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Philosophy, Rights and Natural LawEssays in Honour of Knud Haakonssen$
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Ian Hunter and Richard Whatmore

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474449229

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474449229.001.0001

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Hume’s Peculiar Definition of Justice

Hume’s Peculiar Definition of Justice

(p.216) 9 Hume’s Peculiar Definition of Justice
Philosophy, Rights and Natural Law

James A. Harris

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter situates Hume’s treatment of justice in the modern natural law tradition in order to bring out what is, in that tradition’s terms, both unsurprising and peculiar in the definition of justice that Hume works with. For Hume justice is the essential element of an analysis of the minimal conditions of human sociability. But Hume defines justice exceedingly narrowly, as respect for rights of property. His definition has been severely criticised, both by his contemporaries and in recent Hume scholarship. The chapter argues that it was Hume’s particular version of the argument against Hutchesonian moral sense theory that led him to define justice as he did.

Keywords:   David Hume, Justice, Francis Hutcheson, Property rights, Moral philosophy, sociability

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