Hume, Reason and Morality
A Legacy of Contradiction
Routledge – 2006 – 288 pages
Routledge – 2006 – 288 pages
Covering an important theme in Humean studies, this book focuses on Hume's hugely influential attempt in book three of his Treatise of Human Nature to derive the conclusion that morality is a matter of feeling, not reason, from its link with action.
Claiming that Hume's argument contains a fundamental contradiction that has gone unnoticed in modern debate, this fascinating volume contains a refreshing combination of historical-scholarly work and contemporary analysis that seeks to expose this contradiction and therefore provide a significant contribution to current scholarship in the area.
Sophie Botros begins by pointing out that a contradiction concerning whether reason can influence action, or is wholly powerless, occurs in the intermediary premiss. She then moves on to draw out the consequences for recent meta-ethics of the failure to acknowledge this contradiction. Finally, highlighting the root of the argument's power in an article of naturalistic dogma, she suggests how it may be possible to restore to our moral concepts their traditional and integral link with both truth and motivation.
A significant and thought-provoking addition to this popular field of study, Hume, Reason and Morality is undoubtedly an important resource for moral philosophers interested in meta-ethics and practical reason, as well as Humean scholars.
'The previous objection not withstanding, this is an extremely important book. Botros brings to light an ambiguity in Hume's text that is crucially important, with which anyone attempting to interpret or use Hume's arguments will need to contend. She impressively and convincingly argues that there is a glaring blind spot among Humean scholars and meta-ethicists with respect to the parts of Hume's text that contradict the standard or 'moderate' reading of the argument.' – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
'In this excellent book, Botros aims to show, first, that it is not at all clear what exactly the argument is supposed to be, and second, that whatever it is, it is unsuccessful … A significant contribution.' – The Times Literary Supplement
Part 1: Hume's Practicality Argument Introduction 1. A Contradiction, not an Ambiguity 2. Validity and the 'Moderate' Version 3. Metaphysics and the 'Extreme' Version 4. Sentimentalists, Secondary Qualities and Sensations 5. The Inconsolable Sceptic Part 2: The Practicality Argument Today 6. Morality’s Dynamism 7. Desires, Beliefs and 'Direction of Fit' 8. A Riddle and a Buried Assumption 9. The Case of Owen Wingrave Final Remarks
Sophie Botros is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. She previously taught at the Universities of Essex and Stirling and at King's College, London, and has written on ethics, ancient philosophy, and philosophy of action in leading philosophical journals.