Hume and Rationality

I would like to address the concept of Instrumental Rationality on this paper through answering the question regarding Hume and Rationality. The situation given was that David prefers taking hot showers than cold ones, and that taking the latter is his acknowledgd lesser good as he contrast it to the former, and thus have an ardent affection for taking hot showers than cold showers. And one Sunday evening, David takes a bath, and that he knows that the left tap turns on the hot water and the right tap turns on the cold one, and upon turning the left tap on, the water from the left tap was not too hot but just right. And thus, the questions given for the following scenario are as follows a.) According to Humes theory of rationality, does David have an irrational desire, if upon getting into the bath he desires to turn on the right tap Why or why not How does this example exhibit the relationship between reason and desirepassion for Hume And, b.) Imagine that David desires to turn the right tap because he believes that the right tap turns on the hot water and that he wants to take a hot shower. Is Davids desire irrational in this case Why or why not These are the questions that will be addressed on this paper.

First of, what is Humes concept of reason or rationality vis--vis passion or desire According to Hume (1985), reason and passion are in constant combat, where the reason represents the better part of a person, and people are virtuous if they would live in accordance to their reason. However, reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will, and reason alone can never oppose passion in directing the will. With this kind of argumentation of Hume, it seems that reason cannot compete with passion alone however, reason has two functions according him. First is that reason discovers truths about the abstract relations of ideas and therefore discovers the relationships between objects (Hume, 1985).  What motivates our action for Hume is not our reason but rather, our passion or desire.

Second, what is instrumental rationality According to Gauss (2008), all of our thinking about rational action is the instrumental theory of rationality. And this theory was developed by Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan and by David Hume in his Treatise and Enquiry. For Hume, we satisfy our desires through rational actions (Gauss, 2008). Thus, given the situation above, if David will, upon desire, turn on the right tap, where his desire is to take a hot shower but knowing that the right tap produces cold water, then his actions motivated by his desirepassion is irrational.

According to the theory of instrumental rationality, Davids action will be instrumentally rational if and only if his action is an effective way to achieve his desire, goal, end, or taste. But it upon turning on the right tap, David fails to achieve his desire to have a hot shower. Thus, his action of turning on the right tap implies failure in achieving his desire. Although, it is irrational because of his passiondesire, he took this action.
For Hume, passion can be unreasonable in an extended sense when passion rest upon a mistaken belief, or when we choose insufficient means in achieving our desired end. Thus, answering the second set of questions, if David upon a belief that the right tap produces hot water and turns it on, his action is still irrational because it rest upon a mistaken belief that the right tap produces hot water.

It is only in achieving our desirepassiongoalend that our actions become rational provided that it does not rely on any mistaken belief given the scenario above. The action of David of turning on the right tap is irrational because it does not achieve his goal of taking hot showers, unless David, by that time, prefers a cold one, then his actions will be rational.


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