Hume’s Practical Reason Anti-Realism

 

According to Hume, what can reason do?

 

(1) It judges relations of ideas through abstract reasoning.

 

(2) It judges relations of cause and effect through reasoning based on experience.

 

“Reason is the discovery of truth or falsehood.  Truth or falsehood consists in an agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to real existence and matter of fact”(503).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Hume, what can't reason do?

 

(1) "Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will"(501).

 

(2) Reason "can never oppose passion in the direction of the will"(501).

 

What is Hume's argument for (1)?  Do you agree?

What is Hume's argument for (2)?  Do you agree?

 

"Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them"(501).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Hume, there are only two (inexact) senses in which a passion can be called unreasonable:

 

(1) when founded on the supposition of the existence of objects that do not really exist;

 

(2) when means are chosen that are insufficient to the designed end. 

 

But don't these examples show that reason can, at least, oppose the passions?

 

Does this sound like a slave?

“The moment we perceive the falsehood of any supposition or the insufficiency of any means, our passions yield to our reason without any opposition”(502).

 

How about this?

“But it is evident in this case, that the impulse arises not from reason, but is only directed by it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millgram on Hume

 

Hume is generally regarded as an instrumentalist about practical reason—that is, that the only kind of practical reasoning is means-end reasoning.

 

[Is this the only kind of practical reasoning that Hume discusses?  What about matters of existence?]

 

Millgram argues that this is a mistake.  Hume should be understood as denying that there is any kind of practical reasoning at all.  Hume is a skeptic about practical reason (or Practical Reason Anti-Realist).

 

What is Millgram's explanation of Hume's skepticism?

Hume's psychology allowed mental states to "have either [propositional] contents or motivational force, but not both"(69).

 

Mental states are either a kind of picture (and thus can be true or false) or a kind of feeling (and thus can have motivational force.  But no feelings have pictures pictures and no pictures have feelings.

 

 

 

 

Hume the Practical Reason Skeptic [Anti-Realist]

      

"'Tis not contary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.  'Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me.  'Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter"(502).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hume's Moral Noncognitivism

 

Cognitivism with respect to a certain kind of discourse is the view that the discourse is propositional (and thus that statements in the discourse are true or false).

 

Non-Cognitivism with respect to a certain kind of discourse is the view that the discourse is not propositional (and thus that statements in the discourse are neither true nor false).  Hume is generally regarded as a non-cognitivist.

 

 

Hume's main claim:  Moral judgments are motivating.  Reason is motivationally inert.  Therefore, moral judgments cannot be the product of reason alone.

 

Hume's examples:  the ungrateful sapling; incest; willful murder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hume's Argument Against the Metaphysical Version of the So-Called Naturalistic Fallacy

 

 

There is no way of deriving an ought (normative judgment) from an is (purely descriptive judgment) [without some premise connecting the two and there are no such premises that are true].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moral Realism and Anti-Realism

 

Moral Realism (MR):  There are normative truths about what one morally ought or ought not to do.   (There is some disagreement among moral realists on whether or not these truths depend on one's situation).  These truths apply to all rational beings (at least, when they are in relevantly similar situations). 

 

Moral Anti-Realism (MAR):  There are no normative truths about what one morally ought or ought not to do.  (The advocate of MAR typically provides an explanation of why it seems to us that there are such truths).  There are two ways to be a MAR: to hold either that the statements in the discourse are non-propositional (neither true nor false), or that they are all false.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Reason Realism and Anti-Realism

 

Practical Reason Realism (PRR):  There are normative truths about what it is rational to do (which typically depend on one's situation).  These truths apply to all rational beings (in relevantly similar situations).

 

Practical Reason Anti-Realism (PRAR) (Extreme Humeanism):  There are no normative truths about what it is rational to do.  (The advocate of PRAR typically provides an explanation of why it seems to us that there are such truths.)  PRAR implies MAR.

3.  Theoretical Reason Realism and Anti-Realism

 

Theoretical Reason Realism (TRR):  There are normative truths about what it is rational to believe (which typically depend on one's situation).  These truths apply to all rational beings (in relevantly similar situations).

 

Theoretical Reason Anti-Realism (TRAR):  There are no normative truths about what it is rational to believe.  (The advocate of TRAR typically provides an explanation of why it seems to us that there are such truths.)

 

 

Total Normative Anti-Realism (NAR):  There are no normative truths.  NAR implies TRAR, PRAR, and MAR.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Hume an advocate of total normative anti-realism?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hume is an advocate of MAR and PRAR, but not TRAR.  Beliefs have content, so they can be influenced by reason.  Motivational states do not have content, so they cannot be.

 

 

 

 

Once we understand that Hume’s PRAR and MAR depend on his assumption that motivational states cannot have content, we see that Hume’s account of them is implausible.  After all, we individuate desires by their contents—e.g., when I feel thirsty, I typically have a desire [to have a drink of water].  (The part in brackets is the content.)  Once we attribute content to motivational states, we can reason with them to new motivational states.  For example, if I desire to get a drink of water and the I believe that the only water source is out in the hall, my reason tells me that I ought (in a purely instrumental sense) to go out into the hall, and, other things being equal, I am motivated to do so.

 

However, this leaves open the possibility of a Humean argument for PRR and MAR.  That is what Williams will attempt.

 

 

Williams on Internal and External Reasons

 

1.  Subjective Motivational Set (SMS) = desires, dispositions of evaluation, patterns of emotional reaction, personal loyalties and commitments (105).

 

2.  Sound Deliberative Route.  For Williams, practical reasoning includes instrumental reasoning (sub-Humean model), but also includes other kinds of reasoning, including:  thinking how the satisfaction of elements in S can be combined; resolving conflicts of motivation; and finding constitutive solutions (104). 

 

3.  InternalW Reasons. 

       Consider the agent’s subjective motivational set, SMS.  Remove from it any member D that is dependent on a false belief; or that is dependent on another member that is dependent on a false belief. 
Call this the subject’s corrected subjective motivational set, CSMS.

       (Def) A has an internalW reason to Ф iff There are one or more members of A's CSMS from which there is a sound deliberative route to Ф-ing.

 

 

 

 

Williams’s InternalismW about Practical Reason

 

 

Define an externalW reason as one that is not internalW. 

 

Williams’s internalismW about practical reasons:  All practical reasons are internalW in the above sense.  There are no externalW reasons.

 

 

Why does Williams think that the example of Owen Wingrave makes it plausible that all practical reasons are internalW in his sense?

 

 

The key idea:  Reason can produce motivation, but only when there is something in the agent’s SMS to deliberate from, to reach the new motivation (109).

 

ExternalW reasons statements are all false, because they depend on reason being able to produce motivation that is not related (by a sound deliberative route) to motivation already in the agent’s SMS.

 

 

 

 

 

Williams’s Picture of Practical Reasoning

 

The analogy to reasoning about belief:  Practical reasoning is like inferential reasoning.  Both are governed by hypothetical principles.  In theoretical reasoning, modus ponens is a hypothetical principle, because it only tells you that if you believe p and (if p then q) that you should believe q.  Similarly, the instrumental principle is a hypothetical principle, because it only tells you that if you desire E or have E as an end, that you should take the appropriate means to achieve E.  For Williams, all practical reasoning is hypothetical, though not necessarily instrumental.

 

According to Williams, practical reasoning is hypothetical, though not necessarily instrumental, because takes us from an agent’s original SMS (SMS1) to a new SMS (SMS2) that is conditional on the contents of the original SMS1. (Of course, it eventually produces actions.)