Hume’s Partial Solution to Political Factions
Abstract: "As Knud Haakonssen has underscored, Hume was fearful of the rise and persistence of factionalism in Britain, and the political instability this engendered. A considerable swath of Hume’s analysis of political governance and obligation can be understood as pivoting around these fears. The primary divide circa 1750 was not religious but economic, the factions of court and country, Whig and Tory, merchant and aristocrat. Hume believed the burgeoning public debt unleashed by Robert Walpole would only exacerbate the situation. How to remedy these tendencies? Hume upheld the system of mixed monarchy for Britain but also aspired to transform the dispositions and characters of the principal agents themselves. The interests of merchants were not so divergent from the interests of the landed class, Hume maintained, and with time, could become more convergent. The task at hand was to take the rough clay of the nouveau riche and mould them more firmly into an honourable group of people without succumbing to a system of aristocratic title.
As I have argued in a recent article (“Hume’s Honourable Merchant” EJHET, 2014), one can read Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) as, among other things, a vade mecum to forging good character, particularly for readers of the merchant class. Hume hoped that if the merchant could strive for honour in the private sphere, this virtue would spill over into the public sphere and bring mercantile interests more in line with the status quo. It might also lay a more solid foundation for sustaining the commercial order for future generations, since Hume was sceptical that the current institutions could safeguard the accumulated civility that came with modern commerce. My talk will sketch this interpretation, drawing on a number of Hume’s texts, and thus advance all the more the economic underpinnings of his political thought."
Free Choices Are a Natural Kind
Abstract: This paper makes the case that free choices are a natural kind, by applying an attractive view of natural kinds to free choices. On this view, human agents choose freely, most of the time, as long as they exercise a cluster of capacities that are related in the right sorts of ways to each other and to the world. In turn, our concept ‘free choice’ is causally regulated by the world as long as most of us possess and exercise most of these capacities. The view that emerges is a type of compatibilism about free choices and determinism, and it overcomes the central obstacle to the development of a natural-kind view about free choice, i.e., the Martian-control objection. Finally, the view circumvents empirical controversies about what people’s intuitive beliefs about free choices are, as well as dialectical stalemates in philosophical theorizing about free choices, by making the intuitive beliefs associated with the concept irrelevant to its reference.
Can Profit-Seekers be Virtuous?
David Schmidtz has been chosen to edit the Macmillan Handbook of Environmental Ethics. The volume will feature essays from a diverse and accomplished group of contributors including Andrew Brennan, Philip Cafaro, Gary Comstock, Benjamin Hale, Ned Hettinger, Norva Lo, Douglas MacLean, Ben Minteer, Lauren Hartzell Nichols, Clare Palmer, James Petrik, Michael 't Sas-Rolfes, Danny Shahar, and Allen Thompson. In preparation for the handbook's publication, the Freedom Center will be hosting a workshop for the volume's authors in mid-November. The workshop will give each author the opportunity to present her or his contribution to the volume and receive valuable feedback from the others before the handbook goes into production in 2016.
8:09 a.m. Nov. 12, 2015 to 4:15 p.m. Nov. 15, 2015
In nature, adaptable strategies are incorporated into successful organisms through the relentless and value neutral process of natural selection. Delegates of the Forum will meet to address the challenge of understanding what makes adaptable systems work and to develop a system for approximating the adaptability of a given system of action, organization, or institution. The forum will utilize an open agenda based on the successful collaborative model used by the late Dr. Rafe Sagrin, author of "Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets From Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease," in developing his "Natural Security " framework. The fifteen delegates represent business leaders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in economics, philosophy, psychology, cognitive science and other relevant knowledge domains and areas of expertise. The Forum on Adaptable Systems is a joint endeavor of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom and the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship and will be held in October at Biopsphere 2. This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
8 a.m. Sept. 15, 2015 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18, 2015
Ben Hale (University of Colorado), Allen Thompson (Oregon State University), Lauren Hartzell Nichols (University of Washington)