Research Article

Huck Finn, Moral Reasons and Sympathy

Craig Taylor 

Flinders University


In his influential paper ‘The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn’, Jonathan Bennett suggests that Huck's failure to turn in the runaway slave Jim as his conscience – a conscience distorted by racism – tells him he ought to is not merely right but also praiseworthy. James Montmarquet however argues against what he sees here as Bennett's ‘anti-intellectualism’ in moral psychology that insofar as Huck lacks and so fails to act on the moral belief that he should help Jim his action is not praiseworthy. In this paper I suggest that we should reject Montmarquet's claim here; that the case of Huck Finn indicates rather how many of our everyday moral responses to others do not and need not depend on any particular moral beliefs we hold about them or their situation.

Craig Taylor is Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. He is the author of Sympathy: A Philosophical Analysis (2002), Moralism: A Study of a Vice (2012) and co-editor of Hume and Enlightenment (2011).