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That is, rather than reducing the self to a bundle of perceptions, Hume is rejecting the idea of the self altogether. An essential question of practical reason for Hume was whether or not standards or principles exist and if they do, what they are for practical reason, that are also authoritative for all rational beings, dictating people's intentions and actions. Hume is mainly considered an anti-rationalist, denying the possibility for practical reason as a principle to exist, although other philosophers such as Christine Korsgaard , Jean Hampton , and Elijah Millgram claim that Hume is not so much of an anti-rationalist as he is just a sceptic of practical reason.

Hume denied the existence of practical reason as a principle because he claimed reason does not have any effect on morality, since morality is capable of producing effects in people that reason alone cannot create. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason.

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Since practical reason is supposed to regulate our actions in theory , Hume denied practical reason on the grounds that reason cannot directly oppose passions. As Hume puts it, "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

Practical reason is also concerned with the value of actions rather than the truth of propositions, [] so Hume believed that reason's shortcoming of affecting morality proved that practical reason could not be authoritative for all rational beings, since morality was essential for dictating people's intentions and actions. Hume's writings on ethics began in the Treatise and were refined in his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals His views on ethics are that "[m]oral decisions are grounded in moral sentiment.

Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason itself is utterly impotent in this particular.

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Hume's moral sentimentalism about morality was shared by his close friend Adam Smith, [] [ failed verification ] and Hume and Smith were mutually influenced by the moral reflections of their older contemporary Francis Hutcheson. Hume also put forward the is—ought problem , later called Hume's Law , [] denying the possibility of logically deriving what ought to be from what is.

He wrote in the Treatise that in every system of morality he has read, the author begins with stating facts about the world, but then suddenly is always referring to what ought to be the case. Hume demands that a reason should be given for inferring what ought to be the case, from what is the case.

This is because it "seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others". Hume's theory of ethics has been influential in modern-day meta-ethical theory , [] helping to inspire emotivism , [] and ethical expressivism and non-cognitivism , [] [ failed verification ] as well as Allan Gibbard 's general theory of moral judgment and judgments of rationality. Hume's ideas about aesthetics and the theory of art are spread throughout his works, but are particularly connected with his ethical writings, and also the essays Of the Standard of Taste and Of Tragedy.

His views are rooted in the work of Joseph Addison and Francis Hutcheson. In Of the Standard of Taste , Hume argues that no rules can be drawn up about what is a tasteful object. However, a reliable critic of taste can be recognised as being objective, sensible and unprejudiced, and having extensive experience. Hume was concerned with the way spectators find pleasure in the sorrow and anxiety depicted in a tragedy. He argued that this was because the spectator is aware that he is witnessing a dramatic performance.

There is pleasure in realising that the terrible events that are being shown are actually fiction. Hume, along with Thomas Hobbes, is cited as a classical compatibilist about the notions of freedom and determinism. Hume, to this end, was influenced greatly by the scientific revolution and by in particular Sir Isaac Newton. He wrote: "From this circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot Hume defines the concept of necessity as "the uniformity, observable in the operations of nature; where similar objects are constantly conjoined together", [] and liberty as "a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will".

For if our actions were not necessitated in the above sense, they would "have so little in connexion with motives, inclinations and circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of uniformity from the other". But if our actions are not thus connected to the will, then our actions can never be free: they would be matters of "chance; which is universally allowed to have no existence". Once this has been abandoned, Hume argues that "liberty and necessity will be found not to be in conflict one with another".

Moreover, Hume goes on to argue that in order to be held morally responsible , it is required that our behaviour be caused or necessitated, for, as he wrote:. Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil.

Hume describes the link between causality and our capacity to rationally make a decision from this an inference of the mind. Human beings assess a situation based upon certain predetermined events and from that form a choice. Hume believes that this choice is made spontaneously. Hume calls this form of decision making the liberty of spontaneity. Education writer Richard Wright considers that Hume's position rejects a famous moral puzzle attributed to French philosopher Jean Buridan.

The Buridan's ass puzzle describes a donkey that is hungry. This donkey has on both sides of him separate bales of hay, which are of equal distances from him. The problem concerns which bale the donkey chooses. Buridan was said to believe that the donkey would die, because he has no autonomy. The donkey is incapable of forming a rational decision as there is no motive to choose one bale of hay over the other. However, human beings are different, because a human who is placed in a position where he is forced to choose one loaf of bread over another will make a decision to take one in lieu of the other.


One Hundred Poems (Constructive Living Book 10) David K. Reynolds Ph.D.

For Buridan, humans have the capacity of autonomy, and he recognises the choice that is ultimately made will be based on chance, as both loaves of bread are exactly the same. However, Wright says that Hume completely rejects this notion, arguing that a human will spontaneously act in such a situation because he is faced with impending death if he fails to do so.

Such a decision is not made on the basis of chance, but rather on necessity and spontaneity, given the prior predetermined events leading up to the predicament. Hume's argument is supported by modern-day compatibilists such as R. Hobart , a pseudonym of philosopher Dickinson S.

Strawson argued that the issue of whether we hold one another morally responsible does not ultimately depend on the truth or falsity of a metaphysical thesis such as determinism. This is because our so holding one another is a non-rational human sentiment that is not predicated on such theses. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that Hume "wrote forcefully and incisively on almost every central question in the philosophy of religion.

Here he argued that the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all derive from earlier polytheistic religions. He also suggested that all religious belief "traces, in the end, to dread of the unknown. Although he wrote a great deal about religion, Hume's personal views are unclear, and there has been much discussion concerning his religious position.

In his treatise on miracles, he attempts to separate historical method from the narrative accounts of miracles. The best theologian he ever met, he used to say, was the old Edinburgh fishwife who, having recognized him as Hume the atheist, refused to pull him out of the bog into which he had fallen until he declared he was a Christian and repeated the Lord's prayer.

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However, in works such as Of Superstition and Enthusiasm , Hume specifically seems to support the standard religious views of his time and place. This still meant that he could be very critical of the Catholic Church , dismissing it with the standard Protestant accusations of superstition and idolatry, [] [] as well as dismissing as idolatry what his compatriots saw as uncivilised beliefs.

In his Treatise on Human Nature , Hume wrote: "Generally speaking, the errors in religions are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous. Philosopher Paul Russell writes that Hume was plainly sceptical about religious belief, although perhaps not to the extent of complete atheism. He suggests that Hume's position is best characterised by the term "irreligion", [] while philosopher David O'Connor argues that Hume's final position was "weakly deistic ". For O'Connor, Hume's "position is deeply ironic.

This is because, while inclining towards a weak form of deism , he seriously doubts that we can ever find a sufficiently favourable balance of evidence to justify accepting any religious position. One of the traditional topics of natural theology is that of the existence of God , and one of the a posteriori arguments for this is the argument from design or the teleological argument. The argument is that the existence of God can be proved by the design that is obvious in the complexity of the world. The fact that the universe as a whole is a coherent and efficiently functioning system likewise, in this view, indicates a divine intelligence behind it.

In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , Hume wrote that the design argument seems to depend upon our experience, and its proponents "always suppose the universe, an effect quite singular and unparalleled, to be the proof of a Deity, a cause no less singular and unparalleled". Loeb notes that Hume is saying that only experience and observation can be our guide to making inferences about the conjunction between events.

However, according to Hume, "we observe neither God nor other universes, and hence no conjunction involving them.


There is no observed conjunction to ground an inference either to extended objects or to God, as unobserved causes. Hume also criticised the argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion In this, he suggested that, even if the world is a more or less smoothly functioning system, this may only be a result of the "chance permutations of particles falling into a temporary or permanent self-sustaining order, which thus has the appearance of design.

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