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§7. The Two Stages of Development

§7. The Two Stages of Development

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    

tion is sure and reliable. In a small society, before it becomes a tribe or a

nation, the natural obligation suffices to support the rules of justice.

. In a large society, however, our natural obligation often fails to move

us; we may be tempted to cheat when we can get away with it, and we

may lose sight of our interest in upholding existing conventions. But even

so, we never fail to note the injury to ourselves done by the injustice of

others; and no matter how distant from us these persons are, their injustice

still displeases us. This is because we view it as injurious to society and

harmful to everyone affected by actions of the guilty party. This displeasure with injustice, Hume says, arises from sympathy. He holds that whatever in human actions causes uneasiness upon the general survey is called

vice, and what causes satisfaction is called virtue. He has at last found, he

thinks, the reason—the explanation of—why we annex the idea of virtue

to complying with the rules of justice. So he sums up his conclusion thus:

“Self-interest is the original motive to the establishment of justice, but a sympathy

with public interest is the source of the moral approbation which attends that


Several comments on the preceding. The general survey Hume refers

to here is a survey from the point of view of the judicious spectator, which

he examines in III:iii:. We shall discuss this point of view on the last day.

The important thing here is that Hume takes himself to have found an

explanation of the sense of justice, and of why it comes after a long development moved not literally by self-interest, as he occasionally says, but by

our confined generosities, our affections for family and friends, and other

such ties. These identify the original motives he looked for in paragraphs

– of section  (T:–) that lead to the first establishment of justice.

When we ask how these differ from the natural and direct motives he considered there, the answer is that those motives were untutored and unguided by artifice, that is, by judgment and understanding, by design and

intention. In that rude and natural stage, people lacked the background of

experience in society to recognize the best scheme of conventions.

Another observation is that the uneasiness caused by sympathy working

through the point of view of the judicious spectator gives rise to the moral

distinction between right and wrong, just and unjust. In such fashion we

learn the difference between these ideas and can identify them in particular

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cases. This is an epistemological thesis about how we recognize moral distinctions, about how we are able to use the appropriate concepts in a consistent

and coherent way and in general agreement with one another. But this is

getting ahead.

What needs to be seen is that this epistemological thesis is different

from a thesis about moral motivation, that is, how best to account for the

fact that our moral knowledge, or beliefs, may influence what we do, or

what desires lead us to do the right or the just thing, or to fail in that. I

interpret Hume in paragraphs – (T:–) to distinguish three different kinds of moral motives, or incentives. One is the artifice of politicians;

another is our education and upbringing, and the many motives we acquired in the course of that. The last is the desire for a character, as Hume

sometimes says, or for our reputation, or to be esteemed and honored by

others. Nothing, he thinks, could be dearer to us than that; and in a decent

society the desire for a character would firmly support our sense of duty

and of justice.

[  ]

H 

The Critique of Rational Intuitionism

§. Introduction

. Today we consider Hume’s arguments against the rationalist doctrine he

opposes in II:iii: and III:i:. As preparation for this, I will spend some time

simply laying out that doctrine as found in Volume II of Samuel Clarke’s

Discourse on Natural Religion (presented as the Boyle Lectures for , published in ).1 Rational intuitionism is an important traditional view, and

this is a good occasion for a survey of it.

In a way I shall try to explain, rational intuitionism sees moral thought

as a form of theoretical as opposed to practical reason. Kant’s doctrine as

well as Hume’s is in sharp contrast with it. All along I have interpreted

Hume as wanting to show that morality, and our practice of it, is the expression of our nature, given our place in the world and our dependence on

society. It is part of Hume’s fideism of nature to establish that morality is

a natural phenomenon fully continuous with human psychology. I have

also said that Hume’s view lacks a conception of practical reason and psychologizes moral deliberation by relying on laws of association and of the

emotions, and invoking the strengths of desires and their influence.2 On the

1. My citations from Clarke are from Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant.

2. A moral doctrine that affirms the idea of practical reason may object to Hume’s view for

just this reason, in much the way Frege objected to psychologism in logic. This is not, of course,

to deny that there is a psychology of morals but to say that it must be compatible with an appropriate

role of practical reason.

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   

other hand, Kant does have a conception of practical reason. Thus Clarke’s

doctrine will add to our understanding of the doctrines debated in this period and extend the significant contrasts we have ready to hand.

. While Hume does not name his opponents in the Treatise, he does

mention Ralph Cudworth and Samuel Clarke in the Enquiry. In a footnote

that begins with a reference to Montesquieu’s Esprit des Lois, Malebranche

is credited with having been the first who started the abstract theory of

morals founded on certain relations. Hume says: “This illustrious writer

[Montesquieu], however, sets out with a different theory, and supposes all

right to be founded on certain rapports or relations; which is a system, that,

in my opinion, never will be reconciled with true philosophy. Father Malebranche . . . was the first that started this abstract theory of morals, which

was afterwards adopted by Cudworth, Clarke, and others; and as it excludes

all sentiment, and pretends to found everything on reason, it has not wanted

followers in this philosophical age” (E:n.).

In the rest of the footnote, Hume claims that his account of the justice

of civil laws and the laws of property is a clear refutation of this rationalist

view. Thus it seems safe to count Cudworth and Clarke, as well as Grotius,

Pufendorf, and Locke, as typical representatives of the view Hume wants

to reject.

§. Some of Clarke’s Main Claims

. Clarke wants to say first that there are certain necessary and eternal relations between things, and consequent upon (or following from) these relations, certain actions are fit to be done and others not fit to be done, according to whether those actions are more fitting than the other actions we

can do in the situation at hand. Thus:

(a) Each kind of thing is said to have a nature (an essence) that characterizes it, which nature can be known by reason; and in virtue of their nature

things stand in certain relations.

(b) Consequent upon these natures as standing in various relations in

different situations, certain relations of fitness obtain, so that certain actions

are more fitting than others. As an example, Clarke says: “ ’Tis a thing evidently and infinitely more fit that any one particular innocent and good

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    

being should by the supreme ruler and disposer of all things be placed and

preserved in an easy and happy estate, than that, without any fault or demerit of its own, it should be made extremely, remedilessly and endlessly

miserable” (Schneewind, I:). God stands in such a relation to human

beings that, given the nature of God as Creator and their nature as subordinate rational creatures, it is more fit, in consequence, that God situate the

innocent so as to make them happy rather than unhappy.

. Further, the following:

(c) Fitness and the relation of “more fit than” are indefinable moral

relations, or else definable only in terms of each other. We should allow

that they might be definable in terms of other moral concepts, such as the

reasonable. They are not, however, definable in terms of nonmoral (nonnormative) concepts.

We may think of the indefinable relation of “more fit than” as specified

by ordered pairs of ordered triples, with agents (characterized by certain

natures) in a situation S and the various actions of those agents in that

situation such that it follows that action A1, say, is more fit than action B1.

To wit:

Ͼ([A1, rat1 . . . n, sit S][B1, rat1 . . . n, sit S]),

where A1 and B1 are actions available to agent1.

That an action is more fit is said to be necessary and known by reason.

Greater fitness is consequent upon the facts of the case. For example, it is

impossible that, given the nature of God and of human beings, and given

the relation of creator to created in which they stand, it should not be more

fitting for God to situate the innocent so as to make them happy rather

than unhappy. What kind of necessity or impossibility does Clarke have in

mind? I suppose it is metaphysical necessity: the thought is that it is not

possible, given the nature of God (with the essences of things in the divine

reason), that there should be a world—an order of things with their essences—such that the consequent relations of fitness are compatible with

its being more fit for God to make the innocent unhappy. None of this is

very clear, as the concepts here call for much explanation.

Note that for Clarke the basic concept seems to be that of comparative

fitness: this kind of action is more fitting than that kind of action in a certain

kind of situation. For example, surely it is more fitting that God should

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§7. The Two Stages of Development

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