In the first ever book-length treatment of David Hume’s philosophy of action, Constantine Sandis brings together seemingly disparate aspects of Hume’s work to present an understanding of human action that is much richer than previously assumed. Sandis showcases Hume’s interconnected views on action and its causes by situating them within a wider vision of our human understanding of personal identity, causation, freedom, historical explanation, and morality. In so doing, he also relates key aspects of the emerging picture to contemporary concerns within the philosophy of action and moral psychology, including debates between Humeans and anti-Humeans about both 'motivating' and 'normative' reasons.
Character and Causation takes the form of a series of essays which collectively argue that Hume’s overall project proceeds by way of a soft conceptual revisionism that emerges from his Copy Principle. This involves re-calibrating our philosophical ideas of all that agency involves to fit a scheme that more readily matches the range of impressions that human beings actually have. On such a reading, once we rid ourselves of a certain kind of metaphysical ambition we are left with a perfectly adequate account of how it is that people can act in character, freely, and for good reasons. The resulting picture is one that both unifies Hume's practical and theoretical philosophy and radically transforms contemporary philosophy of action for the better.
'In Character and Causation, Sandis’s project is to show how Hume’s radical empiricism implies a revision of traditional philosophical concepts such as causation, character, motivation, and normativity. The arguments here both advance the discussion of Hume’s motivational psychology and recommend to action theorists an important new way of conceiving of its categories.'—Elizabeth S. Radcliffe, College of William and Mary, USA
Prologue: People and their Actions
1. The Soft Science
2. Causation: The Very Idea
3. Necessity, Power, and Freedom
4. People Across Time
5. The Self as Agent
6. Hume's Actual Theory of Motivation
7. Past Actions
Epilogue: Hume and Contemporary Philosophy of Action