Hume's Reasons

Hume Studies 33 (2):211-256 (2007)
Hume's claim that reason is a slave to the passions involves both a causal thesis: reason cannot cause action without the aid of the passions, and an evaluative thesis: it is improper to evaluate our actions in terms of their reasonableness. On my reading, Hume motivates his causal thesis by arguing that accurate representation is the function of reason, where a faculty of this kind cannot produce action on its own. (The interpretation helps vindicate Hume of the common charge that he "begs the question" against his opponents.) But Hume's causal thesis does not entail his evaluative thesis, and his commitment to the latter is incredibly thin. According to Hume's positive theory, our evaluative judgments originate in reason integrated with sympathy or humanity. And, I argue, the resulting view depicts us as having substantive, non-instrumental reasons to fulfill our obligations to both prudence and morality.
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DOI hume200733214
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