The metaphysical and religious climate of the age obliged eighteenth-century thinkers to make a fresh inquiry into the nature and validity of moral obligation. Why do we consider certain actions to be right or wrong and why should such judgments be binding on us? Innumerable books were written on these themes, and many theories and solutions propounded, probably with little effect on the conduct of men—thus substantiating Hume’s view that you cannot rationally convince a man that he ought to be a moral being if he does not want to be one. The selections that follow represent several directions of eighteenth-century thought.
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- Translated by R. H. Popkin and Craig Brush in Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1965), pp. 202–03. Copyright © 1965. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.Google Scholar
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