Essay, Research Paper
In Hume s A Treatise Of Human Nature he makes a distinction between passions and reason. He Points out that reason is a slave to the passions. Reason is what directs our judgment, concerning causes and effects (p.461). These causes and effects are what directs our reason. There are some who object to this theory that Hume presents saying Surely reason is not always the slave of the passions for sometimes I act against my passions just to be reasonable. Though this objection might seem to have validity it can be seen as faulty by paying close attention to Hume s section on the influencing motives of the will. The key to this argument is that the person is not acting just to be reasonable. It is that they are acting out of a secondary passion, which can be nature, good, or aversion to evil. It is the passion and not the reason that is causing the way the person chooses to act. Reason can t alone produce an action only desire can move the action of the will.
It is important to also distinguish the that there are types of passions or desires, those that are originally implanted in our natures and those which are a result of the general appetite to good and the aversion to evil (p.464). The first is desire is inborn. If someone were offered 100 dollars to jump off of a building, any sane person would say no. This is because they have a natural desire to stay alive also known as the law of self-preservation. This desire is innate and is implanted in us from birth. Other natural desires are those of hunger, thirst, and sleep. The passions, which result from the appetite to good, could be considered as desires of self-advancement for example. This can be anywhere from a person trying to receive a higher salary at their job to someone trying to receive the most recognition in their field. This appetite for good cannot be considered as natural instinct. This is because it is society that exemplifies what is good and what is successful. The aversion of evil can simply be described as avoiding bad or choosing one passion to avoid another. For instance one might go to court in order not to go to jail. Usually a person does not want to do neither one of these things but he or she does it to avoid a greater evil.
Reason only points out the causes and effects of an action, it is passion that determines our ultimate action. This theory can be simplified with a real life scenario.
College students are constantly faced with the arduous task of having many assignments due at one time. Many times they are faced with typing a paper or studying for a test until the wee hours of the morning. Now in this there are always options. The student could go to sleep or continue to study. Now one could easily make the mistake and say that a student would study late because they reason to do so. This is not the case, reason analyzes the causes and effects the two choices, sleeping and studying. Reason displays that sleeping will give the body rest and studying either prepare you for the test or raise your grade in the class. This is analyzing the two options, not acting on them. It is passion that makes us ultimately act.
Passions determine whether the student studies all night or whether the student decides to go to bed leaving his studies aside. His or her passions can be described as what the student ultimately wants deep down within themselves or an original existence within himself or herself (p.462) The student will not study and go to sleep if their true aspirations are to get rest and pleasure out of going to sleep. This pleasure that is gained from sleeping is the deciding factor of the students decision. If the student chooses to stay
up all night studying or writing even though they drawn to go to sleep it is not because of reason it is still passion. It could be the passion to get praise from good grades. It could be the passion to own a nice car and home. It is these passions that cause the student to study. The work done now will be a tool in the long term or ultimate goal sought by the student. These passions for success make the student study not mere reasoning.
In light of the fact that reason cannot invoke an action it can neither oppose an action. The only thing that can oppose a passion is a contrary passion (p.462). Another example can aid in the understanding of this theory. A shopper is in a grocery store deciding on which foods to buy. The shopper is faced with a decision on whether to buy
margarine or butter. This shopper is faced with the desire to save money as most people are. This particular shopper is also a stickler for healthy eating and wants to maintain healthy eating habits. At first the shopper chooses margarine to save money but then finally decides to buy the butter. Through this example one can see that it is not reason that opposed the passion for the consumer to save money and buy margarine. Rather it is the greater impulse of passion, which is staying healthy, that becomes the determining factor in the shopper s decision. Just as in economics a person maximizes their utility by choosing what is most rewarding for them the same is in this theory. We can conclude
from this example that it is the only another passion that can oppose passion.
Though a strong argument is given that reason is a slave to the passions and it alone cannot influence action of the will one can object. A logical objection is that reason and reason alone can influence the action of will at times. In the case of the study of mathematics it is reason and reason alone that influences the action of the will. In the study of mathematics passions are not present only figures, formulas and numbers. There is no appetite for good. Nor is there an aversion to evil. There are also no natural or innate passions, such as self-preservation. There are no passions present it is only plain reason that wills the motives. When a mathematician is working a problem he is using his reason to identify the problem. He then further uses his reason to choose the best course of action to solve the problem, and them he finishes the problem using no passions. This is a clear illustration that passion is not always a slave to the passions rather it is reason alone that can be a motive to action of the will.
A strong objection is posed by saying that mathematics is an example of reason acting on its own. However this objection can be argued saying that it is not reason at all that is willing the action of the will. When men or women practice math it is not just the reasoning of numbers and formulas. The mathematician practices their study in order to gain some ends. This can be for the acceleration above their peers in the field of mathematics. The ends can be for notoriety, money, or even self-satisfaction. These ends are all passions. These passions exist in the subject whether it is evident to the subject or not. It is the nature of man to have these passions whether subconscious or conscious. The mathematician may believe that they are doing their math formulas out of pure reason without any passions or desires. However there is something in them that is driving them to do the problems they do. It is natural for them to feel satisfaction once the problem has been solved. This satisfaction is even considered a desire. The whole point of arduously trying to solve the formula is the desire for the satisfaction that is received at the end. Hence reason is always slave to the passion even in terms of mathematics.