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Slaves of the Passions is a tour de force. Schroeder as achieved the most sophisticated and resourceful defense of the Humean theory of practical reasons I know. In addition, he clarifies the debate by bringing out controversial suppressed premises that have confused previous discussion. A remarkably creative and insightful book.
Who deserves credit for developing the most thorough-going and plausible version of a Humean theory of reasons? The answer is: Mark Schroeder, the author of the astonishingly rigorous and original, and yet still highly readable, Slaves of the Passions. Those who thought there was nothing new to be said about the Humean theory had better think again.
Mark Schroeder’s Slaves of the Passions offers the best, most complete book-length defense available of a Humean conception of normative reasons for action. Part of what makes this book so needed, valuable, and worth celebrating is that it has had so few serious contenders for that title. But the book’s virtues are not merely that it fills an exceedingly large gap in the literature. It is also wide-ranging, innovative, systematic, and rigorous.... The book is wide-ranging and complex.
Mark Schroeder’s Slaves of the Passions is the most systematic defense yet constructed of a broadly ‘Humean’ conception of normative reasons for action, according to which all of one’s reasons are ultimately explained by facts about one’s psychology. This, however, radically undersells the book, which is simply breathtaking in its scope, originality, and density of powerful ideas. So: if you care about deep questions in ethics, you should read it. It is also rhetorically Humean, written so engagingly that even those without prior interest in its subject may simply enjoy witnessing such a superb example of philosophical argument.
Slaves is a wonderful book: clearly, the book advances our understanding of Humeanism, the challenges it faces, and the resources available for it to deal with them. Furthermore, the book is rich in ideas and arguments that should be of interest to anyone thinking about normativity and practical reasoning, even if they are not interested in the prospects of Humeanism more particularly. And for the most part, the book can serve as a paradigm of good philosophical writing—clear, explicit about its underlying philosophical motivations, honest about the problems facing the view, and at the same time both richly imaginative and uncompromisingly argumentative.
Last updated 2.12.2018.