By Richard Lindley (auth.)
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Extra resources for Autonomy
Of course the future is uncertain, and this makes it rational to discount future pains somewhat, but any further discounting is irrational. Hume also claimed, in dramatic fashion as we have seen, that it is not irrational to be thoroughly selfish, preferring the total ruin of everyone else, in order to avoid a tiny suffering for oneself. Such a preference may be immoral, but why should it be thought irrational? First, as with gross imprudence, it is likely that anyone with such a preference would be deluded - unaware of what his preference really meant.
When beliefs and decisions to act are stripped away from inclinations, there is nothing left about the inclination to be irrational. Desires, reasons and action What about the Humean view of the connection between desires and reasons for action? Do all desires provides some reason for action, strength of reason being fixed by strength of desire? If there were essentially irrational desires, it would be reasonable to claim that they provide no direct reason for action. I have denied that such desires exist.
Neutrality Hume claimed that it is not irrational to 'prefer my own acknowledg'd lesser good to my greater'. A prime case of this would be someone who is knowingly imprudent. You point out to him that his present over-indulgence will damage his health, thus making his long-term life prospects worse overall. He agrees with you, but states that he simply does not care that much about his future. Let us assume that his imprudence is not based on a false assessment of what the future will hold for him, since even a 38 Conceptions Humean could condemn that as irrational.