What author means by "base passions" in following sentence:

Philosophy titans such as David Hume thought that base passions powered moral decisions.

Above sentence is from Book "Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina"

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While the term base can have several meanings, the following seems most apt in your example

(Of a person or a person’s actions or feelings) without moral principles; ignoble:

the electorate’s baser instincts of greed and selfishness

we hope his motives are nothing so base as money

Oxford Dictionaries Online

The phrase base passions would generally refer to those drives that are instinctual, if not noble - acquisitiveness, lust, anger, fear.

The reference seems to suggest that these ignoble inclinations can lead to more exalted determinations.

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