Chapter

Of the Origin of Justice and Property

Jonathan Harrison

in Hume's Theory of Justice

Published in print January 1980 | ISBN: 9780198246190
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680946 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198246190.003.0002
Of the Origin of Justice and Property

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This chapter discusses the following: (1) Difficulty in reconciling Hume's view that natural virtues are virtues because their performance is the sign of a usual motive, with his view that virtues are qualities which are useful or agreeable. (2) Difficulty in reconciling Hume's view that action is a duty if it is the kind of action for which there is a usual motive, with his view that an action is a duty if it is demanded by a rule of justice. (3) Though what Hume wrongly calls justice is an artificial virtue, justice by itself is not, and Hume's rules of justice may be assessed by whether or not they are useful. (4) Sense in which Hume's use of ‘justice’ accords with common usage. (5) Whether our duty to be just can be derived from its utility. Way in which a utilitarian does not give a utilitarian account of justice. (6) Though Hume could not criticize his rules of justice because they are unjust, he could allow them to be criticized in other ways. (7) Hume's definition of ‘property’. (8) Hume's excessive emphasis on property, and a possible reason for it. Just distribution of possessions. (9) Hume's argument that the fact that justice would be unnecessary if goods were in limited supply shows that morality cannot consist in relations. (10) The artificiality of impressions of justice. (11) The effect of education and the artifice of politicians upon our sentiment of approbation. (12) Hume's view that an abundance of affection would make rules of justice unnecessary. (13) Hume's account of sense of duty. (14) The inconsistency of trying to disobey rules that one is in favour of others obeying. (15) Private benevolence and confined generosity. (16) The effect of education and the artifice of politicians, and Hume's refutation of moral scepticism. (17) The extent to which morality is possible in a state of nature. (18) The nature of the conventions that give rise to justice. (19) Whether abstention from violence is a natural or an artificial virtue. (20) Hume's view that a just action will be beneficial only if other people also perform just actions. (21) Whether a man ought to keep a rule of justice when he can do more good by breaking it. (22) Whether, in a state of nature, one ought to perform acts which would do good if they were done by everybody. Criterion that tells us when rules of justice ought to be obeyed. (23) Our duty to obey rules of justice does not follow from our doing so having good consequences, and we may have a duty to obey such rules even when no acts of obedience, taken by themselves, do have good consequences. Modified utilitarian statement of the supreme principle of morality. Alternative explanation of the fact that we ought to perform acts which themselves have bad consequences – viz. that it is a form of insurance – rejected. (24) Whether modified utilitarianism reduces to unmodified utilitarianism.

Keywords: virtues; justice; property; education; artifice; politicians; affection; private benevolence; moral scepticism; utilitarianism

Chapter.  27111 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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