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Humes Moral Judgement Theory - Essay Example

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Hume claims that our moral judgments about the actions of others do not express beliefs, but rather certain subjective emotional reactions to those actions. Summarise Hume's argument for this conclusion.
Hume claims that our moral judgments of the actions of others are based upon our own feelings, desires, and attitudes…
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Humes Moral Judgement Theory
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Download file to see previous pages The nonpropositional interpretation of Hume's claim states that moral judgement does not express truth or fact, it is merely the expression of a feeling or a feeling itself. The subjective description on the other hand, takes the view of the spectator's moral evaluation simply being the contemplation of the common point of view.
The dispositional interpretation understands moral judgements about good and evil have a motivational influence on our actions. Hume also states that moral evaluation involves the spectator's feelings in relation to witnessing the agent's act. Since these feelings are involved, then moral judgment must be subjective. In terms of dispositional interpretation, the agent's action can cause the spectator to either approve or disapprove. For instance, if a character trait is in accordance with the spectator, it will elicit feelings of approval. Moral judgments are subjective because they are based on the feelings of the spectator, and spectators will either approve or disapprove of the agent's actions, and their judgment is the result of whether or not they identify the character of the agent as appropriate or not.
These brief explanations of Hume's moral judgement theory illustrate Hume's basic assumption that it is only feeling that generates action and feeling that labels any action as morally right or wrong, good or bad. This is based upon the perceptions of the spectator, rather than the motivations of the agent of the action.

While Hume asserts that moral judgements are based upon emotional motivations such as desire, he claims that moral judgements based upon the actions of others do not express beliefs. According to Hume, desires and beliefs are distinct, contradictory states. Desires are not rationally criticisable as they make no reference to truth or reason. A belief on the other hand, is merely a copy of an assessable truth. Here reason alone is motivationally inert and moral judgements cannot therefore be derived from reason.

Another aspect of moral judgment is moral sentiment. Sentiment is an emotion caused by thinking about the action to be evaluated without any level of self-interest. Examples of moral sentiment are approval (a pleasure) and disapproval (a pain). Consequently, people can differentiate which traits are virtuous or vicious. The use of emotions and feelings (especially approval and disapproval) towards traits leads to approval of actions. Hence, agreeable traits tend to cause feelings of approval; whereas disagreeable traits tend to create feelings of disapproval.

Moral judgment is also affected by sympathy. Hume believes that by observing a person's outward appearance, the spectator can comprehend the passion of the person's mind. When these characteristics resemble or are contiguous with their own, the spectator is more likely to experience sympathetic feelings of pleasure and enjoyment.

In conclusion, Hume asserts that people can take different roles in terms of being an agent, a receiver, or a spectator. Since people can observe their own actions and also sympathize with their moral sentiments, it is possible for significant actions to fall into more than one category. Likewise, I agree with Hume that moral approval is based on emotional responses. Human nature is not based on expressed beliefs but on moral judgments substantiated by feelings. Hume's opinions of moral beliefs were radical or even contentious to his own contemporaries in the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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