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Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 3, July 2015

Ethical and Religious Themes in Humean Philosophy

Glen Pettigrove
Pages 595-619
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.2015.92.3.3

Re-Conceiving Character
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.