Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

9/1/2006 - 5/31/2007

Funding Totals

$40,000.00 (approved)
$40,000.00 (awarded)

Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume's Philosophy

FAIN: FB-52794-06

Jacqueline Anne Taylor
University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA 94117-1050)

My book project provides a sustained treatment of Hume’s theory of the passions. I examine his theory both in its own right as a significant innovation in the modern period, and as a valuable social theory with resources to help us think productively about issues of practical identity as these arise in contemporary ethical theory. Hume’s theory of the passions provides: a core account of the passions as socially constituted; a richly detailed social theory focusing on connections between the passions, social power and identity; and attention to how we can cultivate reflective habits of valuing and desiring. I reconstruct a Humean account of our sense of humanity, and examine its importance for bridging socially constructed divisions.

Media Coverage

(Media Coverage)
Author(s): Carla Bagnoli
Publication: Il Sole 24 Ora
Date: 7/3/2016
URL: http://

Associated Products

Reflecting Subjects: Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume's Philosophy (Book)
Title: Reflecting Subjects: Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume's Philosophy
Author: Jacqueline A. Taylor
Abstract: The book begins with a close examination of Hume’s use of an experimental method to explain the origin, nature and effects of pride, an indirect passion that reflects a person’s sense of self-worth in virtue of her valuable qualities, for example, her character or wealth. In explaining the origin of pride in terms of efficient causes, Hume displaces the traditional appeal to final causes, and is positioned to give an account of the significance for us of the passions in terms of a social theory. Chapters Two begins to reconstruct this social theory, looking in particular how the principle of sympathy functions to transmit cultural meanings and values. Chapter Three examines Hume’s account of social power, especially with regard to rank and sex. Chapter Four argues for the importance of Hume’s more sophisticated moral philosophy in his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, since it emphasizes certain virtues of good moral evaluation. The most important principle in Hume’s mature moral philosophy is that of humanity. Humanity has its source in sympathy and reflects our general preference for those virtues that promote the happiness of mankind. Hume also examines the harms of inhumanity, including the treatment of women and in slaveholding societies. Hume champions the more just and humane social arrangements of modern societies, because they increase both sociability and knowledge. The principle of humanity stands as the central concept of Hume’s Enlightenment philosophy.
Year: 2015
Primary URL:
Secondary URL: http://
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-19-87295