The paper “ Treatise of Human Nature - Hume’ s Views on Judgement and Morality“ is an intriguing variant of book review on philosophy. In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume wrote: “ Morality, therefore, is more properly felt than judged of tho’ this feeling or sentiment is commonly so soft and gentle, that we are apt to confound it with an idea, according to our common custom of taking all things for the same, which have any near resemblance to each other” . From this statement, he set the stage of how he viewed morality from a “ moral sense” . Before the question “ what makes a judgement moral” can be answered it is important to identify what Hume meant by the concepts of both judgement and morality.
In part, Hume appears to identify morals as being firstly distinguished by the concepts of pleasure and pain – where an action that one derives pleasure from is considered “ good” and where an action that is considered painful is judged as bad. He writes, “ Every moment's experience must convince us of this. There is no spectacle so fair and beautiful as a noble and generous action. ” Secondly, he stresses that morals and in particular humans, rather than other animals or objects can only do moral action and finally that morals are in fact a perception rather than an idea. Surprisingly, given the first identifier of morals, Hume does not believe that any fact or perception arises from actual experience.
He describes in detail his own displeasure at a system that uses an external measure of right and wrong and in the idea that these same sensations (of pleasure and pain) can be derived from other animals or objects.
His argument is that the judgement or sensation that is derived from things other than humans, such as music and wine, for example, are not applicable in a general sense. He writes, “ A good composition of music and a bottle of good wine equally produce pleasure; and what is more, their goodness is determined merely by the pleasure. But shall we say upon that account, that the wine is harmonious or the music of a good flavour? ” In Hume’ s opinion, the satisfaction gleaned from pleasurable experiences are different because the satisfaction gained from individual comparisons, such as wine and music, are also different. He goes further in his discussion to explain the concepts of passion in relation to virtues and vices.
This argument helps pave the foundation for the third statement concerning morals – that they are only applicable from a social standpoint and are perception-based rather than based on any knowledge or experience. Indeed Hume believes that sympathy is the basis for moral obligation. To consider judgement we need to consider Hume’ s discussion on justice and whether or not it is a natural or an artificial virtue.
Hume starts this section by suggesting that if we praise a particular action (in another person presumably) we are in fact praising the motivation or the intent behind the action, rather than the actual performance of it. He considers the actions are signs or indicators of internal motivation, and suggests that the internal satisfaction of the observer is actually a recognition of the internal motivation that the action suggests.
Brick, John. Mind and Morality: An Examination of Hume’s Moral Psychology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Garrett, Don. “Mind and Morality: An Examination of Hume’s Moral Psychology: A Review”. The Philosophical Review, January 2001.
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3, Part 1, Section 2, Project Gutenberg, retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4705 [November 19, 2007].
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3, Part 2, Section 1, Project Gutenberg, retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4705 [November 19, 2007].
Hume, David. Inquiry into the Principles of Morals, Appendix 1. Adelaide University Ebook Library, retrieved from http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hume/david/h92pm/ [November 19, 2007