11 July 2004

David Hume (1711-1776) on the Impotence of Reason

Since morals . . . have an influence on the actions and affections, it follows, that they cannot be deriv'd from reason; and that because reason alone, as we have already prov'd, can never have any such influence. Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason of itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason.

(David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects, Book III ["Of Morals"], Part I ["Of Virtue and Vice in General"], Section I ["Moral Distinctions Not Deriv'd from Reason"], Paragraph 6 [1740])

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