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Mari Kita simak lebih detailnya tentang Hume’s Moral Philosophy
Hume’s Moral Philosophy
Hume’s position in ethics, which is based on his empiricist theory of the mind, is best known for asserting four theses:
(1) Reason alone cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the “slave of the passions” (see Section 3)
(2) Morals are not derived from reason (see Section 4).
(3) Morals are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators who contemplate a character trait or action (see Section 7).
(4) While some virtues and vices are natural (see Section 13), others, including justice, are artificial (see Section 9). There is heated debate about what Hume intends by each of these theses and how he argues for them. They are best understood in the context of Hume’s meta-ethical theory and his ethic of virtue and vice.
Hume’s main ethical writings are Book 3 of his Treatise of Human Nature, “Of Morals” (which builds on Book 2, “Of the Passions”), his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, and some of his Essays. In part the moral Enquiry simply recasts central ideas from the moral part of the Treatise in a more accessible style; but there are important differences. The ethical positions and arguments of the Treatise are set out below, noting where the moral Enquiry agrees; differences between the Enquiry and the Treatise are discussed afterwards.
* 1. Issues from Hume’s Predecessors
* 2. The Passions and the Will
* 3. The Influencing Motives of the Will
* 4. Ethical Anti-rationalism
* 5. Is and Ought
* 6. The Nature of Moral Judgment
* 7. Sympathy, and the Nature and Origin of the Moral Sentiments
* 8. The Common Point of View
* 9. Artificial and Natural Virtues
* 10. Honesty with Respect to Property
o 10.1 The Circle
o 10.2 The Origin of Material Honesty
o 10.3 The Motive of Honest Actions
* 11. Fidelity to Promises
* 12. Allegiance to Government
* 13. The Natural Virtues
* 14. Differences between the Treatise and the Moral Enquiry
* Other Internet Resources
* Related Entries
1. Issues from Hume’s Predecessors
Hume inherits from his predecessors several controversies about ethics and political philosophy.
One is a question of moral epistemology: how do human beings become aware of, or acquire knowledge or belief about, moral good and evil, right and wrong, duty and obligation? Ethical theorists and theologians of the day held, variously, that moral good and evil are discovered: (a) by reason in some of its uses (Hobbes, Locke, Clarke), (b) by divine revelation (Filmer), (c) by conscience or reflection on one’s (other) impulses (Butler), or (d) by a moral sense as understood by Shaftesbury or Hutcheson (an emotional responsiveness manifesting itself in approval or disapproval). Hume sides with the moral sense theorists: we gain awareness of moral good and evil by experiencing the pleasure of approval and the uneasiness of disapproval when we contemplate a character trait or action from an imaginatively sensitive and unbiased point of view. Hume argues against the rationalists that although reason is needed to discover the facts of any concrete situation and the general social impact of a trait of character or a practice over time, reason alone is insufficient to yield a judgment that something is virtuous or vicious. In the last analysis, the facts as known must trigger a response by sentiment or “taste.”
A related but more metaphysical controversy would be stated thus today: what is the source or foundation of moral norms? In Hume’s day this is the question what is the ground of moral obligation (as distinct from what is the faculty for acquiring moral knowledge or belief). Moral rationalists of the period such as Clarke (and in some moods, Hobbes and Locke) argue that moral standards or principles are requirements of reason — that is, that the very rationality of right actions is the ground of our obligation to perform them. Divine voluntarists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such as Samuel Pufendorf claim that moral obligation or requirement, if not every sort of moral standard, is the product of God’s will. The moral sense theorists (Shaftesbury and Hutcheson) and Butler see all requirements to pursue goodness and avoid evil as consequent upon human nature, which is so structured that a particular feature of our consciousness (whether moral sense or conscience) evaluates the rest. Hume sides with the moral sense theorists on this question: it is because we are the kinds of creatures we are, with the dispositions we have for pain and pleasure, the kinds of familial and friendly interdependence that make up our life together, and our approvals and disapprovals of these, that we are bound by moral requirements at all.
Closely connected with the issue of the foundations of moral norms is the question whether moral requirements are natural or conventional. Hobbes and Mandeville see them as conventional, and Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, Locke, and others see them as natural. Hume mocks Mandeville’s contention that the very concepts of vice and virtue are foisted on us by scheming politicians who plan thereby to manage us more easily. If there were nothing in our experience and no sentiments in our minds to give rise to the concept of virtue, Hume says, no lavish praise of heroes could generate such a concept. Nonetheless, Hume thinks natural impulses of humanity and dispositions to approve cannot entirely account for our virtue of justice; a correct analysis of that requires the thesis that mankind, an “inventive species,” has cooperatively constructed rules of property and promise. Thus he takes an intermediate position.
Linked with these meta-ethical controversies is the dilemma of understanding the ethical life either as the “ancients” do, in terms of virtues and vices of character, or as the “moderns” do, primarily in terms of principles of duty or natural law. While even so law-oriented a thinker as Hobbes has a good deal to say about virtue, the ethical writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries predominantly favor a rule- or law-governed understanding of morals, giving priority to laws of nature or principles of duty. The chief exception here is the moral sense school, which advocates an analysis of the moral life more like that of the Greek and Hellenistic thinkers, in terms of settled traits of character — although they too find a place for principles in their ethics. Hume explicitly favors an ethic of character along “ancient” lines. Yet he insists on a role for rules of duty within the domain of what he calls the artificial virtues.
Hume’s predecessors famously took opposing positions on whether human nature was essentially selfish or benevolent, some arguing that man was so dominated by self-interested motives that for moral requirements to govern us at all they must serve our interests in some way, and others arguing that uncorrupted human beings naturally care about the weal and woe of others and here morality gets its hold. Hume roundly criticizes Hobbes for his insistence on psychological egoism or something close to it, and for his dismal, violent picture of a state of nature. Yet Hume resists the view of Hutcheson that all moral principles can be reduced to our benevolence, in part because he doubts that benevolence can sufficiently overcome our perfectly normal acquisitiveness. According to Hume’s observation, we are both selfish and humane. We possess greed, and also “limited generosity” — dispositions to kindness and liberality which are more powerfully directed toward kin and friends and less aroused by strangers. While for Hume the condition of humankind in the absence of organized society is not a war of all against all, neither is it the law-governed and highly cooperative domain imagined by Locke. It is a hypothetical condition in which we would care for our friends and cooperate with them, but in which self-interest and preference for friends over strangers would make any wider cooperation impossible. It is Hume’s empirically-based thesis that we are fundamentally loving, parochial, and also selfish creatures that underlies his political philosophy.
In the realm of politics, Hume again takes up an intermediate position. He objects both to the doctrine that a subject must passively obey his government no matter how tyrannical it is and to the Lockean thesis that citizens have a natural right to revolution whenever the rulers violate their contractual commitments to the people. He famously criticizes the notion that all political duties arise from an implicit contract that binds later generations who were not party to the original explicit agreement. Hume maintains that the duty to obey one’s government has an independent origin that parallels that of promissory obligation: both are invented to enable people to live together successfully. On his view, human beings can create a society without government, ordered by rules of ownership, transfer of property by consent, and promise-keeping. We superimpose government on such a pre-civil society when it grows large and prosperous; only then does it become necessary to enforce these rules of justice to preserve social cooperation. So the duty of allegiance to government, far from depending on the duty to fulfill promises, provides needed assurance that promises of all sorts will be kept. The duty to submit to our rulers results from the fact that unquestioning submission is necessary to preserve order. The legitimacy of particular governments and the justification of revolution turn on the usefulness of government to preserve society, not the fact of its rulers having been chosen by God or having received promises of obedience from the people. In a long-established civil society, whatever ruler or type of government happens to be in place and successfully maintaining order and justice is legitimate, and is owed allegiance. However, there is some legitimate recourse for victims of tyranny: the people may rightly overthrow any government that is so oppressive as not to provide the benefits (peace and security from injustice) for which governments are formed. In his political essays Hume certainly advocates the sort of constitution that protects the people’s liberties, but the justification he offers is not individual natural rights or contractual obligations but the greater long-range good of society.
2. The Passions and the Will
According to Hume’s theory of the mind, the passions are impressions rather than ideas. The direct passions, which include desire, aversion, hope, fear, grief, and joy, are those that “arise immediately from good or evil, from pain or pleasure” that we experience or think about in prospect (T 188.8.131.52, T 184.108.40.206); however he also groups with them some instincts of unknown origin, such as the bodily appetites and the vengeful impulse, which do not proceed from pain and pleasure but produce them (T 220.127.116.11). The indirect passions, primarily pride, humility (shame), love and hatred, are generated in a more complex way, but still one involving either the thought or experience of pain or pleasure.
Hume is traditionally regarded as a compatibilist about freedom and determinism, because of his discussion in the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, where he argues that if we understand the doctrines of liberty and necessity properly, all mankind consistently believe both that human actions are the products of causal necessity and that they are free. In the Treatise, however, he explicitly repudiates the doctrine of liberty as “absurd… in one sense, and unintelligible in any other” (T 18.104.22.168). The two treatments, however, are entirely consistent. Hume construes necessity to mean the same as causal connection (or rather, intelligible causal connection), as he himself analyzes this notion in his own theory of causation: either the “constant union and conjunction of like objects,” or that together with “the inference of the mind from the one to the other” (ibid.). In both works he argues that just as we discover necessity (in this sense) to hold between the movements of material bodies, we discover just as much necessity to hold between human motives, character traits, and circumstances of action, on the one hand, and human behavior on the other. He says in the Treatise that the liberty of indifference is the negation of necessity in this sense; this is the notion of liberty that he there labels absurd, and identifies with chance or randomness (which can be no real power in nature) both in the Treatise and the first (epistemic) Enquiry. Human actions are not free in this sense. However, Hume allows in the Treatise that they are sometimes free in the sense of ‘liberty’ which is opposed to violence or constraint. This is the sense on which Hume focuses in EcHU: “a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will;” which everyone has “who is not a prisoner and in chains” (EcHU 8.1.23, Hume’s emphasis). It is this that is entirely compatible with necessity in Hume’s sense. So the positions in the two works are the same, although the polemical emphasis is so different — iconoclastic toward the libertarian view in the Treatise, and conciliatory toward “all mankind” in the first Enquiry.
Hume argues, as well, that the causal necessity of human actions is not only compatible with moral responsibility but requisite to it. To hold an agent morally responsible for a bad action, it is not enough that the action be morally reprehensible; we must impute the badness of the fleeting act to the enduring agent. Not all harmful or forbidden actions incur blame for the agent; those done by accident, for example, do not. It is only when, and because, the action’s cause is some enduring passion or trait of character in the agent that she is to blame for it.
3. The Influencing Motives of the Will
For Hume the will is merely that impression we feel when we knowingly give rise to an action. Once he has shown in his treatment of liberty and necessity that “all actions of the will have particular causes,” (T 22.214.171.124), he can identify these.
Hume famously sets himself in opposition to most moral philosophers, ancient and modern, who talk of the combat of passion and reason, and who urge human beings to regulate their actions by reason and grant it dominion over their contrary passions. He claims to prove that “reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will,” and that reason alone “can never oppose passion in the direction of the will” (T 413). His view is not, of course, that reason plays no role in the generation of action; he grants that reason provides information which makes a difference to the direction of the will. His thesis is that reason alone cannot motivate to action; the impulse to act itself must come from passion. The doctrine that reason alone is merely the “slave of the passions” is defended in the Treatise, not in the second Enquiry, although in the latter he briefly asserts it without support. Hume gives three arguments in the Treatise for the motivational “inertia” of reason alone.
The first is a largely empirical argument based on the two rational functions of the understanding. The understanding judges — from demonstration — the abstract relations of ideas (as in mathematical reasoning); and it also judges — from probability — the relations of objects (especially their causal relations) that are revealed in experience. Demonstrative reasoning is never the cause of any action by itself: it deals in ideas rather than realities, and we only find it useful in action when we have some purpose in view and intend to use its discoveries to inform our inferences about (and so to manipulate) causes and effects. Probable or cause-and-effect reasoning does play a role in deciding what to do, but we see that it only functions as an auxiliary, and not on its own. When we anticipate pain or pleasure from some source, we feel aversion or propensity to that object and “are carry’d to avoid or embrace what will give us” the pain or pleasure (T126.96.36.199). Our emotion makes us seek the causes of these sources of pain or pleasure, and we use causal reasoning to discover them. Once we do, our emotion naturally extends itself to those causes, and we act to avoid or embrace them. Plainly the impulse to act does not arise from the reasoning but is only directed by it. “’Tis from the prospect of pain or pleasure that the aversion or propensity arises…” (ibid.). Probable reasoning is merely the discovery of causal connections, and knowledge of these never concerns us if we are indifferent to the causes and the effects so conjoined. Thus, neither demonstrative nor probable reasoning alone causes action.
The second argument is a corollary of the first. It concludes that reason alone cannot prevent volition or resist passion in controlling the will. It takes as a premise the conclusion of the previous argument, that reason alone cannot produce any volition. What is requisite to arrest a volition or retard the impulse of an existing passion is a contrary impulse. If reason alone were to resist a passion, then, it would need to give rise to such a contrary impulse. But could it do that, it would have an original influence on the will (a capacity to cause a volition, when unopposed); which, according to the previous argument, it does not have. Therefore reason alone cannot resist any impulse to act. Therefore, whatever it may be in the mind that offers resistance to our passions, it cannot be reason. Hume later proposes that when we restrain our imprudent or immoral impulses, the contrary impulse comes also from passion, but often from a passion so “calm” that we confuse it with reason.
The third or Representation argument is different in kind. Hume offers it initially only to show that a passion cannot be opposed by or be contradictory to “truth and reason”; later (T 188.8.131.52), he repeats it to argue that volitions and actions as well cannot be so. It looks as if Hume is about to give another argument to show that reason alone cannot provide a force to resist passion or volition. Yet the Representation Argument is not empirical, and does not talk of forces or impulses. Passions (and volitions and actions), Hume says, do not refer to other entities; they are “original existence[s],” (T 184.108.40.206), “original facts and realities” (T220.127.116.11), not mental representations of other things. Since Hume here understands representation in terms of copying, he says a passion has no “representative quality, which renders it a copy of any other existence or modification” (T 18.104.22.168). Contradiction to truth and reason, however, consists in “the disagreement of ideas, consider’d as copies, with those objects, which they represent” (ibid.). Therefore, a passion (or volition or action), not having this feature, cannot be opposed by truth and reason. Hume says the argument, as applied to actions, proves two points. First, it shows that actions cannot be reasonable or unreasonable. Secondly, it shows that “reason cannot immediately prevent or produce any action by contradicting or approving of it” (T22.214.171.124). The point here is not merely the earlier, empirical observation that the rational activity of the understanding does not generate an impulse in the absence of an expectation of pain or pleasure. It is a conclusion about the relevance of ratiocination alone to action. Because passions, volitions, and actions have no content suitable for assessment by reason, reason cannot assess prospective motives or actions as rational or irrational, and therefore reason cannot, by so assessing them, create or obstruct them. By contrast, reason can assess a potential opinion as rational or irrational; and by endorsing the opinion, reason will (that is, we will) adopt it, while by contradicting the opinion, reason will destroy our credence in it. The Representation Argument, then, makes a point a priori about the relevance of the functions of the understanding to the generation of actions. Interpreters disagree about exactly how to parse this argument, whether it is sound, and its importance to Hume’s project.
Hume allows that, speaking imprecisely, we often say a passion is unreasonable because it arises in response to a mistaken judgment or opinion, either that something (a source of pleasure or uneasiness) exists, or that it may be obtained or avoided by a certain means. In just these two cases a passion may be called unreasonable, but strictly speaking even here it is not the passion but the judgment that is so. Once we correct the mistaken judgment, “our passions yield to our reason without any opposition,” so there is still no combat of passion and reason (T 126.96.36.199). And there is no other instance of passion contrary to reason. Hume famously declaims, “’Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. ‘Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than for the latter.” (188.8.131.52)
Interpreters disagree as to whether Hume is an instrumentalist or a skeptic about practical reason. Either way, Hume denies that reason can evaluate the ends people set themselves; only passions can select ends. Instrumentalists understand the claim that reason is the slave of the passions to allow that reason not only discovers the causally efficacious means to our ends (a task of theoretical causal reasoning) but also requires us to take them. If Hume regards the failure to take the known means to one’s end as contrary to reason, then on Hume’s view reason has a genuinely practical aspect; it can indeed classify some actions as unreasonable. Skeptical interpreters read Hume, instead, as denying that reason imposes any requirements on action, even the requirement to take the known, available means to one’s end. They point to the list of extreme actions that are not contrary to reason (such as preferring one’s own lesser good to one’s greater), and to the Representation Argument, which denies that any passions, volitions, or actions are of such a nature as to be contrary to reason. Hume never says explicitly that failing to take the known means to one’s end is either contrary to reason or not contrary to reason (it is not one of the extreme cases in his list). The classificatory point in the Representation Argument favors the reading of Hume as a skeptic about practical reason. But that argument is absent from the moral Enquiry.
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* Wiggins, David. “A Sensible Subjectivism?” in Needs, Values, Truth, 3rd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998, pp. 185-210.
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