The early reception of Hume’s theory of justice

James A. Harris

in Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199227044
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739309 | DOI:
The early reception of Hume’s theory of justice

Show Summary Details


This chapter describes the earliest responses to Hume’s account of justice, and gives particular attention to the responses of Henry Home (Lord Kames), Adam Smith, and Thomas Reid. Their obvious differences notwithstanding, these three philosophers share the belief that something important is missing from Hume’s account: the fact that we ordinarily take the demands of justice to be strict and unconditional. The chapter describes the different ways in which Kames, Smith, and Reid seek to capture this aspect of the obligations of justice. While none of them makes appeal to principles of religion in the course of the argument against Hume, the influence of Joseph Butler can be discerned in each of their critiques. This gives reason to doubt that Francis Hutcheson is ‘the father of the Scottish Enlightenment’, or that at this time Scottish philosophy can be clearly differentiated and distinguished from English. It also calls into question whether Smith as a moral philosopher has more in common with Hume than with any other philosopher of the period.

Keywords: David Hume; early responses to Hume; justice; religion; Henry Home (Lord Kames); Adam Smith; Thomas Reid

Chapter.  12458 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.