Volume 41, Issue 2, November 2015
Cultivating Strength of Mind
Hume on the Government of the Passions and Artificial Virtue
Several authors have recently noted Hume’s relative silence on the virtue of strength of mind and how it is developed. In this paper I suggest that Hume had good reasons for this silence, and I argue that Hume’s discussion of artificial virtue, especially the virtue of allegiance, reveals a complex view of the limitations on human efforts at self-reform. Further, it reveals the need for government and externally-imposed regulative structures to enable the development of strength of mind. I argue that because of this, strength of mind awkwardly straddles Hume’s distinction between natural and artificial virtue. I conclude that, in comparison with traditional models of self-control, Humean strength of mind is indirect, artificial, and social.