An analysis of the topic of the humes moral theory

david hume ideas

In the moral Enquiry Hume is more explicit about what he takes to be the errors of Christian or, more cautiously, Roman Catholic moralists.

In a long-established civil society, whatever ruler or type of government happens to be in place and successfully maintaining order and justice is legitimate, and is owed allegiance. The Representation Argument, then, makes a point a priori about the relevance of the functions of the understanding to the generation of actions.

But this presents two difficulties: first, our greed is not in fact best satisfied by just action in every case, and second, Hume denies that this motive is approved.

An analysis of the topic of the humes moral theory

However, the sympathetic transmission of sentiments can vary in effectiveness depending upon the degree of resemblance and contiguity between the observer and the person with whom he sympathizes. After listing these contradictions, Hume despairs over the failure of his metaphysical reasoning: The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another [Treatise, 1. Of the Passions. But once government is instituted, we come to have a moral obligation to obey our governors; this is another artificial duty that needs to be explained. He notes three such contradictions. Even a tacit contract requires that the will be engaged, and we have no memory of this; nor do governments refrain from punishing disloyalty in citizens who have given no tacit promise. While the sense of justice regarding private property is a firmly fixed habit, it is nevertheless its usefulness to society that gives it value. Either way, Hume denies that reason can evaluate the ends people set themselves; only passions can select ends, and reason cannot evaluate passions.

Hume attacks both natural and revealed religious beliefs in his various writings. The chief exception here is the moral sense school, which advocates an analysis of the moral life more like that of the Greek and Hellenistic thinkers, in terms of settled traits of character — although they too find a place for principles in their ethics.

Moral distinctions not derived from reason

The Philosophical Works of David Hume , ed. Four main interpretations have significant textual support. At first he felt that these contradictions were restricted to theories about the external world, but theories about the mind itself would be free from them, as he explains here: The essence and composition of external bodies are so obscure, that we must necessarily, in our reasonings, or rather conjectures concerning them, involve ourselves in contradictions and absurdities. Once we have a sufficient explanation for each particular fact in the infinite sequence of events, it makes no sense to inquire about the origin of the collection of these facts. One version says that the moral judgments, as distinct from the moral feelings, are factual judgments about the moral sentiments Capaldi. For every virtue, therefore, there must be some non-moral motive that characteristically motivates actions expressive of that virtue, which motive, by eliciting our approval, makes the actions so motivated virtuous. The mechanism of sympathy ultimately accounts for this approval and the corresponding disapproval of the natural vices. In a long-established civil society, whatever ruler or type of government happens to be in place and successfully maintaining order and justice is legitimate, and is owed allegiance. Sympathy in general operates as follows. Demonstrative reasoning discovers relations of ideas, and vice and virtue are not identical with any of the four philosophical relations resemblance, contrariety, degrees in quality, or proportions in quantity and number whose presence can be demonstrated. Our products, then, will be cheaper than foreign products, and we will gain money through exports. And of course, one can promise successfully incur obligation by promising even though one has no intention to perform; so the mental act requisite to obligation is not the intention to perform. Hume used all of the rhetorical devices at his disposal, and left it to his readers to decode his most controversial conclusions on religious subjects. Beauchamp ed. Consequently, who is the ruler will often be a matter of salience and imaginative association; and it will be no ground for legitimate rebellion that a ruler was selected arbitrarily.

Sympathy in general operates as follows. He also explains the social construction of the other artificial virtues and what social good they serve. The traits he calls artificial virtues are the ones we need for successful impersonal cooperation; our natural sentiments are too partial to give rise to these without intervention.

Thus material honesty becomes a virtue. I will then experience hope regarding the lottery and fear of being burglarized. We can remedy these natural defects by means of social cooperation: shared strength, division of labor, and mutual aid in times of individual weakness.

A treatise of human nature

Our aversion or propensity makes us seek the causes of the expected source of pain or pleasure, and we use causal reasoning to discover what they are. This does not mean that Hume condones murder, merely that immoral actions are not immoral because they are irrational. Specifically, Hume says that benevolent acts are virtuous because they are useful to many others. Hume does advocate some forms of government as being preferable to others, particularly in his Essays. This is a short but informative introduction by a great twentieth-century philosopher who sees himself as following in the Humean tradition. Scotticisms Hall, Rolland. His philosophical writings were among the most controversial pieces of literature of the time, and would have been impossible to publish if Britain was not a friend to liberty. Governors merely insure that the rules of justice are generally obeyed in the sort of society where purely voluntary conventions would otherwise break down. Also, the receiver may see the usefulness of your food donation, insofar as eating food will improve his health. Given that, can reason prevent action or resist passion in controlling the will? Once in power, rulers can also make legitimate use of their authority to resolve disputes over just what the rules of justice require in particular cases, and to carry out projects for the common good such as building roads and dredging harbors. Hume uses the familiar example of a golden mountain: this idea is a combination of an idea of gold and an idea of a mountain. For Hume, most morally significant qualities and actions seem to fall into more than one of these categories. As in the Treatise, Hume explains that reason does not cause our actions.

The second and more famous argument makes use of the conclusion defended earlier that reason alone cannot move us to act. While the sense of justice regarding private property is a firmly fixed habit, it is nevertheless its usefulness to society that gives it value.

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Hume’s Moral Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)