The Ockham Society (Friday - Week 7, HT20)

Ockham Society

Amy Thompson (St Anne’s): 'Recht oder Unrecht – Mein Vaterland': Is patriotism a virtue?

Patriotism has at once a lamentable and laudable history. The quote with which we begin epitomises this, having first appeared in 1879 in a speech given by Carl Schurz which invoked the duty of citizens to set and keep their country right. By the 1940s, the same phrase would appear above the gates at Buchenwald.

In the background of this troubled history is an interesting series of philosophical questions about the moral status of patriotism: are we required, or allowed, to be patriotic? How, if at all, does patriotism fit into a globalised world?

This paper gives an account of a liberal (maybe even 'deflated') patriotism which I suggest is compatible with cosmopolitanism and fit for a globalised world. From there, I examine the common analysis of patriotism as a type of loyalty and the various criticisms of patriotism thus conceived. I argue that this analysis is unsuitable for our liberal patriotism, and therefore that this criticism should not be taken as damaging to the concept of patriotism in toto. I propose an alternative account, which seeks to vindicate patriotism as a virtue, namely that it is better and more fundamentally understood as pride than it is as loyalty.


Alessio Vaccari (St Peter’s College): David Hume on Resentment

This paper analyses the connection between Hume’s notion of resentment and the contemporary analysis of this passion, in particular that of P. Strawson (2008) and M. Nussbaum (2015). The paper has two goals. On the one hand, by examining Hume’s theory in the light of contemporary discussion, it helps us to understand whether his conception is plausible or not. On the other hand, by showing what Hume can offer to contemporary analysis, it seeks to contribute to a theory of resentment that has greater explanatory capacity than that developed so far.  

On the basis of an examination of the philosophical psychology worked out in Book II of the Treatise and in the Enquiry concerning the principles of Morals, the paper argues that Hume’s notion of resentment is similar to the one put forward by Nussbaum and Strawson on four crucial points. First, resentment is a painful feeling caused by a typically intentional behaviour perceived as a violation of something normative. Second, although it is typically caused by the belief that the injurer has a malevolent intention to offend us, resentment can arise when either this judgment is not explicitly present or even when this intention is clearly absent. Third, the violated norm can be moral but it doesn’t have to be so. Indeed, resentment can and is often caused by actions that we perceive as wrong because they do not respect or degrade our social status. Finally, resentment is associated with the desire that the author of the injury experience suffering. The connection between this passion and this desire does not seem simply contingent but of a conceptual nature, something without which one cannot say one is experiencing resentment. By showing that Hume’s description agrees with the contemporary discussion on these four points, the paper argues that Hume presents a coherent and plausible account of resentment. 

The paper also shows that Hume’s approach can help to improve contemporary analysis of resentment by enabling it to have greater explanatory capacity. The paper suggests two directions in which this enrichment could be done. First, by describing resentment as an instinct, Hume can better explain the link between this passion and the desire for revenge without running into Nussbaum’s mistake of confusing the desire for revenge with the consequence of the satisfied desire. Second, through the notion of sympathetic resentment, Hume is able to explain not only the fact that we feel resentment even when other people are subject to humiliation, but that sometimes we do not feel it despite perceiving an injury done to others. 

Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage