In this paper, I discuss the implications of Hutcheson’s and Hume’s sentimentalist theories for the question of whether and how we can offer reasons to be moral. Hutcheson and Hume agree that reason does not give us ultimate ends. Because of this, on Hutcheson’s line, the possession of affections and of a moral sense makes practical reasons possible. On Hume’s view, that reason does not give us ultimate ends means that reason does not motivate on its own, and this makes (...) practical reasons, strictly speaking, impossible. For Hutcheson, those who are good people (benevolent people) have reasons to continue in that way. While he has nothing to say to those who are thoroughly self-interested, he thinks there are no such persons. Hume’s theory implies that one can have a motive to behave morally when one’s character does not so incline, since he believes that morality is at least sometimes in the interest of the agent. One interesting source of their differences is that Hume subscribes to an internal connection between justification and motivation, while Hutcheson argues that motivating reasons and justifying reasons are logically distinct. -/- . (shrink)
Humeans about practical reasoning have tried to explain how some of our desires are reason-giving and some are not. On one account, we act from reasons only when we act on desires that cohere in a consistent set. On another account, we act on reasons only when we act on desires that do not undermine our values. Both accounts are problematic. First, the notion of a consistent set of desires is vague and introduces a criterion not necessarily rooted in the (...) agent's own motivations. Second, valuing is a matter of degree: we cannot divide desires into those that reflect values and those that don't. I maintain instead that (1) all desires are reason-giving, but we have best reason to do what we most care about, and (2) the rationality of desires derives from the normative perspective we take on our desires in attempting to determine their relative importance to us. (shrink)
A radical implication of Hume’s theory of motivation is that it makes no sense, strictly speaking, to call actions rational or irrational. So, he claims, it is not contrary to reason for me to prefer the destruction of the world to getting a scratch on my finger.
Rachel Cohon's Hume is a moral sensing theorist, who holds both that moral qualities (virtue and vice) are mind-dependent and that there is such a thing as moral knowledge. He is an anti-rationalist about motivation, arguing that reason alone does not motivate, but allows that both beliefs and passions are motivating. (That is, some beliefs cause passions and some passions cause action.) And he is both a descriptive and a normative moral theorist who, despite having resources for putting checks on (...) our sentimentally-based moral evaluations, does end up with a kind of a relativistic account of the virtues and vices. Professor Cohon's arguments in Hume's Morality1 are tight and vigorous. Anyone working on these .. (shrink)
Part of the Blackwell Readings in the History of Philosophy series, this survey of late modern philosophy focuses on the key texts and philosophers of the period whose beliefs changed the course of western thought. Gathers together the key texts from the most significant and influential philosophers of the late modern era to provide a thorough introduction to the period. Features the writings of Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Leibniz, Kant, Rousseau, Bentham and other leading thinkers. Examines such topics as empiricism, rationalism, (...) and the existence of God. Readings are accompanied by expert commentary from the editors, who are leading scholars in the field. (shrink)
Most naturalists think that the belief/desire model from Hume is the best framework for making sense of motivation. As Smith has argued, given that the cognitive state (belief) and the conative state (desire) are separate on this model, if a moral judgment is cognitive, it could not also be motivating by itself. So, it looks as though Hume and Humeans cannot hold that moral judgments are states of belief (moral cognitivism) and internally motivating (moral internalism). My chief claim is that (...) the details of Hume’s naturalistic philosophy of mind actually allow for a conjunction of these allegedly incompatible views. This thesis is significant, since readers typically have thought that Hume’s view that motivation is not produced by representations, coupled with his view that moral judgments motivate on their own, imply that moral judgments could never take the form of beliefs about, or representations of, the moral (virtue and vice). (shrink)
Hume’s thesis that reason alone does not motivate is taken as the ground for this theory: Reason produces beliefs only, and beliefs are mere representations of fact, which, without passions for the objects the beliefs concern, cannot move anyone at all. Discussions of the Humean theory of motivation usually begin with the motivating passions in place without asking about their genesis. This emphasis, I think, overlooks a good deal of what Hume’s thesis concerning the motivational impotence of reason is about: (...) It concerns the incapacity of reason to generate the motivating passions in the first place, and not just the ineffectiveness of beliefs, without passions, to produce action. [...] In this paper, I will offer an interpretation of Hume's theory of motive formation and show how it provides crucial support for a famous claim in his argument against the moral rationalists[...]. As it turns out, reason does play a necessary role in motive formation even for Hume, but the answer why it is not sufficient is a telling difference between a rationalist moral psychology and Hume's. (shrink)