Study Guide

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals Section IX, Part II

By David Hume

Section IX, Part II

Conclusion, Part II

  • Here, Hume sums up that virtue isn't about self-denial but the overall good of humanity. No enjoyment is sincere if it's cut off from society. Likewise, if society makes an individual feel unwelcome, it's not so great. 
  • It's about what's practical. For example, liquor is harmful in a way that air and water aren't. People may think there's a clash between selfishness and social sentiments, but Hume sees this as narrow-minded since self-love and benevolence can happily coexist
  • Without systems of property, society couldn't function. However, a person might sometimes think that they can carry out an offense without causing any major consequences. We're taught that honesty is the best policy, but a person might argue that there are exceptions and that a wise person would take advantage of them. For Hume, though, it's natural to rebel against any thoughts of this kind. You see? This guy was a beacon of morality.
  • Some folks do give into temptation, of course. Still, a person who's honest and has any sense of common reflection will see that these folks have lost out: they've gained "worthless toys" (IX.II.12) whereas it's the natural pleasures that are priceless.

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