Shadow-boxing: Humean selves and moral judgement

Doyle, Elizabeth (2007) Shadow-boxing: Humean selves and moral judgement. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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In Book I part IV of the Treatise of Human Nature David Hume argues that it is impossible to have an idea of ourselves enduring the same through time. We experience many and varying transient impressions over the course of our lives and our ideas are ultimately derived from and enlivened by our impressions, he explains. Now, if an enduring idea requires an enduring impression and an enduring impression is impossible, an enduring idea of personal identity is likewise impossible. -- The implications are such that we can only ever know Hume's “self” as an historical entity and, at best, our knowledge can only ever be approximate, along the lines of" Jane is x type of person presently." Our judgements must therefore refer to varying instantiations of “self” rather than an enduring self. Assuming the authenticity and adequacy of judgements only hold so long as the judgement actually refers to the nature of the judged, judgement must prove superfluous and obsolete the moment one's identity changes. -- Hume does attempt to allow for judgement later in the Treatise, arguing moral judgements are grounded in the sympathetic emotional responses of pleasure and pain and are refined by taking account of some general and stable points of view. Accordingly, the moral point of view must call into operation at least one sentiment common to all (normal) persons, otherwise it would not succeed in bringing everybody's judgements into agreement. -- Given these considerations, I argue that (1) Hume's moral stance ultimately has its basis in our perceptions of another, insofar as it assumes that you or I can know what it is like to be that person. As such, it does not give us neutrality but rather a situated impartiality, and (2) Supposing our knowledge of another's nature can only ever be approximate and our judgements vague, the nature of Humean selves must necessarily elude comprehensive understanding, which leads me to (3) Selves can only ever be described on Hume's line, not judged.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 10428
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 83-86).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2007
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Judgment (Ethics); Self (Philosophy)

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