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The uneasiness and satisfaction are not only inseparable from vice and virtue, but constitute their very nature and essence. To approve of a character is to feel an original delight upon its appearance. To disapprove of it is to be sensible of an uneasiness.

And these moral sentiments are simply one species of human passion. Love and hatred are, for Hume, broad categories encompassing a wide variety of positive and negative affective responses, including, for instance, sentiments of esteem and respect as well as romantic or familial affection. Annette Baier challenges this picture somewhat, suggesting that Hume at least ought not treat the moral sentiments as species of love and hate, since they are directed toward character traits rather than persons.

The point is important for our purposes, since Hume goes out of his way in the letter to Mure to emphasize that principle S1 places the deity beyond the reach of our calmer passions as well as the more violent. So in stressing that S1 applies to the calm as well as the strong passions, Hume is likely underlining the implications of S1 for the moral sentiments. Without spelling it out in so many words, he may be pointing to the fact that S1, in conjunction with some of the most conspicuous doctrines of the Treatise, entails that the deity is not a natural object of the moral sentiments.

He is, at the least, emphasizing that S1 implies that the deity is not a natural object of any of the calm sentiments, which in his recent Treatise prominently includes responses of moral approval and disapproval. The reason that stones and snowstorms do not have moral virtues or vices is that human affective psychology does not naturally react to stones and snowstorms, however helpful or destructive they are, with the appropriate species of moralized approval or disapproval.

There might of course be anomalous cases: perhaps a mad or hopelessly confused person could conceivably experience moral sentiments toward such things. And as we can now see, all this applies to the deity. It follows that this ultimate being or principle is beyond moral assessment, and cannot have virtues or vices. Objections and Replies In the remainder of this chapter, I examine three possible objections to the argument from sentimentalism.

Spectres of False Divinity: Hume's Moral Atheism

At the very least, we can say that Hume endorses each of the premises and hints at their connection to one another even if he does not explicitly draw their joint conclusion. Rather than embarrassing Hume himself, they might tell against my own interpretation of Hume as committed to that argument. But if the argument says nothing about the intrinsic nature of the divinity, then it cannot rule out that being having traits that look for all the world like virtues and vices.

The objection is correct so far as it goes, but its limitations also need to be registered. The argument from sentimentalism manifestly the argument from sentimentalism 2 concerns the way in which human sentimental psychology would relate to any original cause of all, rather than addressing the intrinsic nature of this primary being or principle. This is of course no accident.

Hume on Religion

This is the key point that the current objector is perhaps in danger of underestimating. Apple trees provide us with food, but we do not regard them as morally virtuous. The reason, of course, is that only thinking, rational beings are regarded as moral agents, as beings capable of virtue and vice. It is just a contingent fact of human nature that we do not stain or gild trees or diseases with moral properties, and that is all there is to it. To demand that there always be a rational basis for moral distinctions, and to insist that such distinctions cannot simply bottom out in brute facts about human psychological attitudes, is of course simply to abandon sentimentalism for moral rationalism.

And according to the argument from sentimentalism, there is a further limitation on the natural objects of our moral sentiments. Only if one rejects the modern theory of secondary qualities for an account that treats colors as intrinsic and mind-independent features of things would it make sense to ask what color the deity is, notwithstanding our own inability to experience it. Of course, philosophers with realist intuitions about moral properties may balk at the suggestion that a being can be said to lack moral attributes quite independently of its own intrinsic nature.

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Blackburn develops the theory in an expressivist direction; Prinz in a subjectivist and relativistic direction. And in the case of the Stoic sage and Platonist devotee, Hume seems to be conceding that a few powerful intellects might be able to strain their feelings toward such ultimate cosmological realities, if only for brief episodes.

See also E , EHU In any case, a second sort of response is also available. To see this, consider that a sage whose passions do indeed range out to the deity would have to differ from the rest of us in one of two crucial respects. Either i he must have some sort of highly unusual sentimental psychology, such that his passions can respond to the original cause of all even while he knows no more about this ultimate being or principle than the rest of us.

Take the sage whose sentimental psychology is quite different from that of a normal human. EPM 9. But when he bestows on any man the epithets of vicious or odious or depraved, he then speaks another language, and expresses sentiments in which, he expects, all his audience are to concur with him.

He must here, therefore, depart from his private and particular situation, and must choose a point of view, common to him with others: He must move some universal principle of the human frame, and touch a string, to which all mankind have an accord and symphony. Expert judges are not above our common human sentiments, but simply better predictors of them. But surely we need to ask whether this lack of imagery is simply a matter of our current state of ignorance, or whether it rests on more fundamental considerations.

Or is there some deeper reason why human sense and imagination including the understanding—i. Suppose that our natural faculties of sense and imagination remain the same they might acquire new representations, but without uprooting their basic structure and constitution , and that our sentimental psychology also remains unchanging so that we continue to feel approval and disapproval toward such-and-such particular character traits, and that inanimate beings, for instance, remain beyond the sphere of our moralized responses.

While these natural human faculties incorporate all sorts of contingent features, they are nevertheless bedrock for Hume in providing an account of the source and nature of moral distinctions. But of course we could learn more about this ancestor, enabling us to feel gratitude toward him. And this fact indicates that the ancestor is indeed worthy of gratitude, notwithstanding our current inability to experience such sentiments.

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Of course, Hume doubts that humans will ever learn more about the original cause. But the point remains that, insofar as our inability to feel moral sentiments toward God may simply stem from our state of ignorance, we cannot appeal to that inability to support moral atheism, but only moral agnosticism. But it is not immediately obvious what could justify this strong claim.

This dilemma presents a serious challenge to the argument from sentimentalism. But is Hume entitled to this stronger claim?

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He needs to show that the poverty of our imagistic representations tracing the nature of this ultimate being or principle is not simply a matter of our current ignorance, but rather stems from permanent features of the human condition. And in fact this does seem to be the way that Hume is thinking of the issue. How might Hume try to argue that the deity is beyond the permanent horizon of our sentiments, and not merely beyond the reach of our sentiments given our current and in principle remediable position of ignorance?

Still, we might consider the following three sorts of argument, each of which seems broadly Humean in spirit. One possible approach would be to stress that our responses to the world, including both our formation of cognitive representations and our subsequent sentimental responses, are always from the perspective of one situated within the unfolding causal order of the universe. With this in mind, Hume might hold that our faculties can only successfully refer to objects related to us via the causal sequences that are internal to the developing universe, and thus cannot reach out to an object exterior to the whole creation.

Our knowledge of particular beings thus seems limited to objects placed within the causal sequences that are internal to the ordered universe. As we have seen, Hume holds that our passions can only be directed toward sensible or imaginable beings. Sensible beings seem eo ipso to be within the universe, and imaginable beings are surely pictured as such. So again, perhaps Hume thought it impossible for us ever to have the sort of vivid imagistic representations of the original cause that we would need to engage our passions.

Given that we can have no immediate experience of the original cause, the only way that we could ever learn anything more about it is by inference from the character of the world that it produced. We need to have had experience of regular patterns of cause—effect pairs in order to know anything about the typical causes of any given type of effect. We need not go this far, but it is clear at least that Hume holds that the great dissimilarity between the universe and all other objects of experience ensures that any argument from the character of the universe to the attributes of its cause can only provide at best a very weak degree of evidential support, permitting only highly tentative, attenuated, and weakly probable conclusions at best. Conclusion Hume is committed to the argument from sentimentalism.

His sentimentalist theory of moral properties together with his account of the underlying mechanisms controlling our passions jointly place the deity beyond the sphere of virtue and vice. Hume is clear that we need rich mental imagery to direct our passions, and that such imagery is not available in the case of the original cause.

Journal of the History of Philosophy

He is also clear that if a being is beyond the natural reach of our passions, then it is beyond the natural reach of our moral sentiments and hence cannot have moral attributes. These theses combine to remove the original cause from the moral domain. Hume was most likely aware that his views led to moral atheism, and he seems to hint at the point when he goes out of his way to emphasize that the deity is not a natural object of our calm affections, which paradigmatically include moral approval and disapproval.

While he never explicitly endorses the argument from sentimentalism, the letter to Mure comes quite close. Most importantly, the premises driving the argument are all core Humean doctrines that appear both in early works like the Treatise and Essays, and in the later period of the Enquiries, Natural History, and Dissertation on the Passions.

In particular, Hume never presses the point in his published works on religion. Or perhaps, in his later works on religion, Hume may have simply wanted to avoid basing his arguments on his controversial sentimentalist moral theory and system of the passions, thoroughly naturalistic doctrines that his wider audience would have been unlikely to accept.

I now turn from questions about our attitudes toward the deity to questions about the intrinsic character of this original cause or organizing principle. Is the deity benevolent, merciful, generous, and the rest?

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Or is it indifferent to all such concerns? He argues that it is overwhelmingly unlikely that the deity has a sentimental psychology anything like the human, and that without this sort of approximately anthropomorphic sentimental psychology the deity will not be motivated to moral behavior.

This initial stage of the argument then presents us with a probabilistic case for weak moral atheism, the view that the deity is not morally praiseworthy. But the same basic line of reasoning goes further, for it will equally show that in all likelihood the deity lacks the sort of sentimental psychology required to ground humanly comprehensible character traits, traits that might serve as appropriate objects for moral evaluation. This second stage of the argument then presents a probabilistic case for strong moral atheism, the view that the deity is not morally assessable.

Of course, I have already argued that Hume does allow some conclusions about the divine nature, and that he does practice a limited form of natural theology Sections 2. So it might seem that Hume cannot really mean to insist that the deity has no concern for moral standards as opposed to maintaining a strict skepticism or agnosticism on the question, and still less that he would do so by way of argument from experience. At least, it might seem that he cannot indulge in such negative dogmatism without ignoring his own skeptical critique of natural theology and cosmological speculation.

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The Argument from Motivation: The Texts Hume presents a version of this argument in both his early private correspondence in the letter to Hutcheson of March 16, and his later published work in the Natural History, and, more obliquely, in the posthumous Dialogues It seems, therefore, unreasonable to transfer such sentiments to a supreme existence, or to suppose him actuated by them; and the phenomena, besides, of the universe will not support us in such a theory. Pears ed. Second, no character refutes Demea on the present point.