Archive for the ‘David Hume’ Category

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites

September 22, 2009

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still something eminent about them, in their valour, form of government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered the symptoms of ingenuity; though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.

David Hume, Scottish philosopher from a note added to his ‘Of National Characters’, in J.M. Roberts, The Triumph of the West, p.310

This is the problem with empiricism. He lacked a knowledge of the origin of all men as in the image of God.

I feel murder is bad, but maybe you don’t

September 11, 2009

Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance.  Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice . . . You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action.   Here it is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling, not reason.

David Hume

Since there is nothing but one person’s ‘disapprobation’ and another’s approval of an action, then there is not higher standard by which to judge. I like chocolate ice-cream, you like vanilla – there isn’t a ‘right’ flavour. I don’t like murdering children, some people do. (‘Ought’ is not derived from ‘is’.)

If all I can do, as Hume is saying, is look within, then the child killer may feel justified. Ultra relativism is the end product.

There are no moral phenomena, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 108

Morality not derived from nature

August 17, 2009

…the original source of all things…has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy.

David Hume, in the voice of Philo in Part IX of the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (this part is a refutation of Manichaeism)

Not even the basic prohibitions against cannibalism, incest, murder, and adultery—constitutive for all decent human communities—can be supported by or deduced from the natural world.

Leon Kass, Technology and the Humanist Dream:Babel Then and Now

Leon Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Dr. Kass earned his B.S. and M.D. degrees at the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Harvard. He has been engaged for more than 30 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advance. His books include: Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs (1984); The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature (1994); The Ethics of Human Cloning (1998), with James Q. Wilson; Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (2002); and The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis (2003). In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Kass Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics.