An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals Essay

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     What is a moral? This is a question that has plagued philosophers for many years. Is it possible to have a set of universal morals? There are many questions that surround the mystery of morals. They seem to drive our every action. We base our decisions on what is right and what is wrong. But what is it that actually determines what is right and what is wrong? Is it our sense of reason? Is it our sense of sentiment? This is a question that David Hume spent much of his life pondering. What exactly is it that drives our actions? Yes, morals drive them, but what determines what our morals are? What is it that ultimately drives our actions; our feelings or our minds?
     Hume would
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a truth. To make an analogy to mathematics, truth is a function of reason, whereas taste is a function of sentiment. Sentiment is a function of the individual whereas reason is a function of the universe.
     The universe as a whole must follow reason, but the catch is that each individual's universe is slightly different in that each individual perceives his or her universe differently. "What each man feels within himself is the standard of sentiment." (p.14) That is to say each person's individual universe has truths. These truths are based on reason. These truths/reasons are what help to determine the person's sentiment. However, it should be noted that because the reasons are NOT necessarily the person's sentiments, they do not motivate actions. One other reason why reason does not impel action is because reason is based on truths. Truths are never changing whereas sentiments are dynamic and are in a constant change of flux. At one moment, the criminal could feel sympathy for his victims and decide to spare a life, and the very next, the same criminal could become enraged at the pimple on a hostage's forehead and shoot him.
     Of course these are extreme cases, but the point is clear. Reason would dictate that only the first action would be moral. If reason drove actions, then moral behavior would prevail and there would be no immoral actions and hence there would be no crimes.
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