Hume, Mandeville, Butler, and “that Vulgar Dispute”

Erin Frykholm 1
  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas, Wescoe Hall, Lawrence, USA
Erin Frykholm
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  • Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas, Wescoe Hall, 1445 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045-7590, Lawrence, USA
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The debate over whether human motivations are fundamentally selfinterested or benevolent consumed Shaftesbury, Mandeville, and Hutcheson, but Hume – though explicitly indebted to all three – almost entirely ignores this issue. I argue that his relative silence reveals an overlooked intellectual debt to Bishop Butler that informs two distinguishing features of Hume’s view: first, it allows him to appropriate compelling empirical observations that Mandeville makes about virtue and moral approval; second, it provides a way of articulating a fundamental criticism of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson on the issue of virtuous motivation. From this position, Hume is able to reframe the question of virtue according to the approbation of the spectator, rather than the internal aims of the agent.

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