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Regrettably, to say that the discipline has a vast scope is an understatement. Apart from examining the tenets of the early classical Greek thinkers, however, no one can proceed to understand morality and ethics without getting to know David Hume and Immanuel Kant and their respective ‘philosophies.’
In this essay, the writer attempts to outline their basic teachings and demonstrate their views on morality and ethics. By comparing and contrasting their own schools of thought and lines of argumentation, the paper provides an insight into the considerable similarities and to a larger extent differences between two of the most revered Western philosophers’ moral and ethical systems. Scottish genius David Hume (1711-1776), one of the pillars of Naturalism, Empiricism, Skepticism, Utilitarianism and Classical Liberalism, fostered the idea of ‘science of man,’ which seeks to give practical importance on the psychological grounds of human nature. A staunch opponent to Rationalism, he declared that desire rather than reason determines human action. In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739), he stated that ‘reason is only a slave to the passions’. ...
Reason, consistent with Hume's declarations, is only the by-product of what the human person feels and experiences. Essentially, for Hume, morality would either produce or prevent action among people (Schmidt 45). Kant’s Doctrine Russian academic Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is best remembered for his Transcendental Idealism which posited that knowledge is not materially real but merely the result of an a priori condition of the human mind. In contrast with Hume’s theory on Sentimentalism, Kant gave much weight and magnitude to human reason than emotion. According to him, reason provides categorical obligations to the human being which are independent from any form of desire and aspiration (Pasternack 16). In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant, however, noted of a term ‘empty thinking,’ which he elucidated as the consequences of thoughts without contents and discernment without concepts. In this postulation, Kant bravely pronounced the limits of knowledge. For him, people can only know the world of objects that appear within the context of experience (phenomena). Meanwhile, for things that the human being cannot possibly have knowledge about, Kant employed the term noumena. As a psychological egoist, Kant defines happiness as the state of attaining the highest levels of self-regard, which he called Selbstsucht (Johanson 26). In addition, Kant’s phenomenological treatise also focused on the notion of maxim, which is fundamentally dichotomous. As his standpoint on ethics, Kant proffered the maxim-pair of helping others and not helping others. According to him, the human experience is always governed by this binary division. Another critical aspect of
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