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Tad Brennan

"This happens in two ways, when in the Introduction of that influential book, Smith is first introduced, alongside Hume and Hartley, only Hume's views are briefly summarized and Hume's views are treated as not especially significant for ethical matters. They...."

I wonder whether the third instance of "Hume" was meant to read, "Smith"?

Eric Schliesser

Hi Tad, Thank you for reading this post with care. But I think the third instance of "Hume" is fine. The point being that Smith barely registers a mention and seems to be treated by Sidgwick as a very junior to Hume side-kick in that context.

Aaron V Garrett

Sidgwick treats Smith this way because his overall goal is to show the evolution of plausible methods of ethics, i.e. comprehensive and coherent normative moral theories, and as far as he can see Smith does not really contribute greatly to this. He makes a related claim about the relative importance of Gay and Hume. Hume is a far greater philosopher, but Gay is far more important to the rise of utilitarianism. Smith's normative ethics is still mysterious to me after twenty-plus years of thinking about it, so I empathize with Sidgwick who I fear has become part of my own academic impartial spectator.

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