In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

161 HUME ON RESPONSIBILITY For Hume, to hold a person morally responsible for an action is morally to approve of him or to blame him in virtue of the action. Moreover, as he says in the Treatise of Human Nature, "approbation or blame ... is nothing but a fainter and more imperceptible love or hatred." How must an action be related to a person in order for the person to be held morally responsible for the action? Since to hold a person morally responsible for an action is morally to approve of him or to blame him in virtue of the action, and since moral approval or blame is nothing but a fainter and more imperceptible love or hatred, the first stage in answering this question is to attempt to answer the following more general question: How must an action be related to a person in order for the person to be loved or hated because of the action? This question, in turn, requires one to consider some of the main features of Hume's account of the passions of love and hatred. One main feature of Hume's account of these passions is that he distinguishes between the object of love and hatred and their causes. Hume says: As the immediate object of pride and humility is self or that identical person, of whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are intimately conscious; so the object of love and hatred is some other person, of whose thoughts, actions, and sensations we are not conscious (T 329). Though the object of love and hatred be some person other than one-self, the object is not, strictly speaking, the cause, that is, the sole and 162 sufficient cause. For if the other person were the cause, then he would cause both passions in oneself; and since love and hatred nullify one another, neither could ever exist. The causes of love and hatred are complex and diversified. The ingredients of such causes are as follows: First, there are certain general qualities or circumstances. These may be subdivided as follows: (a) mental qualities: qualities of a person such as virtue, knowledge, wit, tend to produce love; those such as vice, ignorance, dullness, tend to produce hatred; (b) bodily features: beauty, strength, swiftness are conducive to love; their opposites, to hatred; (c) external advantages and disadvantages, such as family position, possessions, clothing, etc., can contribute to the production of love or hatred. But, secondly, these qualities or circumstances, considered in abstraction, cannot cause love or hatred. They must be related to the person who is the object of love or hatred. For example, knowing of a beautiful palace cannot lead one to esteem a particular prince unless the palace is related to him by, for instance, being his property. Thirdly, in order for mental qualities, bodily features, or external advantages or disadvantages to produce love or hatred, they must not only be related to the object of these passions; they must also induce pleasure or displeasure. Without pleasure or displeasure, neither love nor hatred could arise. How, then, do actions figure in the causation of love or hatred? An action can cause pleasure or pain. But, for Hume, an action's production of pleasure or pain is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the production of love or hatred towards the person whose action it is. In addition, 163 the action must be related to the person. But an action is of relatively short duration. Thus, Hume argues: 'Tis not enough, that the action arise from the person, and have him for its immediate cause and author. This relation alone is too feeble and inconstant to be a foundation for these passions. It reaches not the sensible and thinking part, and neither proceeds from any thing durable in him, nor leaves any thing behind it; but passes in a moment, and as if it had never been. On the other hand, an intention shews certain qualities, which, remaining after the action is perform'd, connect it with the person, and facilitate the transition of ideas from one to the other (T 349). Now, as we have seen, Hume holds that 'approbation or blame ... is...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 161-175
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.