Notes on Chapter 7 of Philosophical Ethics
Hume and Communitarian Theories
p. 220 Drinking Dessert Wines
p. 222 Hume's Moral Philosophy
1. A Moral Psychology of Reason and Sentiment: Reason plays a subordinate (although consequential) role in moral judgment, whereas desire, sentiment, or the passions determine our interests and goals.
2. A Moral Psychology and Sociology of Virtue: We have a natural, moral motivation to act benevolently (which shows the falsity of psychological egoism); but our limited benevolence in regard to others leads us to establish rules of justice.
3. A Moral Philosophy of Traditions and Communal Convention: Both social ethics and moral philosophy are based in historical traditions and community decisions (a form of conventionalism), in addition to basis in moral psychology described in propositions (1) and (2)
Hume is a blend of all three.
A Moral Psychology of Reason and Sentiment : reason is the slave of the passions in morals.
David Hume The Principles of Morals
Reason and Sentiment: utility is only a tendency to a certain end.
Sentiment (emotion or desire) chooses the end. "Reason, being cool and disengaged, is no motive to action, and directs only the impulse received from appetite or inclination, by showing us the means of attaining happiness or avoiding misery."
Benevolence and Self-Love: is benevolence mere hypocrisy? No.
p. 227 Justice, Convention, and Convenience: cultural situation and property
Necessity leads to justice and this by habit will be one of utility. Men share common interests. Two men rowing a boat -- they need to cooperate.
A Common Point of View: common interests and the language to suit. Language used from self-love. Language used based on the common point of view.
"The principles upon which men reason in morals are always the same; thought the conclusions which they draw are often very different."
Whatever conduct promotes the good of the community is loved, praised, and esteemed by the community, on account of that utility and interest, of which every one partakes....This affection and regard be, in reality, gratitude, not self-love."
Moral knowledge an individual has is based on passion. But moral traditions and communal decisions account for morality.
A Moral Psychology of Virtue:
Virtue: "It is the nature, and, indeed, the definition of virtue, that it is a quality of the mind agreeable to or approved of by every one, who considers or contemplates it." (The Hear, Hear definition.) "Actions are our only access to motives, but the motives underlying the actions are the true objects of our appraisal."
Historical Traditions and Communal Resolution: Moral rules not merely what an individual feels but part of the cultural moral code.
Historicism and Conventionalism: Universality in Morals: Utility and Justice: reasons rules arise -- the lack of x. Getting along with the rules is an artificial motive. (*We have to be convinced that the rules are to our benefit.)
Morality from Community Standards: The object of morality is the development of constraining rules that promote peace, prosperity, and the amelioration of conflicts.
Communal Judgment and Autonomous Choice: personal values are not moral values if they depart from the moral values of the community.
p. 237 From Hume to Mackie: inter subjective standards.
J.L. Mackie The Content of Ethics
Morality is not to be discovered but to be made.
A Device for Counteracting Limited Sympathies: look at the scale of interest, Protagoras -- a polis, Hobbes -- a nation, today -- a world? Gradually change the morality in the sphere of concern (closer requires more details, farther -- less) taking advantage of the system that is already in place to achieve what you think is valuable...
"...morality is needed to resolve the problem of limited resources and limited sympathies that create a social circumstance of potentially vicious competition and conflict.
(* are we seeing a tendency in this direction or are we sliding backwards? is forwards and backwards culturally dependent? Liberal? or do the circumstances we find ourselves in require world wide cooperation?)
Moral Conservatism and Skepticism about Theory:
The Primacy of Practice: a revolt against Utilitarian and Kantian theories?
Moral Conservatism: go with our current understanding of morality.
Opposition to Traditional Theory: Hegel in opposition to Kant -- too abstract!
Skeptic -- fundamental moral principles will obscure our reasoning instead of helping it!
Bernard Williams -- Theory and Prejudice
refs. Rawls -- 1st: society must have some degree of homogeneous belief and some ways of resolving conflicts that carry authority and avoid violence. This model is liberal and rationalistic. Can any society be like this?
Reasons for discrimination -- local prejudices? fairness? "enough is enough".
Current Ethical theory starts from principles, but should seek for as much shared understanding as it can find.
The Ethic of Care in A Feminist Form
Morality in a different voice: women care more then men do.
Carol Gilligan In A Different Voice are there two modes of relationship and two modes of moral thinking? Taking care of others instead of playing a game of contracts and obligations.
Baier on Varieties of Moral Postures: Feminism and the Concept of Trust: love versus obligation. Topic of "Appropriate Trust"
Implications for Moral "Theory": traditional ethical theory is not giving us a complete picture of the moral life. p. 289 Hume and the History of Ethics: Hume is the best of the lot.
p. 251 Annette Baier Hume, the Women's Moral Theorist?
Who is this guy, Kohlberg? But Hume starts from within the family. He is a good role model!
The Promise of Reflective Equilibrium: (formulated by Rawls) Reflective testing of our confident moral beliefs. We start with paradigms of what is morally proper or morally improper. We then search for principles that are consistent with these paradigms and are consistent with each other.
Conclusion: Perhaps pluralism is a wrong-headed approach to contemporary moral philosophy but it deserves consideration.
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