Annette C. Baier
Like David Hume, whose work on justice she engages here, is a consummate essayist: her spirited, witty prose captures nuances and telling examples in order to elucidate important philosophical ideas.
Baier is also one of Hume’s most sensitive and insightful readers. In The Cautious Jealous Virtue, she deepens our understanding of Hume by examining what he meant by “justice.” In Baier’s account, Hume always understood justice to be closely linked to self-interest (hence his description of it in An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals as “the cautious jealous virtue”), but his understanding of the virtue expanded over time, as evidenced by later works, including his History of England.
Along with justice, Baier investigates the role of the natural virtue of equity (which Hume always understood to constrain justice) in Hume’s thought, arguing that Hume’s view of equity can serve to balance his account of the artificial virtue of justice. The Cautious Jealous Virtue is an illuminating meditation that will interest not only Hume scholars but also those interested in the issues of justice and in ethics more generally.
Hume's account of justice is both brilliant and unsettling. It forces the reader to think uncomfortably hard about the origins of justice, about what the proper concerns of justice are, and about who possesses the rights that justice protects. There could be no better guide than Annette Baier to the complexities of Hume's writings on justice, and this book will amply reward both Hume scholars and those interested in justice more generally. All of Baier's very considerable interpretative and philosophical skills are on display in what will come to be recognized as a landmark contribution to the understanding of Hume's moral philosophy.
Because Baier attends closely to works by Hume that philosophers tend to neglect, including his Essays and History of England, she is able to make a compelling case that the mature Hume expands the concept of justice beyond considerations of property. Baier's accomplishment here, her astute interpretation and argument, sheds new light on Hume's account of the most fundamental cooperative virtue, and thus helps to cement his status as one of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment.
- 280 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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