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New York City Atheists Meetings Message Board › New Meetup: NYC Atheists Philosophy Club: Hume's Moral Theory of Sentiment a

New Meetup: NYC Atheists Philosophy Club: Hume's Moral Theory of Sentiment and Utility

Roger S.
user 7395918
New York, NY
Announcing a new Meetup for New York City Atheists Meetings!

What: NYC Atheists Philosophy Club: Hume's Moral Theory of Sentiment and Utility
When: Monday, June 13, 2011 7:00 PM

140 EAST 27TH ST. (3rd / Lex)
New York, NY 10011

Philosophy club meeting Monday, June 13th, at the Stone Creek Tavern, 140 east 27th Street (between Lexington and 3rd Ave.) at 7:00 pm.

Great Atheist Moral Philosophers Part II
Hume’s approach to morality

Please join us as we listen to a recorded lecture from the Teaching Company about David Hume’s approach to morality by Darren Staloff.

More than 100 years before Nietzsche announced, “god is dead” David Hume took up the task of defining a purely secular morality. Hume wanted to be the Newton of philosophy, that is, he wanted to apply the methods of science to morality. He asked what is it about these encounters between people that cause us to judge some with approval or reject others with disapproval? Hume thinks “our moral judgments really find their origin in sentiment, a sentiment of approbation, which is, for him, a passion.” Strangely enough it is the calmness of the emotion that sets moral sentiments off from other passions.

Passions are fundamentally important for Hume. He goes so far as to say that “reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.” Now for Hume there is a special type of passion that by its’ presence enables us to make moral judgments. The passions are not the judgments they are the emotional signals that a moral judgment will be made. They precede moral judgments the way causes precede effects. This approach represents a break with 1500 years of attempts to explain morality as the application of rationality (where reasons were thought to precede moral judgments). For Hume it is quite the reverse—first we feel the sentiment, and the feeling influences the judgment (Here he anticipate William James theory of emotion by hundreds of years)

It is our experiencing of the calm quality of the approbation or disapproval that signals to us that we are in the process of evaluating moral actions. This so called instinctual* moral sensibility to approve or to disapprove—is literally--our capability to intuit the social ‘utility’ involved in an action. It is the constant conjunction of: (1) a calm passion conjoined with (2) moral judgments. Without the accompanying calm passion of approbation or disapproval there would be no moral judgments. The calm passion results from the instinctual recognition of the ‘utility’ of the observed actions that we intuit within the larger context of what are good or harmful for society. Hume literally invents the moral term utility to serve as the identification of what it is that sways our judgments favorably or not, in moral matters. This approach will later grow into Bentham and Mill’s utilitarianism

He is also is responsible for the notorious IS/OUGHT gap. Which claims that you can’t know what you OUGHT to do based on any fact about the way the world IS.
Note: The lecture transcript is located in the MORE pull-down (which contains the FILES section) at the top of the meet-up menu. Please try to read this in advance of the meeting. A copy will be provided at the meeting.

Link to Hume readings:

There are no prerequisites other than a willingness to be exposed to challenging ideas and engage in civil discourse with the other attendees.

The meeting is limited to 12 people so if you are interested in attending RSVP on the Atheist Philosophy Club meet-up site or call (Roger Smith) 917-363-7470 to reserve a seat.
Please arrive by 7:00 p.m. so we can start the lecture promptly and then have more time available for discussion.

Remember: you must be a member to attend (though you can sign up for membership on the evening of the lecture, so come on down).

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