Hello to All!
In my previous post (also on Reid), one of our fellow contributors made note of the role of motives in differentiating Hume and Reid on the topic of Freedom & Determinism. This reminded me of some of the interesting things that Reid mentions about motives in one of his Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind. I wish to present excerpted quotes from the work, which encompass the 8 points made by this philosopher on the topic. You can find the work I’m pulling the quotes from here (make sure to click on “Complete Text,” and, once the pdf has opened, go down to Chapter 4).
So, without further ado . . . . . .
1: “I grant that all thinking beings are and ought to be influenced by motives. But the influence of motives is of a different kind from that of efficient causes. Motives are neither causes nor agents. It would be absurd to suppose that a motive either acts or is acted on; it is equally incapable of action and of passion, because it is not a •thing that exists, but a •thing that is conceived—what the Aristotelians called an ens rationis. . . .”
2: “Rational beings, in proportion as they are wise and good, will act according to the best motives; and every rational being who does otherwise misuses his liberty. In every situation where there is a right and a wrong, a better and a worse, the most perfect being always infallibly acts according to the best motives.”
3: “Must every deliberate action have a motive? That depends on what we mean by ‘deliberate’. ·Judging by the word’s source in the Latin ·,against one another·
4: “It can never be proved that when there is a motive on one side only, that motive must determine the action. According to the laws of reasoning, the burden of proof is borne by those who hold the affirmative. ·That is, the other side has to to show (affirmatively) that in such a case the motive must prevail; my side is not obliged to show (negatively) that it needn’t prevail·. And I have never seen a shadow of argument ·for the affirmative position· that doesn’t take for granted the thing in question, namely that motives are the sole causes of actions.”
5: “When it is said that of contrary motives the strongest always wins, we can’t intelligently agree or disagree until we are clear about what is meant by the ‘strongest’ motive.”
6: “It is true that we reason from men’s motives to their actions, often doing so with great probability though never with absolute certainty. To infer from this fact that men are necessarily determined by motives is very weak reasoning.”
7: “Nor is it better reasoning to argue that if men are not necessarily determined by motives all their actions must be capricious.”
8: “It is equally unreasonable to conclude that if men are not necessarily determined by motives, rewards and punishments would have no effect. With wise men they will have their due effect, though not always with the foolish and the vicious.”
Here are the questions I’d like to throw out to you guys. What are we to make of what Reid says? Is the view cogent? Is it not cogent? Why or Why not? What implications do you guys see this view having for discussions on action and, possibly, moral responsiblity?
I’m looking forward to seeing what philosophical (non-Wikipedian) insight you guys can offer on this issue.
George (“The Meager Weakling”)