Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 3: David Hume

View Segments Segment :

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
Successfully saved clip
Find all your clips in My Lists
Failed to save clip
  • Transcript
  • Transcript

    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:01

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR: The third giantof the Scottish enlightenment is undoubtedly David Hume.And like Adam Smith, Hume was also tremendously influencedby Francis Hutcheson.However this doesn't mean that Hutchesonapproved of Hume's views.In fact, he is known to have tremendously disapprovedof a draft of Hume's major work, Treatise of Human Nature,

    • 00:22

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: that he saw.And he's also known to have tried to obstruct Hume'sattempts to secure a university positionat the University of Edinburgh.Despite these setbacks and despite Hutcheson'sdisapproval, David Hume is undoubtedlyone of the most good natured and pleasantof all of the Scottish enlightenment philosophers.David Hume's arguments concerning natural religion,

    • 00:44

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: in particular, his arguments concerning the design argument,are actually intentionally funny.If you haven't read them, you shouldbecause they are high comedy in its greatest form.Moreover, Hume was constantly beingbadgered by his contemporaries to finishhis great History of England.Hume's response to them when theykept pressing him for a publication date

    • 01:05

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: or pressing him for more chapterswas quite simple, Look, says Hume,I'm too lazy, too fat, and just too rich to write this anymore.Now I think for being too lazy and too fat might well describean awful lot of philosophers, but unfortunately we'renot too rich.Hume was very fortunate in that respect.

    • 01:25

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: And Hume enjoyed his wealth.If you see pictures of Hume, he's enormously rotund,and he's good natured, and he's happy.This is a man who enjoys life.Hume, because of his enjoyment of life,endorses Hutcheson's views that persons are generallybenevolent towards one another.He's certainly not a Hobbesian.

    • 01:46

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: However, Hutcheson's disapproval of Humedoesn't stem from that agreement.It stems from where Hume takes Hutcheson's argumentsconcerning sentimentalism because Humefollows the arguments to their natural conclusions.And he does so brilliantly throughout all of his work,be it on morals or be it on epistemology,the theory of knowledge.

    • 02:07

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: For Hume, reason is and always shouldbe the slave of the passions.We see here clear links to Adam Smithand to Hutcheson who are also concernedwith persons being motivated by their affectionsand their sympathies.And we can see how persuasive Hume's view here is.Imagine that you're going off to a supermarket in Scotland.

    • 02:28

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Facing you are all sorts of Scottish goodies,haggis in tins, kilts, little tartanScottie dogs, little hats with bubbles on them,all other sorts of things that Scotland has producedand that only a Scot could really want.You're in this supermarket, and you're looking around,and clearly it's not your reason that'sgoing to direct you to pick up certain things

    • 02:51

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: and put them into your basket.It's your desires.It's your passions.Now your reason can certainly help guideand direct your passions.If you want to save money, as any true Scot would,you'd be looking down and finding outhow much price per pound the Yorkshireor the Scottish shortbread is or the oatmeal is.So your reason will help you to satisfy your desires,

    • 03:13

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: but it's the desires that are in the driving seat.They are what's doing the work.This has implications, notes Hume, for how moral he is.We often say that people are motivated by morality,and we often make this claim truly.So you might ask somebody, why did you hand in that walletthat you found to the police?And they might just say, it was the right thing to do.

    • 03:34

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Or you might say, why didn't you take your roommate's yogurtsout of the fridge?They wouldn't have spotted that they had been missing.And you might say, well, it's all wrong thing to do.You're motivated by considerations of morality.What is right and what is wrong helps guide and determineyour actions, but notice, says Hugh, if that's true,

    • 03:55

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: and it seems to be, morality cannot be rationally basedbecause remember, it is not reason, but our passions,our affections, that lead us to perform certain actions.So morality is based upon our sympathies, our passions,in Humean terms, our sentiments to link more clearly with Adam

    • 04:16

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Smith and Francis Hutcheson.So we're guided and directed by our sentiments thatmight be a problem because as Hume recognizedwe have differing levels of sentimentalattachment to people depending on how close they are to us.We're very readily motivated to exercise

    • 04:36

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: what Hume terms the natural virtues of benevolencetowards friends or family members,but we might be less motivated to perform benevolentlytowards people who are further from us, strangersin the street for example.And this might be a problem because if we'redealing with people in a large impersonal society,

    • 04:56

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: we want individuals to be motivated to treat othersjustly, even if they are not membersof their family or their close friends.How do we get to this?Hume notes that we have, as well asthe natural virtues such as familial benevolence, whathe terms artificial virtues such as justice.

    • 05:18

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: For Hume, justice was narrowly concerned with respectingother people's property.You act justly if you respect the property of others.Notice that Hume's worry, that we might notbe motivated to act justly, comeswith a vengeance when we're talking about strangers.We want justice to apply impersonally and impartially.

    • 05:39

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: But if it's a natural virtue, and we lack benevolencetoward strangers that we have towards family and friends,maybe our motivation to act justlytowards others and impersonal situations will be fairly weak.Hume argues that what we should dois recognize that justice is an artificial virtue.We are motivated and we wish others

    • 06:01

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: to be motivated to act justly because then it is for the bestway of organizing society.If we want our property respected,and we recognize that others have a similar claimupon their property, we should act justly towards them,even if they are complete strangers to us.In Hume's famous example, if you find the property of somebody

    • 06:25

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: who is just a terrible person, a seditious bigot,you should return his property to himbecause it is his property.So we have this general virtue of justice, which is artificialand which we're trying to instillin ourselves and in others, because to do sowill maximize general social utility or at least work

    • 06:48

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: to the advantage of social utility.So for Hume, our passions are indeed guide and directionof our actions.They're the font of our actions.We have a sentimentalist based non-rational approachtowards morality, and we distinguishbetween artificial virtues and the natural virtues.

    • 07:10

      PROFESSOR JAMES STACEY TAYLOR [continued]: Again like Smith and Hutcheson, if we take Hume's viewson board here, we're going to be putting togethervarious social institutions but recognizethat persons are generally benevolent,but might need additional push to respond justlytowards persons with whom they haveno direct personal relationship.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 3: David Hume

View Segments Segment :

Unique ID: bd-poli-docu-gotsep3dh-AA03572


This third installment of the series focuses on the theories and work of David Hume. Professor James Stacey Taylor provides insight into the life of this influential and humorous academic, whose opinions could polarize even those he emulated.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 3: David Hume

This third installment of the series focuses on the theories and work of David Hume. Professor James Stacey Taylor provides insight into the life of this influential and humorous academic, whose opinions could polarize even those he emulated.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website

Back to Top