David Hume's Argument on Passion and Morality Essays

David Hume's Argument on Passion and Morality Essays

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Why is incest deplorable amongst humans, but not for dogs? What makes it acceptable for a man to kill a deer, but wrong if he kills another man? Why do these lines get drawn between humans and animals? David Hume has an answer to these questions. Though many philosophers, like Saint Augustine, argue that humans are morally different from animals because of their capability to reason, Hume states that it is passion and sentiment that determines morality. In his book, Treatise with Human Nature, Hume claims that vice and virtue stems from the pleasure or pain we, mankind, feel in response to an action not from the facts that we observe (Hume, 218). Hume uses logic to separate morality into a dichotomy of fact and value, making it clear that the only reasonable way to think of the ethics of morality is to understand that it is driven by passion, as opposed to reason (Angeles, 95). In this essay I will layout Hume's position on morality and defining ambiguous terms on the way. After Hume's argument is well established, I will then precede to illustrate why it is convincing and defend his thesis against some common objections.

Before Hume can begin to explain what morality is, he lays down a foundation of logic to build on by clarifying what he thinks the mind is. Hume states that the facts the mind sees are just the perceptions we have of things around us, such as color, sound, and heat (Hume, 215). These perceptions can be divided into the two categories of ideas and impressions (215). Both of these categories rely on reason to identify and explain what is observed and inferred. However, neither one of these sufficiently explains morality, for to Hume, morals “. . .excite passions, and produce or prevent actions” (216)....

... middle of paper ...

...ouple of spots in his argument may be hazy, you are able to make a logical leap from statement to statement, in my opinion. His argument should also convince anyone else with a remotely open mind about where morality really comes from.

Works Cited

Angeles, Peter A. “Ethics, is/ought dichotomy in.” The HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: HarperPerennial. 1992. 95. Print.
Hume, David. “A Treatise of Human Nature. Excerpts from Book III. Part I. Sect. I-II.” Morality and the Good Life: An Introduction to Ethics through the Classical Sources. 5th ed. Eds. Robert C. Solomon, Clancy W. Martin, and Wayne Vaught. Boston: McGraw- Hill, 2009. 215-220. Print.
Hume, David. “Moral Distinctions Not Derived from Reason” Excerpts from Book III. Part I. Sections I-II. A Treatise on Human Nature. Public domain: Project Gutenberg, 1739. PDF file.

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