Volume 14, 2018
History of Philosophy
Virtue and Happiness: The Humean Connection
A marked concern about happiness (i.e., eudaimonia) and an equal preoccupation with the way virtue contributes to such state are key features of virtue ethics (Hurtshouse 2012). Interpretations that place Hume within the virtue ethics tradition are not rare (Swanton 2003, Taylor 2006, Welchman 2006, Garret 2007), although it is common to qualify such affiliation. Admittedly, Hume gives moral pride of place to character traits and uses virtue and vice as central notions; but he emphasizes practices of evaluation, rather than the deliberative experience of the moral agent, and defines virtues and vices as observer-dependent qualities (Brown 1994, Swanton 2007, Abramson 2011, Taylor 2012). In this paper I want to consider a different way to qualify Hume’s membership in the virtue ethics tradition. My case study is Hume’s treatment of virtue’s contribution to happiness. I claim that, accepting Hume’s empirical notion of happiness, there are grounds to doubt that he even believed that virtue serves one’s happiness achievement.