A few moral quotes, Hume and Kant

“Hume is a Socratic thinker. He believes that in order to avoid being plagued by [skeptical doubts and] anxiety we must achieve self-knowledge. The philosopher stands in need of it as much as his or her fellows do. Socrates would have agreed; but he appeared to think that self-knowledge was to come through the pursuit of the dialectical questioning in which the philosopher is expert, and Hume does not think this. Hume thinks that he has available a scientific mode of understanding that illuminates our nature for us, and that the philosopher must turn to this to save himself. Our nature is intelligible; and once we have learned its key features, we can avoid those influences in philosophy (and in religion) that would lead us to do violence to it. The understanding of human nature that Hume urges on us is different indeed from that deriving from Socrates, at least as Plato presents him to us.” – Terence Penelhum, Hume’s Moral Psychology from CC to Hume

Duty is derived from "Hume's explanation of how it is that we sometimes perform acts from a sense of duty that others perform from benevolence. He says that someone may be conscious of the fact that he lacks a character trait (such as kindness to children) that causes us to approve of those who have it. He may then come to 'hate himself upon that account' and may perform the action 'from a certain sense of duty, in order to acquire by practice, that virtuous principle' (T On this view, the sense of duty is a conscious substitute for more natural motives, and is a product of self-hatred. To feel it is to feel the disapproval of your own lack of a virtuous inclination."
[- these phenomena occur, though I think we may doubt whether they are the key to the origin of the sense of duty. (it doesn't explain why we pay taxes, or return money we borrowed from the bank)]

From the Treatise of Human Nature, Book II:
"Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to volition, I infer, that the same faculty is as incapable of preventing volition, or of disputing the preference with any passion or emotion. This consequence is necessary. `Tis impossible reason cou'd have the latter effect of preventing volition, but by giving an impulse in a contrary direction to our passion; and that impulse, had it operated alone, wou'd have been able to produce volition. Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, that latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition. But if reason has no original influence, `tis impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or ever keep the mind in suspence a moment. Thus it appears, that the principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and is only call'd so in an improper sense. We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. As this opinion may appear somewhat extraordinary, it may not be improper to confirm it by some other considerations."

Kant's Groundwork:
"On the other hand, to preserve one's life is a duty, and besides everyone has an immediate inclination to do so. But on this account the often anxious care that most people take of it still has no inner worth and their maxim has no moral content. They look after their lives in conformity with duty but not from duty. On the other hand, if adversity and hopeless grief have quite taken away the taste for life; if an unfortunate man, strong of soul and more indignant about his fate than despondent or dejected, wishes for death and yet preserves his life without loving it, not from inclination or fear but from duty, then his maxim has moral content." - (AK 4:398)

"It is undoubtedly in this way, again, that we are to understand the passages from scripture in which we are commanded to love our neighbor, even our enemy. For, love as an inclination cannot be commanded, but beneficence from duty - even though no inclination impels us to it and indeed, natural and unconquerable aversion opposes it - is practical and not pathological love, which lies in the will and not in the propensity of feeling, in principles of action and not in melting sympathy; and it alone can be commanded." (AK 4:399)
Written on March 10, 2009