Doctrine of the Passions and of Sympathy in its Bearing on Hume’s Theory of Morals

  • Norman Kemp Smith


THE chief differences between Hume’s teaching in the Treatise and that of Locke in his Essay turn on the consequences which result when ‘human nature’, and not merely ‘understanding’, is taken as the field of study. Book I of the Treatise by title treats Of the Understanding; but it emerges clearly that this title misnames the operations which the book discusses, and that only when the so-called operations of understanding have been traced to their sources, predominantly passional in character, do they appear in a true light. The teaching of Book I is thus, in Hume’s view, of value mainly as it is helpful in dealing with the tasks proper to the Treatise, which still lie ahead. These tasks are two in number, and constitute the subject-matter of Book II and of Book III respectively. First comes a treatment of the passions which determine the ends of conduct, and which in determining them supply also the energies required for their pursuit. They are the incentives, and decide us in the ‘election’ to this or that action.1 They are as various as human nature, and are primarily what constitute it.2


Human Nature Moral Sentiment Direct Passion Parental Love Natural Impulse 
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Copyright information

© Norman Kemp Smith 1941

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman Kemp Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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