A Conciliatory Interpretation of the Meaning of Value Judgements in David Hume’s Philosophy


  • Carlota Salgadinho PUC-Rio




David Hume, Moral Value, Aesthetic Value, Descriptivism, Expressivism


In this paper, I present an interpretation about the meaning of value judgements (moral and aesthetic) in the philosophy of David Hume. I state that although they are essentially descriptive of a fact (a sentiment that any spectator placed in the disinterested point of view can feel), these judgements also express a particular sentiment, at least in some cases. To achieve this aim, after introducing the questions and interpretative possibilities approached (section 1), I explain the interpretations called expressivist (mainly, its projectivist subtype, commonly called ‘error theory’) and descriptivist (and its subtypes, called subjectivist and causalist), as well as the problems of accepting each one of them univocally (respectively, sections 2 and 3). Then, I argue in favor of an hybrid or conciliating interpretation according to which Hume’s philosophy is better understood as a form of descriptivism, while preserving an expressivist feature, based on the possibility of solving those problems (section 4).



Árdal, P. S. 1966. Passion and Value in Hume’s Treatise. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Ayer, A. J. 1980. Hume. Publicações Dom Quixote, Lisboa.

Broad, C. D. 1930. Five Types of Ethical Theory. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Brunet, O. 1965. Philosophie et Esthétique chez David Hume. Paris: Librairie A-G Nizet.

Capaldi, N. 1989. Hume’s Place in Moral Philosophy. New York; Berlin; Bern; Frankfurt; Paris; Wien: Peter Lang.

Cohon, R. 2008. Hume’s Morality: Feeling and Fabrication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conte, J. 2006. Sobre a natureza da teoria moral de Hume. Kriterion XLVII(113): 131-146.

Coventry, A. 2006. Hume’s Theory of Causation: A Quasi-Realist Interpretation. New York: Continuum.

Flew, A. 1963. On the Interpretation of Hume. Philosophy 38: 178-182.

Fogelin, R. 1985. Hume’s Skepticism in the Treatise of Human Nature. London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Foot, P. 2001 [1965]. Hume on Moral Judgement. In: R. Cohon (ed.), Hume: Moral and Political Philosophy, p.75-80. Aldershot; Burlington; Singapore; Sydney: Dartmouth Ashgate.

Garrett, D. 1997. Cognition and Commitment in Hume’s Philosophy. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hare, R. M. 1997. Sorting Out Ethis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hunter, G. 1962. Hume on Is and Ought. Philosophy 37(140): 148-152.

Hudson, W. D. (1964). Hume on Is and Ought. The Philosophical Quarterly 14(56): 246-52.

Hume, D. 2001 [1739/40]. Tratado da Natureza Humana. Trad. Déborah Danowski. São Paulo: UNESP.

Hume, D. 2004 [1748/1777]. Investigações sobre o Entendimento Humano e sobre os Princípios da Moral. Trad. José Oscar de A. Marques. São Paulo: UNESP.

Hume, D. 2009 [1741-77]. A Arte de Escrever Ensaio e Outros Ensaios. Trad. Márcio Suzuki & Pedro Pimenta. Iluminuras: São Paulo.

Jones, P. 1970. Another look at Hume’s views of Aesthetic and Moral Judgements. Philosophical Quarterly 20(78): 53-59.

Jones, P. 1982. Hume’s Sentiments: Their Cicerionian and French Context. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Kail, P. 2007a. How to Understand Hume’s Causal Realism. In: R. Read & K. A. Richman (eds.), The New Hume Debate: revisited edition, p.251-269. London: Routledge.

Kail. P. 2007b. Projection and Realism in Hume’s Philosophy. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Limongi, I. 2006. O fato e a norma do gosto: Hume contra um certo ceticismo. Analytica 10(1): 108-24.

Limongi, I. 2011. O ponto de vista do espectador e a medida do juízo moral em Hume. Discurso 41: 115-39.

Mackie, J. L. 1980. Hume’s Moral Theory. London and New York: Routledge.

MacNabb, D. G. C. 1951. David Hume: His Theory of Knowledge and Morality. London: Hutchinson House.

Norton, D. F. 1975. Hume’s Common-sense Morality. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 5(4): 523-543.

Norton, D. F. 1982. David Hume: Common-sense Moralist, Skeptical Metaphysician. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Noxon, J. 1961. Hume’s Opinion of Critics. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20(2): 157-62.

Pitson, A. E. 1989. Projectionism, Realism, and Hume’s Moral Sense Theory. Hume Studies 15(1): 61-92.

Reid, T. 2010 [1788]. Essays on the Active Powers of Man. Ed. K. Haakonsen & J. Harris. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Salgadinho, C. 2021. Uma quasi-objetividade na teoria dos valores de David Hume. Veritas 66: 1-18.

Stroud, B. 1977. Hume. London; New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Stroud, B. 1993. ‘Gilding or staining’ the world with ‘sentiments’ and ‘phantasms’. Hume Studies 19(2): 253-72.

Townsend, D. 2001. Hume's Aesthetic Theory: Taste and sentiment. London; New York: Routledge.

Winkler, K. 2007 [1991]. The New Hume. In R. Read & K. A. Richman (eds.), The New Hume Debate: revisited edition, p.52-87. London: Routledge.