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David Hume's an Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals

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Assays On David Hume's an Enquiry Concerning the

Principles of Morals

Hume was the first thinker to point out the implications of the "representative theory of perception." He had inherited this theory from both his rationalist and empiricist predecessors. According to this view, when one says that he/she perceives something such as an apple, what it actually means is that the one has in the mind a mental idea or image or impression. Such a datum is an internal, mental, subjective representation of something that I assume to be an external, physical, fact. But there are, at least, two difficulties inherent in ascribing any truth to such perceptions. If truth is understood as the adequacy between the image and the object, then it is impossible to infer that there is a true world of objects since the only evidence. From this fundamental point, human reason loses its contingency in moral issues and decision making, letting feelings come to the first place. Hume emphasises the utility of knowledge as opposed to its correctness and suggests that morality begins with feeling rather than thought. In this case, Hume also believes that sympathy plays an essential role in morality. Sympathy is a fundamental feature of the human nature, that motivates us to make decisions. Sympathy can be described as an attempt to find or see one's own nature in another object. Hume states that it is the start for all other human feelings.

Reason becomes inactive in moral considerations, and sympathy starts playing a primary role in ethical behaviour. Human reasoning appears to be a photographic apparatus which passively apprehends the immediate facts of a situation, while sentiment acts. Feeling becomes both the judge and the capacity for judgement. Sympathy, as a fundamental human feeling, becomes a moral centre. Hume says that the sympathy comes from the heart.

In human nature, the heart is the lodging for the inner quality. One with sympathy is susceptible to other's emotions, imbued with that important quality of fellow-feeling. The "heart" dictates moral principles, "for one's innate goodness allows one to take directives from one's own body."

Hume devoted the second book "Treatise" to an account of the human passions and a discussion of their role in human decision making. "It is our feelings or sentiments," Hume claimed, "that exert practical influence over human volition and action. Observation does reveal a constant conjunction between having a motive (not a reason) for acting and performing



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