Hume Studies

Volume 47, Issue 1, April 2022

James Chamberlain
Pages 79-101

Hume on Calm Passions, Moral Sentiments, and the “Common Point of View”

I argue for a thorough reinterpretation of Hume’s “common point of view” thesis, at least within his moral Enquiry. Hume is typically understood to argue that we correct for sympathetically produced variations in our moral sentiments, by undertaking an imaginative exercise. I argue that Hume cannot consistently claim this, because he argues that we automatically experience the same degree of the same moral sentiment towards all tokens of any one type of character trait. I then argue that, in his Enquiry at least, Hume only believes that we correct for variations in our non-moral sentiments. When he claims that we sometimes choose a “common point of view,” he just means that we sometimes choose to verbally express our calm, moral sentiments, and no other passions, when we publicly evaluate people’s characters.