Volume 92, Issue 3, July 2015
Ethical and Religious Themes in Humean Philosophy
The Social Ontology of Humean Virtue
Most twenty-first century ethicists conceive of character as a stable, enduring state that is internal to the agent who possesses it. This paper argues that writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not share this conception: as they conceived of it, character is fragile and has a social ontology. The paper goes on to show that Hume’s conception of character was more like his contemporaries than like ours. It concludes with a look at the significance of such a conception for current debates about the place of character in ethics.