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.
Table of Contents
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
Constantine Sandis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is author of The Things We Do and Why We Do Them (2012), as well as editor or co-editor of numerous books including Philosophy of Action from Suarez to Anscombe (2019), Philosophy of Action: An Anthology (2015), Human Nature (2012), Hegel on Action (2010), and A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (2010).
'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
'This book is primarily an explication, as opposed to a defense, of Hume’s theory of action . . . The discussion engages with much of the contemporary Humean scholarship on these topics and will be very useful to Hume scholars. Others who work on these issues independent of Hume’s work may also find the discussions helpful. Summing up: Recommended'—CHOICE
"Character and Causation is an innovative and much needed contribution to current Hume scholarship . . . Painting a coherent picture from Hume's work, Sandis offers a new insight into his philosophy, thus overcoming an array of misleading interpretations of it. Character and Causation is an essential piece of reading not only for anyone working on Hume's moral psychology, ethics and epistemology widely conceived, but also for scholars in contemporary philosophy of action."—Enrico Galvagni in Journal of Scottish Philosophy
"Sandis’s views on Hume, on the philosophy of action, on the relation of beliefs to action, and on the relation of moral responsibility to character are all interesting, promising, and well worth further investigation."—David Landy in Journal of the History of Philosophy
"Sandis's book is a comprehensive contribution to the study of human behavior in Hume's work that will be of importance to Hume scholars and anyone interested in the philosophy of action."—Angela Coventry in Ratio
"Sandis is clear in his presentation and defends his convictions skillfully and cleverly, thus leaving plenty of room for sensible and substantive debates. Even if one ends up not endorsing Sandis’ general view, or disagrees with one or more of his specific theses, his perspective is extremely stimulating and for many aspects very convincing, presenting a challenging way of approaching Hume. This makes Character and Causation a must-read for both Hume scholars and philosophers interested in the philosophy of action."—Lorenzo Greco in The Philosophical Quarterly