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Hume And Non Cognitivism Notes

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This is an extract of our Hume And Non Cognitivism document, which we sell as part of our Ethics Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford University students.

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Hume & Non-Cogntivism Treatise on Human Nature - Hume
? Denies the "suppos'd pre-eminence of reason above passion."
? "Mathematics, indeed, are useful in all mechanical operations, and arithmetic in almost every art and profession: But 'tis not of themselves they have any influence."
? "Abstract or demonstrative reasoning...never influences any of our actions, but only as it directs our judgment concerning causes and effects; which leads us to the second operation of the understanding."
? "Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse." o "We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. 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."
? "When I am angry, I am actually possessed with the passion, and in that emotion have no more a reference to any other object, than when I am thirsty, or sick, or more than five foot high. 'Tis impossible, therefore, that this passions can be oppos'd by, or be contradictory to truth and reason; since this contradiction consists in the disagreement of ideas, considered as copies, with those objects, which they represent."
? 2 senses in which any passion can be called 'unreasonable' (even though not in a strict): o When it is founded on the supposition of the exists of objects/states of affairs which do not actually exist. o When in exerting any passion in action, we choose means insufficient for the end, and deceive ourselves in our judgement of causes and effects.
? "'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger."
? "The common error of metaphysicians has lain in ascribing the direction of the will entirely to one of these principles [reason or passion], and supposing the other to have no influence."
? "Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason."
? "As long as it is allowed, that reason has no influence on our passions and actions, 'tis in vain to pretend, that morality is discovered only by a deduction of reason."
? "An active principle can never be founded on an inactive; and if reason be inactive in itself, it must remain so in all its shapes and appearances."
? "Reason is the discovery of truth or falsehood. Truth or falsehood consists in an agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to real existence and matter of fact. Whatever, therefore, is not susceptible of this agreement or disagreement, is incapable of being true or false, and can never be an object of our reason." 'Humean Theory of Practical Rationality' - P. Railton
? Moral rationalism: moral requirements are requirements of practical reason itself.
? Moral cognitivism: moral judgements can be true or false.

?

Neo-Humean theory of action & of practical reason: actions are behaviours suitably caused by an intention, which involves, at minimum, a belief-desire pair. o "This 'belief/desire asymmetry' helps explain not only their complementary roles in causing and explaining action it also fits with a compact and compelling explanation of the is/ought distinction and related fact/value distinction." o "[A]gents are rational (roughly) to the extent that they take the means appropriate to their ends, relative to what they believe." o "The neo-Humean theory is sometimes called internalist with regard to reasons for action, because it treats some sort of motivation on the part of the agent, such as desire, as a necessary component of intentional action, while also treating desire as a genuinely motivational psychological state." o Issue: also externalist with regard to morality itself.
? But are all goals rational? "The problem of self-coordination over time, like the problem of interpersonal coordination among agents, could furnish grounds for a wider conception of what instrumental rationality really involves." o "Many of the arguments neo-Humeans offer on behalf of the idea that desire cannot be based upon reason could be applied with equal force to belief."
? "[E]ither the process of forming a will is in itself an action, or it is a 'merely natural sequence' that results causally from the agent's current thoughts, aim, and expectations. If it is the former, then a regress is launched; if it is the latter, then the theory already concedes that intentional action can arise 'naturally', without a prior act of will to set it in motion."
? On Hume's view, "since reason alone cannot either require or explain moral motivation, humans can be expected to be moral only to the extent that they reliably possess and act on certain desires." The Moral Philosophers: Ch. on Hume - R. Norman
? Hume uses the term 'sympathy' in an antiquated way which is more broad - capacity to be moved or affected by the happiness and suffering of others.
? "Hume's central claim is that when we ascribe moral praise or blame, that praise or blame derives from an attitude of sympathy."
? Reformulation of Hume's position: "Moral judgements are not a direct expression of our feelings of sympathy. Rather, the operation of sympathy enables us to adopt certain criteria for the ascription of moral praise and blame, and moral judgements are then made by the application of these criteria." Hume's Moral Theory - J.L. Mackie
? "Hume says explicitly that I can prefer what I know to be a lesser good to a greater. The greatness of the goods cannot then be measured by the degree of my preference, but perhaps by the amount of pleasure they will bring." o Must be possible for desires to fail to be correlated with expected pleasures.
? "If it were conceded that reason forbids one to prefer a lesser good, we should be granting the rational superiority of self-love or prudence to particular passions, and then it might seem arbitrary to draw the line and refuse to recognize an analogous supremacy of conscience."

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