On Emotion and Value in David Hume and Max Scheler
In at least four types of ethical theories emotions and feelings are regarded as a vital factor in explaining the nature of both value judgement and value itself. Such types of ethical theories, however, offer not only different theories of value and valuation but they also assume or imply quite different theories of emotions and feelings. A look at the history of philosophical psychology can convince us that there has been no generally accepted theory of emotion but the idea of emotion has been changing together with the idea of mind or soul. (1) One could expect that there is a correlation between the idea of emotion and the idea of value or the good in each type of the above mentioned theories.
In what follows, I shall discuss this correlation for two ethical theories in greater detail. I shall consider the moral philosophy of David Hume which I construe as psychological naturalism of non-relativistic type. (2) I shall also consider the case of emotional intuitionism exemplified by Max Scheler. Both Hume and Scheler have formulated classic theories of emotion and this is one of my reasons for choosing them.
Hume on Passion and Value
The relation between passion and value in Hume's philosophy has been repeatedly discussed. (3) In contrast to some contemporary writers, Hume devoted a lot of effort and space to the theory of passion before presenting his, based on emotion moral theory, in Book III of the Treatise. (4)
However, as I believe, Hume's philosophy on the whole, contains not one, but two theories of passion. One of them is a theory of the genesis of passions from pains and pleasures. The second theory, on the other hand, refers to the group of passions which are after N. Kemp Smith called 'primary' passions; and I will call it the descriptive theory of passion. The Treatise is dominated almost exclusively by the theory of genesis but the role of the descriptive theory in Enquiries is more important, and particularly in those places where Hume argues against hedonism and egoism in his theory of motivation. On the theory of genesis, passions are produced from pains and pleasures either directly or indirectly which, as it is well known, leads to Hume's distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' passions. According to the descriptive theory, however, the situation is quite different. In their existence, the 'primary' passions do not depend on pleasures and pains, on the contrary, pains and pleasures are 'produced' by them. There is an interesting tension between these two theories in Hume's philosophy but this problem cannot be discussed here.
Theoretically, Hume could have related his moral theory to either of the two discussed theories of emotion. The whole logical construction of the Treatise, however, reveals, that he decided to base his moral theory on the theory of genesis. Hume devotes more than a half of Book II of the Treatise to four 'indirect' passions, that is to: pride, humility, love and hatred. In Book III, in turn, he determines the conditions in which the above passions become 'moral sentiments' or 'objective' forms of love and hatred. (5)
What kind of emotion is felt towards a good or an evil in Hume's philosophy? Within the framework of the theory of genesis it must be a kind of pleasure or pain respectively. Even if someone would like to relate a good to another passion, this passion, according to Hume's theory, must come from a certain pleasure or pain. In the theory of genesis, the relation between a good and pleasure is causal, a good 'produces' pleasure, as Hume puts it. On the other hand, Hume's idea of the good is influenced by his theory of emotion. The only feature of the good which is justified is that it is the cause of pleasure, and for Hume any other characteristics of the good would be speculative in its character.
The above analysis is also valid for 'moral sentiments' in Book III of the Treatise. 'Moral sentiments' are pleasures or pains of a special kind, and their causes are considered to be the moral good and evil respectively. These pains and pleasures, in turn, give rise to particular kinds of love or hatred and pride or humility. What can be a cause of "moral sentiments?" As it is known, in Hume's stance, a 'character' or 'act' is morally good if it is useful or pleasant for a given person or any other persons in question. H. Aiken says that Hume does not give any justification that 'moral sentiments' should be related to the principle of utility. (6) In Aiken's opinion 'moral sentiments' should be related to human rights rather than to the principle of utility.
Are there any other possibilities open for Hume? As a matter of fact, Hume mentions one of them but the scope of his discussion is limited by his theory of passion. (7) Let us examine this point more carefully. On the theory of genesis, there are two kinds of relations between a passion and its object. (8) An object can be related to a passion in virtue either of a 'natural' principle or a 'natural' and 'original' principle. In the first case there is a common factor acting in many different objects, whereas in the second case, due to 'emotional constitution' of mind a passion has the only, specific object. Moral rules, and particularly the rules of justice, as Hume argues, cannot be related to 'moral sentiments' in virtue of the 'original' principle. Given the great number of the rules of justice, this would mean too much complicated 'emotional constitution' of mind. The same argument is repeated by Hume in his Enquiry Concerning the Principle of Morals, but the first time a very similar argument appears is in Hume's theory of pride in the Treatise.
Nonetheless, Hume has not considered a much simpler alternative of the relation between good and feelings. For he could have related certain kinds of goods to certain kinds of feelings and not singular objects to singular and specific feelings. In such a case the 'emotional constitution' of mind would not be too complicated. Hume has not considered this alternative in spite of the fact that he was fully aware of the differences among both pleasures and goods; Hume's implied hierarchy of values is very close to that of J. S. Mill. Why has Hume not considered the above alternative? Some reasons for this are likely to be found in his theory of passions. One of them is that in Hume's theory of 'indirect' passions some different pleasures, regardless of their character, can be the 'causes' of pride or love. The other one is that Hume has not made any explicit distinction between sensual and non-sensual pleasures. (9)
In Enquiries Hume gives up his theory of sympathy and bases his moral theory directly on 'sentiment of humanity' which he also calls 'general benevolence'. This means, however, that this time Hume unconsciously relates his moral theory to the descriptive theory of passion. This also means that a good cannot be defined as a source of pleasure any more as 'primary' passions are prior to pains and pleasures. In Hume's new position, however, there is no explanation in what way a primary passion and its object are mutually related. (10) From contemporary perspective we can say that it lies in the nature of some emotions that they have certain intentional objects in their structure. Moral goodness would be thus the intentional object of general benevolence. This interpretation, however, contradicts to Hume's fundamental assumption that the nature of any good is exhausted by the fact that it is a source of a pleasure. Two theories of passion imply two different interpretations of the nature of moral feelings.
In the Treatise the nature of moral feelings is explained within the framework of the theory of the genesis of passion with the help of the theory of sympathy, whereas in both Enquiries moral feelings should be regarded as a kind of primary passion. It is interesting to notice, however, that Hume does not list general benevolence when he introduces primary passions in the Treatise. What is more, according to the theory of genesis, there cannot be such a feeling as general benevolence since benevolence, due to the emotional constitution of mind, is limited to those who we love. There is also a consequence of Hume's two theories of passions in his theory of motivation; the theory of genesis at least seems to have hedonistic implications, whereas the descriptive theory clearly has not such implications.
Max Scheler on Feelings and Values
Max Scheler has developed his theory of emotion and value within the phenomenological tradition of continental philosophy. What kind of emotion is felt towards a good in the light of Scheler's theory? To answer this question I have to sketch the outline of his two kinds of fundamental distinction in the realm of emotions. One of them concerns the difference between 'intentional' and 'unintentional' forms of feelings. (11) 'Emotional acts' and 'feeling function' (feeling of something) are of an intentional character, whereas 'feeling states' are not. Within the framework of the phenomenological theory of mind, intentional acts (and 'functions' in our case) have their own, 'immanent' objects. According to Scheler, values are the objects of intentional forms of feelings, and values are regarded by him as some objective, ideal properties.
What kind of feelings do we experience in the face of, say, a masterpiece? In the light of Scheler's theory, there is not one but three different kinds of feelings at play. Firstly, there is a value of beauty which 'is given' to us directly, secondly, there is our feeling of this value (a feeling function), and finally, there is a pleasure (a feeling state) which appears as a consequence of the first two. Such a theory of feelings, of course, supports a theory of the good which is quite different from that of Hume's. The good is, first of all, the 'bearer' of an ideal property, that is, the 'bearer' of value. The relation between a good and an emotion is not causal, as in the case of Hume, but it is the relation of knowing in the phenomenological meaning of the term, in which an ideal value 'is given' to us directly.
The second kind of Scheler's distinctions is of equal importance. Scheler also distinguishes four 'strata' of feeling which are different from one another in their nature or 'essence', (12) all the 'strata' are equally original phenomena and they are independent of one another. Does this distinction, in the realm of emotion, influence Scheler's idea of value. The results of it can be easily observed, for, in Scheler's stance, there are four kinds of value which differ from one another in their nature or 'essence'. There are, namely, the following kinds of value: values of sensual pleasures, values of life, spiritual values and finally religious values. (13) All these kinds of value are ordered in an objective hierarchy and this order is also 'given' in emotional acts of 'preferring' and 'placing after'.
In what way does Scheler justify that the above values are of a different nature or 'essence'? Of particular interest for us is the fact, that in order to justify the generic differences among values, Scheler resorts to the generic differences among feelings in which these values 'are given'. Spiritual or religious values, for example, are given in feeling functions and acts which have nothing in common with all the feelings of life in the biological meaning of the term. There are also some other similarities between Scheler's idea of value and his idea of emotion. Values of different kinds and feelings of respective 'strata' have some other 'essential' features in common.
Both Scheler's and Hume's ethics is of a teleological character. Hume relates moral feelings to the principle of utility, whereas Scheler refers to the objective hierarchy of values. If our preferences or acts conform with this objective hierarchy, then they are morally good; otherwise the are morally wrong.
Some General Remarks and Conclusion
The main difficulty which faces any moral theory based on emotion consists in distinguishing morally relevant emotions from all other emotions. It is very difficult, if possible, to point out these emotion and not to resort to the notion of the good or value at the same time. Both Hume and Scheler have made much effort, perhaps more than anybody else, to overcome this difficulty. Have they been successful? On the one hand, they place moral feelings (or value feelings) within the framework of their general theory of emotion. But this would not do. They also have to resort to the notion of the good and value. Hume resorts to the principle of utility. In his fundamental distinction between intentional and not intentional forms of feeling, Scheler resorts to the notion of value; intentional feelings are these feelings, in which values 'are given'.
On the logical level, therefore, both Hume's and Scheler's theory have some elements which are circular. However, for each of them his own theory does not have such a character, since each of them is sure that his theory is a pure description of mental phenomena (or of what 'is given' in them). If the naturalistic interpretation of Hume's moral theory is correct, then value judgements in both Hume and Scheler are of a cognitive character. On the other hand, their theories of emotion have also something in common. Firstly, both of them can be classified as 'normative' theories of emotion (14) which means that they are developed as much to explain the nature of valuation as the nature of emotion. Secondly, and what is more important, both Hume and Scheler share a fundamental assumption concerning emotion; namely, that there is an original order between human emotions, on the one hand, and the realm of the good and values, on the other. At this point their positions contrast sharply with that of subjectivists and emotivists. One can risk here the statement, that a similar mutual correlation between the idea of emotion and the idea of the good (or value) could be found in any ethical theory which is based on emotion. Should we have an absolute theory of emotion, we could decide which of these ethical theories is right. There is a hope, however, that further research on emotion will throw some new light on the problem.
(1) See: Gardiner, H. M., Metcalf, R. C., Beebe-Center, J. G. - Feeling and Emotion. A History of Theories, American Book Company, New York 1937.
(2) As I believe, this is the best interpretation oh Hume's moral philosophy; cf.: Norton, D. F. - David Hume. Common - Sense Moralist, Sceptical Metaphysician, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1982; Capaldi, N. - Hume's Place in Moral Philosophy, Peter Lang, New York 1991.
(3) The 'classic' books on this subject are: Kemp Smith, N. - The Philosophy of David Hume, Macmillan, London 1941; Glathe, A. B. - Hume's Theory of the Passions and of Morals, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1950, (reprint 1969); Árdal, P. - Passions and Morals in Hume's Treatise, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 1963. One should also mention here N. Capaldi, op. cit.
(4) Hume, David - A Treatise on Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby - Bigge, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1888; hereafter cited as TN.
(5) See also: Baier, A. - Persons and the Wheel of Their Passions [in:], A Progress of Sentiments. Reflections on Hume's Treatise, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1991.
(6) Aiken, H. - An Interpretation of Hume's Theory of the Place of Reason in Ethics and Politics, "Ethics" 90 (1979), October.
(7) TN, pp. 473-474.
(8) For recent discussion of the objects of emotion see: Sousa, de R. - The Rationality of Emotion, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1990.
(9) For excellent discussion of this point see: Hudson, S. D. - Humean Pleasure Reconsidered, "Canadian Journal of Philosophy" 5 (1975), no 4, pp. 545-62; Fieser, J. - Hume's Classification of the Passions and Its Precursors, "Hume Studies" 18 (1992), no 1, pp. 1-17.
(10) See note 8 above.
(11) Scheler, Max - Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 2, Francke Verlag, Bern - München 1954, pp. 256-278; hereafter cited as F.
(12) F, pp. 341-356. See also: Smith, Q. - Scheler's Stratification of Emotional Life and Strawson's Person, "Philosophical Studies" (Irleand), 25 (1977), pp. 103-127.
(13) F, pp. 125 -130.
(14) Cf. Calhoun, Ch., Solomon, R. C. - What is an Emotion, Oxford University Press, New York 1984.