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An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals An Introduction/Overview:

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1 An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals An Introduction/Overview:

2 Overview of Enquiry: An Enquiry Concerning the Principle of Morals (1751) is broken down into 9 Units of thought: 1.Of the Great Principle of Morals 2.Of Benevolence 3.Of Justice 4.Of Political Society 5.Why Utility Pleases 6.Of Qualities Useful to Ourselves 7.Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Ourselves 8.Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others 9.Conclusion

3 What is the aim of book? Thesis Statement: Moral sense makes the ultimate distinction between vice & virtue; both moral sense and reason play a role in the formation of moral judgments. The basis of virtue lies in its utility (usefulness), fulfilling two requirements for moral sentiments: (1) It is useful to ourselves (agreeable) or (2) to others. Therefore, the purpose of this book is the contributions moral sense and reason make in our moral judgments.

4 What is the aim of book? Complimentary Statement: Reason is important because we make moral judgments about what is useful to us or to others; it plays the role of an advisor, not decision-maker. In other words, reason does not motivate us to action. Rather, the capacity of sympathy (moral sentiments), which is rooted in our human constitution, motivate us to act or ignore those judgments.

5 Central Points to Hume’s Ethics: Hume’s list of virtues are: –Qualities useful (pleasurable) to others: benevolence, justice, fidelity. –Qualities useful to their possessor: discretion, industry, frugality, strength of mind, good sense. –Qualities agreeable (immediately pleasurable) to their possessor: cheerfulness, magnanimity, courage, tranquility. –Qualities agreeable to others: politeness, modesty, decency.

6 Hume’s Distinction between artificial & natural virtues: Artificial virtues depend on social structures and include the following: a.Justice and fidelity to promises; b.Allegiance; c.Chastity and modesty; d. Duties of sovereign states to keep treaties, to respect boundaries, to protect ambassadors, and to otherwise subject themselves to the law of nations. Artificial virtues may vary from society to society.

7 Hume’s Distinction between artificial & natural virtues: Natural virtues, originate in human nature, thus tend to be more universal: CompassionPrudenceTemperance Generosity GratitudeFriendshipFidelity Charity BeneficenceClemencyCleanliness Decorum TemperanceFrugalityPride Modesty Good SenseWitHumor Articulateness PerseverancePatienceGood nature Sensitivity to poetrySelf-assertiveness Elusive quality that makes a person lovely or valuable Involuntary virtues (e.g., good sense) voluntary virtues (e.g., ambition)

8 Related to purpose are three questions (chapter 1): (1) Is morality derived from reason or sentiment? (2) What is the process whereby we obtain knowledge of moral judgments: chain of arguments and induction or by some internal sense? (3) Are moral judgments the same for every rational intelligent person? In his pursuit for the origins of morality he presupposes an anti-supernatural claim, thus dismissing any theological metaphysical perspectives of this matter and advances a utilitarian model.

9 Chapters 2-5: In chapters 2-5 Hume surveys three kinds of conduct that are virtuous; they are virtuous because they are useful: Benevolence; Justice; Political Society.

10 Chapter 2: On Benevolence: “On benevolence,” “nothing can bestow more merit on any human creature than the sentiment of benevolence in an eminent degree; and that a part, at least, of its merit arises from its tendency to promote the interests of our species, and bestow happiness on human society” (2.2.14).

11 Chapter 3: On Justice: “On Justice”, Hume writes, “public utility is the sole origin of justice, and that reflections on the beneficial consequence of this virtue are the sole foundation of its merit” (3.1.15). This particular virtue is the considerable source of merit ascribed to “humanity, benevolence, friendship, public spirit, and other social virtues of that stamp [justice]” ( ).

12 Chapter 4: Of Political Society: “Of Political Society,” the fundamental value of the duty of allegiance is the “advantage, which it procures to so society, by preserving peace and order among mankind” (4. 39). He concludes that “common interest and utility begets infallibly a standard of right and wrong among the parties concerned” (4. 45).

13 Chapters 5-7 Chapter 5: Why utility pleases is because we are social beings. Chapter 6: Qualities that are USEFUL to us INDIVIDUALLY include happiness, joy, triumph, prosperity, honesty, fidelity, truth, temperance, patience, perseverance, sobriety, and physical fitness. In chapter 7 what is immediately AGREEABLE to OURSELVES include pleasure accompanied with temperance and decency; greatness of mind, character, philosophical tranquility or magnanimous predisposition, benevolence, and bravery.

14 Chapter 8: Of Qualities Immediately Agreeable to Others: What is immediately agreeable to others: wit, politeness, modesty, decency, or any agreeable quality which one possesses which we characterizes as good manners and character. How one determines those qualities is whether they have a beneficial, useful, extensive, and positive influence; not only will they harmonize with the moral sensibilities of others and ourselves, but will produce pleasure personally and socially. To be sure, no quality is absolutely either blamable or praiseworthy; it is all according to its degree and coherence ( ). But for those that produce public affection, they must be pursued (e.g., self-love vs. community-centered) ( ).

15 Chapter 9: Conclusion: Reason does not cause our actions. Our actions are caused by a combination of utility and sentiment whereby reason is embedded in the passions, desires, habits, and sentiments of mind. In other words, morality cannot be separated from psychology. There is no such thing as good and evil outside of human sentiments. What promotes happiness among our fellow humans “is good” and what tends to their misery “is evil”; we do not need to go any further in our reflection or deliberation on these matters. What is virtuous is useful.

16 Chapter 9: Conclusion: Hume writes: “What more, therefore, can we ask to distinguish these sentiments, dependent on humanity, from those connected with any other passion, or to satisfy us, why the former are the origin of morals, not the latter? Whatever conduct gains my approbation, by touching my humanity, procures also the applause of all mankind, by affecting the same principle in them; but what serves my avarice or ambition pleases these passions in me alone, and affects not the avarice and ambition of the rest of mankind. There is no circumstance of conduct in any man, provided it has a beneficial tendency that is not agreeable to my humanity…” ( ).

17 Central Ideas: 1.Moral sentiment is where moral decision-making is grounded. 2.Sympathy is the capacity to be moved or affected by the happiness & suffering of others-to be pleased when others prosper and distressed when others suffer. 3.The inclination for this capacity is experienced to be a principle of human nature (V.17).

18 Central Ideas: 4.Sympathy is not a virtue but the source of moral approval. 5.When we ascribe moral praise or blame, the praise or blame derives from an attitude of sympathy. 6.Sympathy, if not universal, is a feature for any normal human being. 7.Hume attempts to describe and explain how we do in fact make moral judgments; he does not tell us how we ought to make them. In other words, he is concerned with judgments about personal qualities rather than judgments about actions.

19 8. Three Stages of Judgments: First Stage: Sympathy induces us to take into account the happiness and suffering others and ourselves. Second Stage: General standards correct the operation of sympathy so that we attach the same moral importance to the happiness or suffering of anyone, ourselves, or others, close to us or remote to us. Third stage: In some cases we need to take into account not merely the utility or particular acts, but the usefulness to society of a whole system of general rules and conventions.

20 8. Three Stages of Judgments: Each of these three is a move from a limited to a more generalized standpoint. Together they challenge the Platonic- Aristotelian view that one’s moral assessments are necessarily made from the standpoint of a concern for one’s own well-being.

21 9. Significant Quotes on Sympathy: “When a man dominates another his enemy, his rival, his antagonist, his adversary, he is understood to speak the language of self-love, and to express sentiments peculiar to himself and arising form his particular circumstances and situation. But when he bestows on any man the epithets of vicious or odious or depraved, he then speaks another language, and expresses sentiments in which he expects all his audience are to concur with him. He must therefore, depart, from his private and particular situation and must choose a point of view common to him with others; he must move some universal principle of the human frame (IX.6).”

22 9. Significant Quotes on Sympathy: “This universal principle is the sentiment of humanity or sympathy. And though this affection of humanity may not generally be esteemed so strong as vanity or ambition, yet, being common to all men, it can alone be the formulation of morals or of any general system of blame or praise (Ibid).”

23 10. Similarities: Hume agrees with Plato and Aristotle on the following: A.Moral judgments are primarily about virtues and vices. We praise people insofar as they exhibit virtues and blame then insofar as they exhibit vices. Only secondarily are our moral judgments concerned with specific actions. We praise or blame others because they reveal morally admirable qualities in the agent. B.Virtues would not be virtues unless possession of them were in some sense an advantage. In fact, Hume, an action is only virtuous if it proceeds from a virtuous motive. So if an action lacks a virtuous motive, that action is not virtuous even if it is the same type of action as a genuinely virtuous action.

24 11. Differences: Hume disagrees with Plato and Aristotle on the following: A.Differences emerges when we look at what Hume counts as virtues. 1.For Hume, what makes various qualities “virtues” is that they are useful or agreeable with, either to the possessor or to others. 2.For Hume, in contrast to Plato and Aristotle, thinks that not only qualities useful or agreeable to their possessor, but also qualities useful or agreeable to others, are regarded virtues.

25 11. Differences: Hume contends that virtues may be immediately pleasing, in which case he describes the qualities as “agreeable”; or may be an indirect advantage-i.e., possession of such qualities may help to promote states of affairs which in their turn are pleasurable, and these are these are the qualities which Hume describes as ‘useful.’ He parts company from Plato and Aristotle, however, in that he thinks that not only qualities are useful or agreeable to their possessor, but also qualities useful or agreeable to others, are regarded as virtues

26 11. Differences: B.Benevolence also marks a decisive shift from the standpoint of the Greeks. 1.Hume states that ‘the epithets [labels] sociable, good- natured, humane, merciful, grateful, friendly, generous, beneficent, or their equivalents… universally express the highest merit which human nature is capable of attaining (II.1).’ 2.Benevolence is a quality the exercise of which promotes the happiness or well-being of people in general, and because, through sympathy, we take pleasure in this general happiness or well-being, we are led to admire the quality which promotes it.

27 11. Differences: 3.Since Hume disagrees with Plato and Aristotle’s metaphysics and believes these virtues are sourced in man’s constitution we understand why he would regard benevolence the highest merit. 4.In fact, Hume’s notion of sympathy sets him apart from the egoistic perspective of Plato and Aristotle though he does abandon his reliance on sympathy and revert to self-love in part II of Enquiry’s conclusion.

28 11. Differences: B.Hobbes: 1.Hume rejects Hobbes harsh egoistic depiction of human psychology and strong authoritarianism and states (Hume) that we are not wholly self-seeking; we can take immediate pleasure in the flourishing of others. 2.Virtue of justice develops out of the self-regulation of our desire for possessions, in an implicit denial of Hobbes’ view that there can be no justice without external regulations by a stronger ruler. Life in a secular world need not be grim; it can be both enjoyable and free.


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