What is the basis of Hume’s skepticism about practical reason, and is that skepticism defensible?

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What is the basis of Hume’s skepticism about practical reason, and is that skepticism defensible?

Footnotes and quotations count towards word count.

Bibliography and title excluded from word count.

Please only incorporate the following readings:

Core reading

D. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature esp Book 2, Part 3, Section 3 ‘Of the influencing motives of the will’; Book 3, Part 1 ‘Of virtue and vice in general’.

C. Korsgaard, ‘Scepticism about practical reason’ in Creating the Kingdom of Ends

Additional reading

D. Gauthier, Morals by Agreement

T. Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism

H. Sidgwick The Methods of Ethics, Concluding Chapter ‘The Relations of the methods’

T. Pink ‘Agents, objects and their powers in Suarez and Hobbes’

(with regards to T. Pink, please agree with his thesis)

I have attached a document for you to follow, please reference this when writing the paper. Also, please stick the sources I have specified.

 

 

Moral Normativity

 

 

 

Week 2: Morality and scepticism about practical reason

 

 

The theory of reason

 

Objects of thought have certain properties (likelihood of truth, likelihood of goodness) that justify attitudes towards those objects and move us to form the relevant attitudes.

 

 

Motivation                                                                                          Voluntary action

 

Deciding/ intending to give the money                                             Giving the money

 

 

 

 

justify with a given force       Reason-giving features                                              of the voluntary                                                                                                        (e.g. fulfils a promise)

 

 

Scepticism about direction

 

If ethically good action is simply rational action, we do not need to postulate special ethical properties in the world or faculties in the mind, in order to provide ethics with a foundation. Korsgaard ‘Skepticism about practical reason’ p311 in Creating the Kingdom of Ends Cambridge 1996 pp311-34

 

the internalism requirement

 

Thus it seems to be a requirement on practical reasons, that they be capable of motivating us. This is where the difficulty arises about reasons that do not, like means/end reasons, draw on an obvious motivational source. So long as there is doubt about whether a given consideration is able to motivate a rational person, there is doubt about whether that consideration has the force of a practical reason. ‘Skepticism about practical reason’ p317

 

My speculation is that scepticism about practical reason is sometimes based on a false impression of what the internalism requirement requires. It does not require that rational considerations always succeed in motivating us. All it requires is that rational considerations succeed in motivating us insofar as we are rational. ‘Skepticism about practical reason’ p321

 

…motivational considerations do not provide any reason, in advance of specific proposals, for skepticism about practical reason. If a philosopher can show us that something that is recognizably a law of reason has a bearing on conduct, there is no special reason to doubt that human beings might be motivated by that consideration. ‘Skepticism about practical reason’ p331.

 

the internalism requirement as presupposing normative power

 

We grant that causation belongs to an end in so far as it has the character of a beginning and consequently in so far as it has the character of something that moves. But its motion is termed metaphorical, not because it is not real, but because it is not by an efficient influence nor by a motion that is physical, but by a motion that is intentional and involving the soul, so that nothing prevents its causality from being true and genuine. Suarez Metaphysical Disputations, Disputation 23 On Final Causation, section 1, §14

 

So on this matter it appears to be the common agreement of all the learned that goodness is the immediate basis by which an end moves; so goodness is what constitutes a final cause, imparting (as I shall put it) force to the causation. Suarez Metaphysical Disputations, Disputation 23, section 5, §2

 

Secondly, for the manner how the understanding doth determine the will, it is not naturally but morally. The will is moved by the understanding, not as by an efficient, having a causal influence into the effect, but only by proposing and representing the object. Bramhall in The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance pp55-56

 

 

Hume’s scepticism about direction – the internalism requirement cannot be met

 

Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, the latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition. But if reason has no original influence, ‘tis impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or ever keep the mind in suspence a moment. Thus it appears, that the principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and is only call’d so in an improper sense. Hume A Treatise of Human Nature book 2, part 3, section 3 ‘Of the influencing motives of the will’

 

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.  Treatise of Human Nature Book 3, Part 1, Section 1 ‘Moral distinctions not derived from reason’ p458

 

A passion is an original existence, or, if you will, modification of existence, and contains not any representative quality, which renders it a copy of any other existence or modification.  When I am angry, I am actually possest 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 passion can be oppos’d by, or contradictory to truth and reason; since this contradiction consists in the disagreement of ideas, consider’d as copies, with those objects, which they represent. Treatise of Human Nature, Book 2, Part 3, Section 3 Of the influencing motives of the will p415

 

Now ’tis evident our passions, volitions and actions, are not susceptible of any such agreement or disagreement; being original facts and realities, compleat in themselves, and implying no reference to other passions, volitions, and actions. ‘Tis impossible, therefore, that they can be pronounced either true or false, and be either contrary or conformable to reason. Treatise of Human Nature Book 3, Part 1, Section 1 ‘Moral distinctions not derived from reason’ p458

 

 

Hume’s theory of normativity – appraisal without direction

 

…to discover the true origin of morals…we shall endeavour to follow a very simple method: we shall analyse that complication of mental qualities, which form what, in common life, we call Personal Merit: we shall consider every attribute of the mind, which renders a man an object either of esteem and affection, or of hatred and contempt; every habit or sentiment or faculty, which, if ascribed to any person, implies either praise or blame, and may enter into any panegyric or satire of his character and manners. Hume Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals section 1

 

 

 

Selective scepticism about content of practical reason

 

Denial of certain kinds of justification

 

‘External’ justifications

 

Justifications deriving from the interests of others (Hobbes, Gauthier)

 

 

Practical reason and self-interest. Is exclusive self-concern

inherently foolish? And if not, can it still be unreasonable?

 

 

Sidgwick’s conflict within practical reason

 

But in the rarer cases of a recognized conflict between self-interest and duty, practical reason, being divided against itself, would cease to be a motive on either side; the conflict would have to be decided by the comparative preponderance of one or other of two groups of non-rational impulses. Sidgwick The Methods of Ethics p508

 

 

Reading

 

 

Core reading

 

  1. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature esp Book 2, Part 3, Section 3 ‘Of the influencing motives of the will’; Book 3, Part 1 ‘Of virtue and vice in general’.

 

  1. Korsgaard, ‘Scepticism about practical reason’ in Creating the Kingdom of Ends

 

Additional reading

 

  1. Gauthier, Morals by Agreement

 

  1. Nagel, The Possibility of Altruism

 

  1. Sidgwick The Methods of Ethics, Concluding Chapter ‘The Relations of the methods’

 

  1. Pink ‘Agents, objects and their powers in Suarez and Hobbes’

 

Online here

 

https://www.academia.edu/28317094/Agents_Objects_and_their_Powers_in_Suarez_and_Hobbes

 

Question

 

‘Is a normative standard a standard of reason?’