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Discuss: Hume, A Treatise Of Human Nature, Bk Iii, Part 1, Section 1.

2558 words - 10 pages

"..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, combined with the original statement, it can be said that Hume is arguing that morals are entirely subjective. As he has said, in simpler terms, were one to remove himself from the belief in a moral guide, they would cease to have an affect on his life. That is to say that morality has only as much power and bearing as one allows it. To go further, a person will view an act as immoral, not because it is, but simply because to that individuals mind it is.But why is this? This does not help demonstrate that morality is subjective, only that some follow a code more so than others. This understanding of the Good must originate from somewhere, surely, or else it would be impossible to consider any act foul or virtuous. Nevertheless, because a concept of morality is held dear to somebody does not necessarily mean that it cannot be subjective.Yet, the very fact that we can pronounce an act or character to be vicious shows that moral value is derived, to some extent, from the individual's own constitution. One cannot conclude that something is vicious, without they themselves having a grasp of the concept of vicious. This can indeed be reached upon from an external source without rendering it objective.To...

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