If not non-cognitivism, then what?

In Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave-Macmillan (2009)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Taking my cue from Michael Smith, I try to extract a decent argument for non-cognitivism from the text of the Treatise. I argue that the premises are false and that the whole thing rests on a petitio principi. I then re-jig the argument so as to support that conclusion that Hume actually believed (namely that an action is virtuous if it would excite the approbation of a suitably qualified spectator). This argument too rests on false premises and a begged question. Thus the Motivation Argument fails BOTH as an argument for noncognitivism AND as an argument for what Hume actually believed, that moral distinctions are not derived from reason and that moral properties are akin to secondary qualities. So far as the Motivation Argument is concerned, both cognitivists and rationalists can rest easy. Themes: 1) Hume’s Slavery of Reason thesis is only defensible if passions are not only desires but sometimes dispositions to acquire desires (DTADs). 2) A desire for our good on the whole, which Humeans need to posit to fend off apparent counterexamples to the Slavery of Reason Thesis, does not sit well with the Humean theory of how novel desires arise (an objection due originally to Reid). 3) Hume is wrong to suppose that ‘abstract or demonstrative reasoning never influences any of our actions, but only as it directs our judgment concerning causes and effects’ as the examples of Russell and Hobbes convincingly demonstrate. This ironic as both Russell and Hobbes subscribed to the Slavery of Reason Thesis. 4) I critique Michael Smith’s critique of motivational externalism.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2015-11-21
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Hume’s Better Argument for Motivational Skepticism.Radcliffe, Elizabeth S. & McCarty, Richard

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
198 ( #17,619 of 43,688 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
30 ( #22,590 of 43,688 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.