Explain Hume's claim: 'reason is the slave of the passions'. Is Hume right about this? Does Hume's view about reason and passion imply that every action is ultimately performed for selfish reasons?

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Unlike many of his predecessors, David Hume held that moral distinctions are not made by reason but instead are controlled by one’s passions, claiming that “reason is the slave of the passions”. In this essay, I will first assess Hume’s view of moral psychology by explaining this statement and comparing the theory to those that preceded his, then go on to show that he is correct in his understanding and finally explain how his view implies that every action is ultimately performed for selfish reasons, providing examples.

Before we may begin to analyse Hume’s view, we must first create a reference point by understanding the previous view held by classical philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, presented through texts such as Plato’s This Republic. In this, Plato claimed that one must act accordingly to either reason or passion, where reason was a stable, logical force whereas the passions were said to be inconstant, involuntary, blind and bestial.

The best moral agent presented by Plato is one who acts only according to reasons and never allows his passions to overcome reason.

Here in Plato’s model, reason cannot act as its own motivation in order to perform an action. It exists only as device with which one my employ to come to a decision, but on solely in its own presence. For example, reason is unable to tell you to ‘go to the library’. However, it may be used to say ‘the best way to achieve your goal of obtaining a book would be going to the library’; hence, making this is a good decision.’ Reason allows one to achieve their incentive but not to set this incentive, and for this reason, one needs passions to motivate actions.

Hume presents that all reason can be either demonstrative or probable, where...