Comparing David Hume and Immanuel Kant
David Hume and Immanuel Kant each made a significant break from other theorists in putting forward a morality that doesn’t require a higher being or god, for a man to recognize his moral duty. Although Hume and Kant shared some basic principals they differed on their view of morality. In comparing the different views on human will and the maxims established to determine moral worth by David Hume and Immanuel Kant, I find their theories on morality have some merit although limited in view.
Hume and Kant shared some basic principle of empiricism, but each took different directions on the theory of morality. The moral theory of Hume was based on his belief that reason alone can never cause action. Hume proclaimed virtue is always accompanied by a feeling of pleasure, and vice by a bad feeling or pain. We are compelled to commit a virtuous action because it creates pleasant feelings, and we avoid doing a vicious act because it would cause pain or bad feelings. Hume's moral theory is a virtue-centered morality rather than the natural-law morality. On the other hand, Kant uses deontological ethics to base his morality on reason alone. Kant divides the world into two classes, beings with reason and a will like humans, and things that are considered inanimate and do not possess these qualities. The first class or humans are independent beings with their own purpose; having the capacity to reason and determine their own actions. The second class of inanimate things like rock or trees that don’t possess reason or will, do not require consideration in our deliberations about what goals should be or the means to achieve them. However, human beings do deserve considerations in the goals we should have and the means we use to accomplish them. Kant believes the first class or humans are to be considered in how one acts morally. Reason alone is the element Kant believes motivates moral actions rather than Hume’s senses. Kant also differs from Hume on the concept of human will.
The essential difference between Hume and Kant that affected their whole thinking on the matter of morality was each one's belief about the autonomy of the will. Hume believed that reason is primarily the slave of the passions. Morals excite passions and produce or prevent actions and reason is unimportant in this equation. Hume believed that the rules of morality could not be conclusions of reason. Hume proclaimed that although reason can judge notions, ideas and matters of fact, the most noticeable results never persuade us to action as much as the slightest emotion or feeling can do. Hume proclaimed “that we cannot derive ought from is -- that is, the view that statements of moral obligation cannot simply be deduced from statements of fact.” (Hume, 2001) Hume believed no data regardless of reliability or fact ever required a moral obligation or a result in action. “Hume upheld that reason is, and ought to be the slave of the passions”...