David Hume's Argument on Passion and Morality Essay

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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 …show more content…
Once Hume came to the conclusion that reason could not be the determinate of morality, he needed to convince the reader that passion was. He addresses this topic by reiterating that reason unable to determine morals, but it is used to direct the passions that morality requires (Hume, PDF). But, if morals are not induced by reason, where do they come from? Hume explains that morality must come from the relation of objects, somewhere between internal and external actions (PDF). If it was immoral to for thought, man would be guilty of crimes, independent of their stance, and if morality was applied to the external, animals, rocks, and plants would be susceptible to wrong and right (PDF). Thus, Hume narrows morality down to something not internal, not external, and not reason. This leaves him with something that is not of the mind, but also not of the body. He concludes that morality must come from something else altogether, which he refers to as sentiment, or passion; “Moral good and evil are certainly distinguish'd by our sentiments, not by reason” (Hume, 220).

After Hume demonstrates that morality is based off of emotions, he then goes into detail of what that means. Because our perception of actions determines how we feel about things, and those emotions are the basis of morality, reason and morals are linked together. This is the foundation of the fact/value dichotomy that Hume as created (Angeles, 95). He

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