chapter  2
19 Pages

The forbidden transition from ‘is’ to ‘ought’

So far, we have proceeded in the sure knowledge that, at the very least, Hume has among his targets in 3.1.1, moral rationalists, such as Clarke and Cudworth. This is the background to our detailed exposition of the Clarke-Cudworth position. It is also the background to our attempt to show how their conception of reason, as inhering in ‘the eternal nature of things’ might, when claimed to be motivational, plausibly draw from Hume the sarcastic retort but ‘[your] reason is perfectly inert.’ In considering, however, whether, among his arguments against the moral rationalists (leaving aside the practicality argument), there is not one which might suggest a less ‘metaphysical’ interpretation of Hume’s metaphor, a question arises: but which of Hume’s arguments are directed at the moral rationalists?