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Hume Studies

Volume 43, Issue 2, November 2017

Getty L. LustilaOrcid-ID
Pages 79-102

Is Hume’s Ideal Moral Judge a Woman?

Hume refers to women as imaginative, compassionate, conversable, and delicate. While his appraisals of women seem disparate, I argue that they reflect a position about the distinctive role that Hume takes women to have in shaping and enforcing moral norms. On his view, I maintain, women provide us with the ideal model of a moral judge. I claim that Hume sees a tight con­nection between moral competency and those traits he identifies as feminine. Making this case requires clarifying a few concepts in Hume’s philosophical toolbox and their relation to one another. The primary quality of a good moral judge, according to Hume, is a delicacy of taste. I show that Hume thinks of delicacy as a feminine skill that can only be developed in men imperfectly, thereby making women the ideal moral judges.

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