Revue Internationale de Philosophie 2013 (no. 263):9-27 (2013)

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe
College of William and Mary
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.
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