Hume vs. Kant on morality


David Hume and Immanuel Kant are generally considered as one of the greatest thinkers that ever lived during the 1700s that arguably made a huge contribution to the science of psychology. Born in 1711 in Scotland, Hume is considered to have been highly skeptical on issues of mind, matter, science and religion to a matter of memories and impressions. Immanuel Kant was born 13 years later, in 1724, in Konigsberg, Prussia. Evidence reveals that his key interests were in the fields of biology, geology, physics and astronomy. Although Hume and Kant have differed significantly on various aspects, this essay will primarily be biased towards their views on moral philosophies.


The key distinction between Hume and Kant is largely pegged on their moral philosophies. Hume points out in his work, A Treatise of Human Nature, that morality is a subject of considerable interest. Hume believes that there exist a sole way to live, which is best for everyone. He, further, argues in his moral philosophy that an individual’s action can only be right when it produces good outcomes. His moral theory, therefore, arose from the belief that reason only can never trigger an action, rather feeling or desire cause action. Thus, since reason alone cannot cause action, Hume argues that our morality is premised in our feelings and thus virtue arises from an act that is based on the desire to help others. This implies that Hume’s moral theory is a virtue-centered morality as opposed to the natural law morality. His moral philosophy saws morality as originating from God.

As opposed to Hume, Kant’s moral theory arose from the notion of moral law; a law applied indiscriminately to all individuals at all times. Kant argues that moral laws impose absolute responsibilities and duties on us. In his famous work, Lectures of Mr. Kant on the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant asserts that people act according to the maxim likely to qualify for a universal law. Evidence reveals that, unlike Hume, Kant believed that reason alone can cause action. Besides, unlike Hume, Kant believed that people have a free will; a full autonomy to act. Therefore, they need no extrinsic motivation to act.


From the above discussion, it is apparent that there are significant differences between the moral philosophies presented by Hume and Kant. In general, Hume saw God as the sole give of morality that is centered on virtues while Kant’s believed in the morality that comes from moral laws. However, regardless of their moral philosophies, it can be agreed that both Hume and Kant acknowledges morality as the key driver of individuals’ actions in the society.

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