General Rules in the Moral Theories of Smith and Hume

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 5 (2):119-134 (2007)
Adam Smith and David Hume agree that first-level general rules of morality may be discovered by induction, and that reflection on these rules may influence human behavior. But Hume thinks a deeper, second level of moral general rules may also be discovered, and used to correct erroneous first-level rules (which correction is a practice followed by the wise). Thus on Hume's view, some reasoned reflection may be needed in order to feel the proper moral sentiment (which sentiment would preferably then be internalized). Smith holds that, because of human inclination toward selfishness, first-level moral rules should be habitually used to override immediate impulse in the motivation of behavior. This is a valuable habit, but since most people are not able to form such rules for themselves, it is a good idea for them to follow moral rules provided by religion. There is something respectable, according to Smith, in sincerely following flawed moral rules provided by religion. Hume disagrees, holding that it is foolish and blameworthy, indeed dangerous, to follow flawed moral rules provided by religion.
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David Hume (1903). Essays Moral, Political, and Literary. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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