Quote of the Day: 'Tis not contrary to reason

Richard Goode's picture
Submitted by Richard Goode on Sat, 2007-12-08 17:12

[P]assions can be contrary to reason only so far as they are accompany'd with some judgment or opinion. According to this principle, which is so obvious and natural, 'tis only in two senses, that any affection can be call'd unreasonable. First, when a passion, such as hope or fear, grief or joy, despair or security, is founded on the supposition or the existence of objects, which really do not exist. Secondly, When in exerting any passion in action, we chuse means insufficient for the design'd end, and deceive ourselves in our judgment of causes and effects. Where a passion is neither founded on false suppositions, nor chuses means insufficient for the end, the understanding can neither justify nor condemn it. 'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. 'Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. 'Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledge'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter.

David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature


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Richard

Rosie's picture

So let us all thank Mr Hume for this, breathe a sigh of relief and remember that it is in our best interests when we fall privy to our passions to NEVER EVER provide a reason for them if we wish to avoid any chance of being called unreasonable.

A message in particular for the women!

It is thanks to Mr Hume's wiry and logical thinking, provided that we keep mum on the whys as we scream the wherefores, that we can live secure in the knowledge that we will never be ascribed, by our lackaday husbands by whom we have been so sorely provoked in the first instance (but keep even that mum), as "that unreasonable woman"!!!

He has indeed got a really sharp brain. Amusing too. Scottish, you see. The best.

Amusing, because if you carry James's point to its conclusion with this passage from Hume it would actually mean ( if he did indeed intend to ignore even the subconscious reasons for passion) that the only people able to be described "UNreasonable" would be the folk who CANNOT reason - with the labotomies and such like! Which could just be an Eternal Truth in Paradox in the M Theory given that truth as contained in God's world is not of this world which would mean all these eager beaver brains are really just idling!

(Can you understand what I am saying? It is quite a funny but complex set of ideas full of contradiction and paradox that make a gently amused mockery of the world and its understandings. (The last phrase of the last sentence is the apex thought. ) Which, if this is as it is, therefore means Hume had IT that he saw this and could express it so well back then - and ergo a genius. Contemplative pause for appreciation and wonder whether this was acknowledged at the time.)

Destruction of the world...

Chris Cathcart's picture

...means no one around to use or give reasons for anything. So it's definitely contrary to reason. Or maybe, when you tease out the meaning of Hume's statement, it ends up a trivial nothing. Didn't he make an equally famous statement about how his theoretical teachings didn't carry on over into his daily routine?

P.S. Might I suggest, sir, that you become less Anglophile and more Grecophile? The Greeks were doing fine, after all, until Aristotle's works got misplaced.

The most important words ever written...

Richard Goode's picture

... by the greatest philosopher who ever lived.

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James S. Valliant's picture

We should connect this to at least ONE of the other, closely related threads of Dr. Goode's.

Keep Me Laughing

James S. Valliant's picture

Passions are -- in fact -- a PRODUCT of "some judgment or opinion," even if only subconsciously, not something merely "accompany'd" now and again with them. But, c'mon, Professor:

"'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. 'Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. 'Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledge'd lesser good to my greater, and have a more ardent affection for the former than the latter

That's one of Hume's all-timers!!

What a laugh riot!!

Or, was he serious -- no... REALLY?

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