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Hume's sentimentalism and moral motivation

Why should I be moral? My thesis is dedicated to exploring how David Hume’s moral theory may answer this question. According to Hume’s psychology of action, only passions, desires and dispositions have motivational force, but reason alone has not. As Hume believes that morality is action-guided, he bases his moral theory on sentiments. The advantage of a sentiment-based theory is that it easily explains why we follow morality: as we have moral sentiments, we already have a motive to follow morality. However, it seems that a moral theory based on sentiments hardly explains why we follow impartial judgments, for original sentiments arising from sympathy are always partial.
proposes a general point of view to correct unregulated sympathy. Adopting a general point of view, we leave aside personal interest and view a person through the eyes of those who are in his narrow circle according to the effects his character tends to cause. However, there seems be tension between sentimentalism and Hume’s general point of view. It is doubtful whether the judgments made from a general point of view are still sentiment-based and how we are moved to leave our personal standpoint to take up a general point of view when we are naturally more concerned with our own self-interest.
Hence, the main difficulty for Hume’s moral theory is to explain what causes us to adopt a general point of view and act morally in a sentimentalist framework. I suggest that to get rid of the contradiction in the soul caused by our sympathy with others’ sentiments is the primary motive for us to adopt a general point of view. Moreover, understanding the limitations of human nature, we do not have overly high expectation of people; hence, we are satisfied with a person if he benefits his narrow circle and therefore limit ourselves to a general point view. / published_or_final_version / Philosophy / Master / Master of Philosophy
Date January 2013
CreatorsZhou, Yuqing, 周玉清
ContributorsCook, GA
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Source SetsHong Kong University Theses
Detected LanguageEnglish
RightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works., Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License
RelationHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)

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