Discuss: Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, BK III, Part 1, section 1.

Essay by CrustyJonesUniversity, Bachelor's March 2004

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"..when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it,"

The purpose of this essay is to examine Hume's statement contained within the title and explore the possible interpretations and arguments of it. In order to do this I will first discuss the idea of this form of moral subjectivism, before observing other possible interpretations as well as any counter-arguments of Hume's proposition that come to mind.

Of course, it has now become all too apparent that classifying Hume's proposition as a form of moral subjectivism needs to be further illustrated before this essay can progress. It appears, at least, that the proposition is an endorsement of moral subjectivism insomuch as it acknowledges the individuals interpretation of 'any act or character', rather than a universal one.

As such, it would be fair to suggest that in this passage Hume has no regard for such philosophical concepts as Absolute Good. From this it can be concluded that, since the individual is responsible for classifying an act of character rather than some innate idea of good and evil, this is a form of moral subjectivism.

While this is seemingly apparent it remains to be seen if this is a reoccurring theme in Hume's work, or if, instead, this is in some way an objective approach. However, were one to regard the following passage they would see that this possibility is unlikely;

"Extinguish all the warm feeling and prepossessions in favour of virtue, and all disgust or aversion to vice: render men totally indifferent towards these distinctions; and morality is no longer a practical study, nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and actions"

From this,