David Hume (1711-1776):
Empiricism - The Next Generation
- Intellectual Background:
- John Locke -
- no innate ideas,
- ideas derived from sensation,
- distinction between primary and secondary qualities,
- existence of matter
- George Berkley -
- no distinction between primary and secondary qualities,
- esse est percepi - immaterialism
- An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
- Hume's Distinction between the things in the mind
- Impressions (i.e., sensations) - lively, immediate, strong
- sensory data
- Thoughts (ideas) - less forceful, mediated, dependent
- Two Arguments for this distinction:
- The atomic nature of Ideas - copies of, or a composite of copies of sensations (e.g., God)
- The necessity of impressions for ideas
- The Shperes of Human Reason (i.e., knowledge)
- The Relations between Ideas - the logical organization of ideas in the mind
- Evidence - pure reason (logical relations)
- demonstrable and certain
- Examples: Geometry, Arithmetic, Algebra, tautologies, analytic propositions
Note: These are 'certain' in that it is impossible even to conceive the contrary of the propositions (e.g., 'square circles').
- Matters of Fact - everything that does not fall into the previous category (the contrary of every factual proposition is logically possible)
- What counts as evidence? - Cause and Effect
- The Problem of Induction - How do we determine causation?
- not a priori - Billiard Ball (every effect is distinct from its cause)
- not a posteriori - past effects do not determine future effects
(the same phenomena may give rise to different consequences in the future)
- There exists no idea of causation, only the mental habit of expecting the Constant Conjunction of Phenomena in the mind.
- The Consequences of Hume's View: Skepticism
- We can 'know' only those things which can be demonstrated.
- Matters of fact are only believed because of our experience with constant conjunction
- We have no 'knowledge' of matters of fact.
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