This video records Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s somewhat rambling lecture, wherein he discusses a few themes in Hume’s ethical work which he deems relevant today. Specifically, Sen wants to advocate for Hume’s argument that society’s globalization tends to expand its moral sensitivities. We hear that Hume was among the first to argue that a society’s mores were a function of its culture rather than physical circumstances. Hume was also an early critic of then-nascent British imperialism, arguing that it demeaned the conquerers as much as the conquered.
Many of the Humean insights to which Sen refers seem so obviously true today as to be unworthy of further discussion. But perhaps that says as much of Hume’s foresight and intellectual victory as the tepid nature of Sen’s summary. To be honest, I couldn’t tease out any great insights from the lecture, but I’ll let Sen’s intellectual cred justify the post, and anyway it may prove interesting to those trying to assess Hume’s contributions, if not his continued relevance.