chapter  3
Dispersal into necessitarianism
Pages 15

In light of our earlier discussions, it would be hard not to conclude that the moral rationalists, as Hume (correctly) depicts them in this passage, belong within the category of more radical externalists, offering an ‘obligation-constitutive’ analysis of moral judgements. If the question is raised – but do they, as Hume represents them, deliberately aim to offer this more ambitious analysis – the answer is that they certainly seem to. For Hume not only attributes to them the express aim of demonstrating that morality is ‘obligatory on every rational mind’ (his italics), but recognizes that they could only achieve this by placing the source of moral motivation beyond the vagaries of individual circumstance and temperament in an ‘abstract rational difference’, self-evident to such minds. It is this move, entailing as it does the rejection of what we earlier called the ‘subjectivist assumption’ – namely, the assumption that the source of all action lies in the inner or subjective states of an agent – which, it would seem, is what incurs Hume’s scorn and incredulity.