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In his philosophical work David Hume did not tackled the issue of the moral status of animals. He
famously adopted a full continuist view on human and animal passions, but he also expressed
skepticism on the possibility of extending the artificial virtue of justice to animals (a view that has
been critically discussed and modified by Annette Baier). Nonetheless, Hume’s philosophy has
much to say for the contemporary discussion on the ethics of human/animal relationships. In
particular, in my paper I will try to show how a specific approach to vegetarianism (an umbrella
term including many different food choices) can be drawn from humean premises. This approach
mainly consists in three ideas. First, our concern for animals that can be used (or not used) for our
food is grounded in a reflection on moral sentiments triggered by sympathy and imagination.
Second, such a concern and the life-style choices following from it have a general consequentialist
flavor but they are definitively aimed at cultivating our own character. Third, vegetarianism is a
transformation of habits that - accordingly to humean ideas - must be understood as a slow process
and, therefore, we should look carefully at moral arguments prescribing too radical changes on the
basis of pure rational normative arguments.
(Sapienza Università di Roma)