Reason, belief, and the passions

David Owen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Hume said that reason alone cannot motivate and that passions are required to produce volitions and actions. It is argued that the widely, though not universally, held “Humean” view of motivation-that beliefs require desires to motivate actions-does not accurately reflect Hume’s own view. The author argues here that beliefs, especially beliefs about pleasure, do motivate. But beliefs are produced by probable reasoning. And this seems to imply that reason alone does motivate, i.e., produces, via beliefs, volitions and actions. It is argued that the seeming inconsistency that appears to result is only apparent. An interpretation of what Hume means by “reason alone” is provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Hume
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780199742844
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Belief
  • Hume
  • Motivation
  • Passions
  • Reason
  • Will

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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