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Title: The general point of view as the normative and unifying concept in Hume's Treatise
Author: Yajima, Naoki
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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My dissertation attempts to read David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature as a consistent moral theory, by showing the underlying unity of the three Books of the Treatise. In particular, I argue that the concept of the “general point of view” plays a central role in unifying the Treatise, which in the final instance proves to be about normativity. Most of all, I clarify the parallel between Hume’s epistemology and his moral theory to present Hume’s moral theory as what I call ‘a constructivism of perceptions’. I start by exploring Hume’s epistemology and his concept of custom, fundamentally understood as a principle of stability. I clarify that custom consists in recognizing a particular perception in association with other resembling perceptions. I claim this is what it means to take the general point of view. I then show that custom is the basis of Hume’s theory of causation, where the concept of custom plays the central role of embodying the general point of view. I show that because of the development of custom Hume’s theory of causation is related to his theory of the perception of external bodies, which completes our perception of physical circumstances. In the later chapters I argue that Hume’s theory of sympathy should be understood as a principle of sociability that confers shared value on both possessions and human behaviour. I show that sympathy functions as the driving force for creating a society. I next discuss Hume’s theory or justice as a regulating principle of social interaction that centres on property. Then, I discuss Hume’s theory of promise as the necessary development of the stability of property, which regulates future interaction between people. Finally, I show that because of the authority of custom, government is allowed to demand people’s allegiance just as an external body is required to stabilise causal perception. My dissertation shows that the general point of view provides the foundation of morality by establishing a stable relationship between human beings and their circumstances: physical, psychological, moral and political.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available