My dissertation attempts to read David Hume's "A Treatise of Human Nature: an
attempt of introducing an experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects", as
a consistent moral theory, by showing the underlying unity of the three Books of the
Treatise. In particular, I argue that the concept of the "general point of view" plays a
central role in unifying the Treatise, which in the final instance proves to be about
normativity. Most of all, I clarify the parallel between Hume's epistemology and his
moral theory. I attempt to present Hume's moral theory as what I call "a
constructivism of perceptions".
I start by exploring Hume's epistemology and his concept of custom,
fundamentally understood as a principle of stability. I clarify that custom consists in
recognizing a particular perception in association with other resembling perceptions.
I claim this is what it means to take the general point of view. I then show that
custom is the basis of Hume's theory of causation, where the concept of custom
plays the central role of embodying the general point of view. I show that because of
the development of custom Hume's theory of causation is related to his theory of the
perception of external bodies, which completes our perception of physical
In the later chapters I argue that Hume's theory of sympathy should be
understood as a principle of sociability that confers shared value on both possessions
and human behaviour. I next explain Hume's theory of justice as a regulating
principle of social interaction that centres on property as causation. I argue that
justice exerts a binding force beyond personal interests because its normative force
derives from the sense of stability acquired in physical perceptions. Then, I discuss
Hume's theory ofpromise regulates future interaction between people. Finally, I
show that because of the authority of custom, government is allowed to demand
people's allegiance, just as an external body is required to stabilise causal perception.
My dissertation shows that the general point of view provides the foundation
ofmorality by establishing a stable relationship between human beings and their
circumstances: physical, psychological, moral, and political.