Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems such as those regarding existence, reality, knowledge, values, the human mind and language. “I think, therefore I am” is a famous quotation that attempts to define this study very simply, and the philosopher quoted was Rene Descartes, a 17th century Frenchman who is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Philosophy. David Hume was an 18th century Scotsman who is considered by many to be the most important philosopher ever to write in English. The intention here is to explain Hume’s theory of virtue and vice in the light of his views about practical rationality, which is the use of reason to help one decide how to act.
Even though it was customary for lads to attend schools of higher learning at age fourteen in the 18th century, David Hume started college at Edinburgh University before the age of twelve. It was there that he discovered his passion for philosophy. He eventually moved to the same part of France where Descartes studied a century earlier, to pursue more knowledge, and begin writing his own philosophical ideas. His first publication was not well received in Great Britain, but his ideas stirred up enough controversy to fuel his life-long reputation as an atheist. In this first work entitled, A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume concluded that desire, rather than reason governs human behavior whether virtuous or evil. This was in stark contrast to the philosophy of Descartes and other noted philosophical scholars, thereby creating the uphill climb that became necessary for Hume to be taken seriously.
His writings concerning religion always seemed to offend some, whether they be Catholic, Protestant or even the Church of Scotland, whos...
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...ly when it is committed against parents, especially in cases resulting in parental death. One point Hume makes that is applicable is that all animals are susceptible to the same virtues and vices. The difference is that the human superior ability to think and reason serves to help us distinguish between the two, and by using reason we can solicit praise or blame by our actions.
One position Hume makes that has been criticized is that morality is not an object of reason. Using willful murder as an example of a vicious act, nowhere in the examination can you find a matter of fact called vice. You find passions such as anger or jealousy. Motives such as greed can also be identified, but not vice. The facts are the results of feelings, not reason. Vice and virtue, therefore may be compared to temperatures, noises, colors which are all perceptions of the human mind.
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