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)
On a standard interpretation, Hume argued that reason is not practical, because its operations are limited to “demonstration” and “probability.” But recent critics claim that by limiting reason’s operations to only these two, his argument begs the question. Despite this, a better argument for motivational skepticism can be found in Hume’s text, one that emphasizes reason’s inability to generate motive force against contrary desires or passions. Nothing can oppose an impulse but a contrary impulse, Hume believed, and reason cannot generate (...) an impulse. This better argument is here developed and defended. Two lines of objection to it can be anticipated: that reason actually can generate impulsive force, based on contents of its normative judgments and that reason neither can nor needs to generate an impulse, since the actions of rational agents are not determined by forceful impulses of desire, as Hume supposed. These objections are answered by pointing out their unsatisfying consequences. (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)
That Hume 's theory can be interpreted in two widely divergent ways-as a version of sentimentalism and as an ideal observer theory-is symptomatic of a puzzle ensconced in Hume 's theory. How can the ground of morality be internal and motivating when an inference to the feelings of a spectator in "the general point of view" is typically necessary to get to genuine moral distinctions? This paper considers and rejects the suggestion that in moral education, for Hume, the inculcation of (...) morality internalizes the sentiments of the ideal observer. It ultimately offers a different resolution of the conflicting strains. (shrink)
On Hume's account, when we lack virtues that would typically prompt moral action, we can instead be motivated by the "sense of duty." Surprisingly, Hume seems to maintain that, in such cases, we are motivated by a desire to avoid the unpleasantness of "self-hatred" evoked in us when we realize we lack certain traits others possess. This account has led commentators to argue that Hume is not a moral internalist, since motivation by duty is motivation by a self-interested desire. This (...) paper concludes that Hume is indeed a moral internalist and that the motive of duty can be understood as a form of motivation by moral disapprobation in a way supported by Hume's general motivational psychology. (shrink)
Hume argues against the seventeenth-century rationalists that reason is impotent to motivate action and to originate morality. Hume's arguments have standardly been considered the foundation for the Humean theory of motivation in contemporary philosophy. The Humean theory alleges that beliefs require independent desires to motivate action. Recently, however, new commentaries allege that Hume's argument concerning the inertness of reason has no bearing on whether beliefs can motivate. These commentaries maintain that for Hume, beliefs about future pleasurable and painful objects on (...) their own can produce the desires that move us to action. First, I show that this reading puts Hume at odds with Humeans, since the latter are committed, not only to the view that beliefs and desires are both necessary to action, but also to the view that beliefs do not produce desires. Second, I review textual, philosophical and historical grounds for my interpretation of Hume's argument for the inertness of reason. I argue that the new line on Hume, while consistent with a certain reading of the Treatise, is not supported by the Dissertation on the Passions and the second Enquiry, where Hume argues that all motivation has an origin in “taste”, which I take to be different from belief. Thus, Hume's arguments do support the contemporary Humean theory of motivation. (shrink)
Rachel Cohon's Hume is a moral sensing theorist, who holds both that moral qualities 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. 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)
Hume’s distinction between the calm and violent passions is one whose boundaries are not entirely clear. However, it is crucial to understanding his motivational theory and to identifying an unusual virtue he calls “strength of mind,” the motivational prevalence of the calm passions over the violent. In this paper, I investigate the boundaries of the calm passions and consider the constitution of strength of mind and why Hume regards it as an admirable trait. These are provocative issues for two reasons. (...) First, it seems as though one might exhibit the prevalence of calm over violent passions, even if the prevailing calm passions are vicious traits of character. Second, the natural virtues for Hume are non-moral motives that garner approval for the effects they tend to produce. But strength of mind is unique in that it is not defined in terms of a particular motive, but in terms of the causal force (strength) of any number of motives in competition with others. (shrink)
in a recent article entitled “Hume on the Passions,” Stephen Buckle opens with the claim that Hume’s theory of the passions has largely been neglected. “Apart from a couple of famous sections in the Treatise concerning the sources of action,” he writes, “the subject matter has rarely excited interest.”1 His analysis of why the subject of the passions in Hume has been uninspiring points to the fact that readers have largely misunderstood the point of Hume’s theory. They usually regard the (...) account as yet another mechanistic analysis of the passions in the vein of seventeenth-century science, alongside the offerings of Malebranche, Hobbes, and Spinoza. Buckle is right to point out that there is a.. (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.
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 all desires are reason‐giving, but we have best reason to do what we most care about, and the rationality of desires derives from the normative perspective we take on our desires in attempting to determine their relative importance to us. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a close study of Hume’s treatment of contrary passions, asking questions about his description of the psychology of emotional difference and opposition. In treating this topic, I examine two opposed, but noteworthy, psychological functions that Hume imputes to human beings: sympathy and comparison. In brief, sympathy is the mechanism by which we share others’ feelings, and comparison is the function of our minds by which we find ourselves feeling passions opposed to others’ experiences. Sympathy can (...) lead me to feel pleased at your good fortune, while comparison can lead me to feel resentment or envy at the same. I also examine another form of opposition in Hume’s theory: the distinction between calm and violent passions, a distinction which plays an important part in Hume’s account of motivation. Among the questions I ask here are: what counts as contrary passions; how conflicts are psychologically possible within the context of Hume’s theory, which declares that dominant passions “swallow” inferior ones; and what the effects of contrariety are on our psychology and motivation to action. (shrink)
Comprised of twenty-nine specially commissioned essays, _A Companion to Hume_ examines the depth of the philosophies and influence of one of history's most remarkable thinkers. Demonstrates the range of Hume's work and illuminates the ongoing debates that it has generated Organized by subject, with introductions to each section to orient the reader Explores topics such as knowledge, passion, morality, religion, economics, and politics Examines the paradoxes of Hume's thought and his legacy, covering the methods, themes, and consequences of his contributions (...) to philosophy. (shrink)
David Hume’s theory of action is well known for several provocative theses, including that passion and reason cannot be opposed over the direction of action. In Hume, Passion, and Action, the author defends an original interpretation of Hume’s views on passion, reason and motivation that is consistent with other theses in Hume’s philosophy, loyal to his texts, and historically situated. This book challenges the now orthodox interpretation of Hume on motivation, presenting an alternative that situates Hume closer to “Humeans” than (...) many recent interpreters have. Part of the strategy is to examine the thinking of the early modern intellectuals to whom Hume responds. Most of these thinkers insisted that passions lead us to pursue harmful objects unless regulated by reason; and most regarded passions as representations of good and evil, which can be false. Understanding Hume’s response to these claims requires appreciating his respective characterizations of reason and passion. The author argues that Hume’s thesis that reason is practically impotent apart from passion is about beliefs generated by reason, rather than about the capacity of reason. Furthermore, the argument makes sense of Hume’s sometimes-ridiculed description of passions as “original existences” having no reference to objects. The author also shows how Hume understood morality as intrinsically motivating, while holding that moral beliefs are not themselves motives, and why he thought of passions as self-regulating, contrary to the admonitions of the rationalists. (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.