The empiricistnaturalist internalists--Locke perhaps , Hobbes, Cumberland, Hutcheson, and Hume--attempt to account for normativity in natural terms and see reason's powers as only those needed for discovery of empirical facts; thus, reason is wholly theoretical.
The British Moralists and the Internal Ought by Darwall Stephen - AbeBooks
Finally, however, only Shaftesbury and Butler have the informative view which explains normativity itself, since for Cudworth and Locke it is not necessary to obligation that the pertinent motive be regarded by the agent as authoritative, but only as the motive that would be strongest if the agent were fully rational. Culverwell, whose role is to illuminate Locke's view by comparison, does not clearly fit in either category. Stephen Darwall has produced a scholarly study, about which I can only raise general questions.
First, so little qualifies as categorically externalist that one may wonder whether all the fine subcategories within broad internalism are really enlightening, and it is unclear how the empiricist naturalist line fits into the original internalist taxonomy. Further, the thesis of the empiricist naturalists--that all reason is theoretical--is typically thought compatible only with an instrumentalist theory of practical reasoning that we reason about means to our ends, a factual matter, but the ends are determined by something more than reason--e. Nonetheless, Darwall finds in Cumberland and Hutcheson a noninstrumentalist view, which he calls "the calm deliberative view.
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The British Moralists and the Internal 'Ought': 1640-1740
Among the personal influences that led Hutcheson to reject the notion of natural human depravity were intellectuals in the Dublin community who were interested in the philosophy of Shaftesbury. Hutcheson shared with Shaftesbury a practical concern about the negative answer to the Human Nature Question, agreeing that if one is persuaded that human nature is selfish, then one is likely to behave selfishly. So, on Gill's interpretation, Hutcheson's assault on egoism and defense of a benevolent human nature were much more important to his system than his attacks on moral rationalism and subsequent defense of a moral sense were, contrary to the way his views have often been depicted.
Gill analyzes both Hutcheson's arguments against the egoists and his arguments against the moral rationalists. Hutcheson's positive picture is of human beings who are naturally benevolent and whose sentiments of approval and disapproval determine the standard of moral good and evil. This moral sense is one among many senses we possess, including the sense of honor the capacity to be pleased at the esteem of others , the public sense the capacity to be pleased at the happiness of others , and the aesthetic sense.
Hutcheson argues that the possibility of conflicts between the moral senses of different people and within the senses of an individual is undermined by the fact that a good God guarantees that sentiments retained upon certain reflection will be those original to human nature, in harmony with one another, and good. Gill remarks on the implausibility of Hutcheson's account, which he suggests, along with Hume who was to follow, "is not the best explanation of the observable phenomena of human conduct" I will pause before moving to Part Four.
The British Moralists and the Internal "Ought": 1640-1740
I could suggest that the Human Nature Question is perhaps pressed into service a bit too much in Gill's narrative. I have no definitive argument for this allegation, but I do think some of the other pressing questions the British Moralists took up were perhaps just hard to separate from the Human Nature Question.
Defending sentimentalism may not have been Hutcheson's primary aim, but I see his defense of the sensibility theory in moral and aesthetic value as more central than Gill does. In the preface to the Inquiry , 4th edition, Hutcheson notes that his chief aim is to show that human nature is attracted to the beauty of virtue. This can be read as segueing to a discussion of the virtue of human nature, but also as introducing the notion of moral and aesthetic sense, for which Hutcheson argues at length in the Inquiry. Hutcheson himself was never careful to distinguish the sentiments of senses from the sentiments that are motives to action.
For instance, the public sense seems to be both the capacity to be pleased at the welfare of others and the source of the desire for the happiness of others. So, it is not surprising that the Human Nature Question is intertwined with the treatments of the senses in his texts. However, this is not to argue that the rejection of the doctrine of the depravity of human nature was not the driving force on the whole behind the philosophical theories of these British moralists.
Gill does muster convincing arguments that this is so, and the value of this line of interpretation is substantiated by the coherence of the picture it produces. The plot comes to a climax and conclusion with Part Four. Here Gill depicts Hume as completing a Copernican Revolution in moral philosophy. Hume rejects the Human Nature Question entirely by recognizing that neither a positive nor a negative answer is appropriate. He rejects the Hutchesonian description of virtue as natural, arguing that what counts as virtue and as what counts as vice are determined by human nature.
Thus he undermines the reasons Hutcheson offered for portraying God with the paramount role in morality of assuring that the natural and the good are consonant. Hume sharply severs the tie between theology and morality.
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In Part Four, the discussion has a palpably different feel. Gill uses little of the historical and personal stage-setting that introduced the other philosophers. Perhaps this is indicative of the dramatic shift Gill is conveying, and he notes that Hume's approach to ethics in A Treatise of Human Nature is theoretical, not practical.
Gill's discussion of Hume's moral philosophy represents as the core of his differences with Hutcheson the role each accords to mental associations. Whereas Hutcheson following Locke saw a passion or an idea that originated by mental association as removed from nature and untrustworthy as, for example, associating a certain race with a certain temperament , Hume argues that the human tendency to associate ideas and impressions is productive of all manner of ideas and passions, some useful and some not.
In particular, our distinctions between virtue and vice originate in sympathy, an associative process whereby we take on the feelings we imagine others to have, and then we temper those feelings by general habits of thought. Our distinction between justice and the injustice likewise relies on conventions that develop and change our original passions into ones that can move us according to rules that support social institutions. Gill also highlights the importance of the process of comparison, arguing that many judgments, like those of pride and beauty, depends crucially for Hume on comparisons: we don't take pride, for instance, in having something most everyone else has.
Gill musters evidence from several quarters to make the point that, for Hume, judgments of moral goodness are also made in light of how one person's conduct measures up to the conduct of others; thus, he shows that Hume's theory is contingent in ways that Hutcheson's is not. If Gill's analysis of Hume's use of comparison in morality is correct, then much of Hume scholarship has ignored an important component of Hume's moral theory. Gill's suggestion shows great insight in offering an explanation how moral distinctions arise out of human practices.
Gill illustrates that the perspective from which we judge character according to Hume -- by discounting our interests and sympathizing with those directly affected by the agent -- is determined by what we can expect people to take into account when they act, given what they usually take into account.
We don't expect an agent's awareness of the effects of her actions to extend to people at remote locations and times, and so we don't judge them on that basis. I find Gill's extraction of this lesson from Hume quite provocative. I do think he missed an opportunity here to take up a strand noted in the beginning, of the importance of being able to bear reflection on one's own character, a point emphasized in Hume and one that Gill interestingly found back in Whichcote.
Gill's book is written in a clear, inviting, and sometimes entertaining style. Here is just one example: "… [Hutcheson] also spent an inordinate amount of time pummeling the peculiar view of William Wollaston in what was really a pretty unfair fight between a philosophical middleweight and a philosophical featherweight" Another pleasing feature here is that Gill develops his historical theses by appealing to the primary sources in the main text, leaving discussion of the many secondary sources and commentaries to footnotes.
This approach offers an uninterrupted presentation of the historical story, while still tendering to those interested in the many contemporary debates material for their consideration.