher in light of contemporary problems and thus avoids making the philosopher studied the espouser of the latest positions in the field. I have the impression, from reading many commentaries on various philosophers, that the commentators have the feeling that their endeavors are really justified only if they can show that the man they are commenting on has something to say concerning the latest disputes in the field. I do not have this feeling. Nor do I believe that Hume has anything to say about most of the major problems dealt with by contemporary ethicists. He was, probably, unaware of many of the problems in ethics as they are discussed today. For example, Hume, as I mentioned, is appealed to in many writings on the naturalists versus anti-naturalists controversy. I shall try to show that this appeal to Hume is unjustified, in the sense that Hume himself has very little to say with regard to this controversy. Thus, the first advantage in considering Hume’s predecessors is that it should at least help us to avoid reading Hume out of the context of the problems discussed by his contemporaries. The second advantage of a section on Hume’s predecessors is that many of Hume’s arguments are directed against the rationalists, and these arguments can only be understood if one has some knowledge of their positions.
KeywordsMoral Judgment Eighteenth Century Contemporary Problem Moral Decision Moral Knowledge
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