Princeton University Library Catalog

Hume the Hedonist Humean Metaethics and the Maximization of Pleasure

Kraft, Gregory [Browse]
Senior thesis
Smith, Michael [Browse]
Morison, Benjamin C. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Philosophy [Browse]
Class year:
57 pages
Summary note:
In A Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume says, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.” The sentiment expressed in this sentence characterizes what most followers of Humean metaethics believe—that moral judgments are not the products of reason. Rather, reason can only serve to tell us how to best fulfill our desires. This common interpretation of Hume has led to a subjectivist moral outlook. I argue, however, that even if we accept Hume’s understanding of the relation between reason and desires, we still end up with an objective morality. Hume’s ultimate conclusion is that one only ever ought to seek to satisfy one’s own desires. It will turn out that Hume’s conclusion will also entail that one only ever ought to maximize one’s own happiness, simply based on the kinds of things desires are.