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Portrait of David Hume (detail) by Allan Ramsey (1754)

Páll S. Árdal (1924 - 2003)

Páll S. Árdal was born in Akureyri, in the north of Iceland, on June 27th, 1924, and was raised there. He completed his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh in 1961 and held a position at that university for a time as Lecturer in Philosophy. He was also visiting professor at Dartmouth College and at the University of Toronto before settling down at Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he spent the longest part of his career and where he held the prestigious Charlton chair. Kingston is a center for Canadian prisons, and Páll devoted a great deal of time to teaching philosophy to prison inmates. From the late 1970s onward Páll suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which became seriously incapacitating in the final years of his life. He campaigned to increase understanding of the plight of Parkinsonism by lecturing to various professional and general audiences. Páll S. Ádal died in Kingston in the last days of March, 2003, in his 79th year.    ( –Mikael M. Karlsson)

In 1966 Ádal published his influential Passion and Value in Hume’s Treatise (Edinburgh Univ. Press). The aim was to show how the principles that underlie human passions, as explained the Book II of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, inform the moral theory developed in Book III. Previous scholarship had actually presented two Humes: the skeptic of Book I of the Treatise; and the sentimental moralist of Book III. The distinction between them had been reinforced by the first and second Enquiries. Árdal brought these two strands of Hume’s thought together into a unified philosophy, giving the neglected passions a central role.

All in all, this is a thoughtful and persuasively argued book. The exposition is in general clear enough, although it is encumbered by one or two rather lengthy digressions.... While always a scrupulously sympathetic commentator, Ardal is by no means an uncritical one; in particular, he has sharp things to say about the odder aspects of Hume’s psychological doctrines. Yet the predominant impression left by his study is of the intricacy and subtlety of Hume’s reasonings, the shrewdness of many of his particular observations. And this, no doubt, is as it should be.

–Patrick Gardiner, Philosophy (April 1968)

Passions, Promises and Punishment (University of Iceland, 1998) is a retrospective collection of fifteen of Páll Árdal’s philosophical essays. Included also is a comprehensive introductory article by Fred Wilson, entitled “Árdal’s Contribution to Philosophy.” Wilson writes there: “I propose to present ... the themes of central importance in Árdal’s work.... First, there is the re-reading of Hume that is required by his tracing of the role of the passions in Hume’s thought.... Second, there is the re-location of Hume historically as belonging not merely to the sceptical tradition and not merely to the tradition of contractarian and utilitarian thought, but also to a tradition in which the passions and sympathy play a central role.... Third, there are the implications of the Humean theme of sympathy that Árdal takes up and shows to be of central importance to several issues in contemporary moral theory, including medical ethics.”

The collection of these essays is most welcome, and a great service to Hume scholarship and to the philosophical community at large.... I am sure we shall all be in the editors’ debt for a long time, and I would wish to join my words of tribute to those in Fred Wilson’s opening essay on Páll Árdal’s work.

–Terence Penelhum, Hume Studies (April 2000)


“Hume and Davidson on Pride”
Páll S. Árdal, Hume Studies (November 1989)

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