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Kant and Hume on Morality

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is in most cases juxtaposed with the ethics that were developed by David Hume (1711-1776). Hume was relying on the moral philosophy to be empirical and experimental whereas Kant was emphasizing on the necessity of founding morality in a priori of main beliefs. Hume states that the reason for this is well a slave to the passions whereas Kant founds morality in a conception that he came up with of a reason that is practical in a way or the other. Hume manages to identify these feelings as benevolence as well as generosity to be ideal moral motivations. Kant is able to see the motive of duty, something that Hume sees as a second best or fall back reason as being exclusively articulating the agent assurance to morality and therefore responsible for transmission of a special moral value to actions. Despite the fact that a majority of the points are of Kant and Hume being in opposition to each other, there also exists vital links that are there between the two theorists. For instance, Kant shares a number of vital assumptions concerning morality and motivation together with Hume. As well, Kant had earlier been attracted to and received influence from the sentiments of Hume as well as other British moralists in the initial years of his career (Denis, 2008; Kennett, 2002). The following is a mock dialogue between these two theorists expressing the philosophic views of the theorists;

Kant and Hume on Morality

Hume: It is outright that I have had influence on your view points, what are some of these influences?

Kant: The piece that I did that mostly portrays any influence that I might have gotten from you in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1763).The project that I was having in this work entailed analyzing and noting the several feelings of either displeasure or pleasure; aversion and attraction, that are felt by people who are having varied characteristics or personalities. Other than the similarities that are existing in endeavor and language here to your projects and works of sentimentalism, I also got to pinpoint a number of statements that are concerned with the foundation of ethics as well as the principles that are standing out in these sentiments.

Hume: Just to elaborate further, there are levels of relative approvals for moral sense theories that you have that are more or less coinciding with theories of self-interest yet you are stating that the principle of moral sense theories are under the principles of happiness owing to the empirical interests that are promising to contribute to the happiness that we have. Expound on this and whether it is still part of my influences.

Kant: The moral feeling is closer to morality and dignity in many ways just as it stands for true virtue of honoring to ascribing from other theorists. In my view, sentimentalism as well as other trial that aim at grounding morality in material determining grounds are a fail and I have been able to come up with a list of the reasons under which moral sense theories are in adequate (Schönecker & Wood, 2015). This leads me to question your stand on free will.

Hume: Of course there are ambiguities that are existing in language that are responsible for keeping interlocutors in the debate over free will and they are talking past each other. All the mankind irrespective of whether they are learned or ignorant is always on a similar opinion that regards to freedom of will. Reason is and in no circumstance should only be the slave to the passions and can never be in pretence to any of the other offices other than serving and obeying them.

  • Denis, L. (2008). Kant and Hume on morality.
  • Kennett, J. (2002). Autism, empathy and moral agency. The Philosophical Quarterly, 52(208), 340-357.
  • Schönecker, D., & Wood, A. W. (2015). Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork for The Metaphysics of Morals: A Commentary. Harvard University Press.

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