Hume on Practical Reason: Normativity and Psychology in Treatise 2.3.3

Hume Studies 31 (2):299-316 (2005)

David Phillips
University of Houston
I argue for an interpretation of Hume on practical reason different both from the traditional instrumentalist interpretation and the more recent nihilist interpretation. Both involve reading Hume as making normative claims. On the nihilist interpretation, Hume denies that either passions or actions can violate authoritative norms of reason; on the instrumentalist interpretation, Hume denies that passions can violate authoritative norms of reason, but holds that instrumentally irrational actions violate the one such authoritative norm. I argue instead for a purely psychological interpretation of T 2.3.3 and parallel passages in T 3.1.1. As I interpret him, Hume does not here even address the question whether passions or actions can violate authoritative norms. His conclusion is merely that a person’s beliefs cannot conflict with her passions.
Keywords History of Philosophy  Major Philosophers
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Reprint years 2005
ISBN(s) 0319-7336
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