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Title: Hume's conception of character
Author: Mahoney, Robert Heath
ISNI:       0000 0004 0123 3922
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2009
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The thesis reconstructs Hume’s conception of character. Character is not just an ethical concern in Hume’s philosophy: Hume emphasises the importance of character in his ethics, aesthetics and history. The reconstruction therefore pays attention to Hume’s usage of the concept of character in his clearly philosophical works, the Treatise of Human Nature and the two Enquiries, as well as his less obviously philosophical works, the Essays, Moral, Political and Literary and the History of England. The first main thesis is that Hume’s conception of character includes multiple heterogeneous elements. These include passions, habits, natural abilities and possibly general rules. These elements are combined to form a coherent character through social organisation and conventions. The elements underpin character attributions, but it is argued that Hume is not concerned with identifying elements with character traits, as he is interested in characters as a whole rather than individual traits. The second main thesis is that the character of judges is central to Hume’s philosophy. Hume’s most sustained character of a judge is to be found in the essay ‘Of the Standard of Taste’. Close examination of this essay with particular attention to the character of the true judge reveals that such judges should not be conceived of as ideal, as some commentators on the essay have supposed. It is further argued that the true judge can be used, with some modifications, as a template for the moral judge, which Hume requires for his moral philosophy but never fully articulates. The two theses are mutually supporting in that the judges examined in accord with the second thesis are conceived of in terms of the first thesis, i.e. they are conceived of by Hume as characters constituted by heterogeneous elements. The first thesis receives support from the second thesis, as the reality of the elements supposed in the first thesis is undermined by a failure to appreciate the importance of judges as characters in Hume’s philosophy.
Supervisor: Neill, Alexander Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: B Philosophy (General)