Study Guide

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals Foolishness and Folly

By David Hume

Foolishness and Folly

Foolishness is an obvious example of vice. It's not useful or agreeable to society, and it can be pretty crummy for the individual, too. It may not seem that way to the person who decides to throw caution to the wind. They probably think that they're going to gain something from it only for it to all go horribly wrong. Take a tip from Shakespeare (and SpongeBob): all that glitters is not gold.

Hume argues that it's vital to think about long-term goals and consequences. It may be tempting to live in the moment and give into temptation, but Hume sees this as careless and immature. Even when this kind of behavior does pay off, Hume believes that a strong character and moral code are way more important than any amount of trinkets and toys.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Do you think that virtue is something that can be taught or does it have to have some kind of natural basis?
  2. Suppose someone's fall from grace is the result of their own doing. Do they still deserve our sympathy? And where does this sympathy end?
  3. Some actions may be classed as crimes or vices in any situation. But is it always so clear-cut? Are there any kinds of behavior that may be acceptable in one circumstance but not in another? And who decides?

Chew on This

Folks may think that their mistakes only affect themselves and aren't anyone else's concern. But that's not true: by acting in this way, they're harming society.

We're all human and all make mistakes. Just because someone's been foolish on one occasion doesn't mean we should condemn them. What's important is to learn from our mistakes.

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