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Utility and Humanity: The Quest for the Honestum in Cicero, Hutcheson, and Hume

  • James Moore (a1)

Hume considered An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) incomparably the best of all his writings. In the argument advanced here, I propose that Hume's preference for the Enquiry may be linked to his admiration of Cicero, and his work, De Officiis. Cicero's attempt to discover the honestum of morality in De Officiis had a particular relevance and appeal for philosophers of the early eighteenth century who were seeking to establish what they called the foundation of morality. One of those philosophers was Francis Hutcheson; his differences with his contemporaries and with Hume are reviewed in the second and third parts of the essay. In the fourth and final section, I examine Hume's attempt to reconcile the foundation of morality, as he under-stood it, the sentiment of humanity, with the principles of utility and agreeableness. And an attempt is made, finally, to explain why Hume's critics (James Balfour, Thomas Reid) perceived Hume's Enquiry to be the work of an Epicurean and a sceptic.

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A. A. Long , ‘Cicero's Politics in de Officiis’, Justice and Generosity, ed. A. Laks and M. Schofield , Cambridge, 1995

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  • ISSN: 0953-8208
  • EISSN: 1741-6183
  • URL: /core/journals/utilitas
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