The Great Philosophers: Hume: Hume

David Hume
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Without True Knowledge of Reality it is impossible to understand cause and effect - we are simply limited to describing the effects of things upon us, without understanding the cause of these effects. As we did not know how matter interacted with other matter in the Space around it action-at-a-distance we consequently did not understood how our human senses were connected to the world of objects in Space around us and thus what caused the perceived effects of our senses. This lack of knowledge then leads to what Popper termed Hume's 'Problem of Induction'. This problem can again be demonstrated using Hume's simple example of dropping a stone such that when I let go of the stone it falls to earth.

I can then repeat this experiment any number of times but despite this number of repetitions does this logically inductively infer that the stone must fall the next time I let it go. Hume argued that it does not, that it is simply a habit of thinking and that it is quite possible that at some stage in the future the stone will not fall. This leads to the realization that the logic of induction depends upon repeated observation and thus the assumption that the future is like the past. As Hume explains;. The supposition that the future resembles the past, is not founded on arguments of any kind, but is derived entirely from habit.

Thus Hume's skepticism is valid and has subsequently plagued Philosophy and the sciences with a terribly destructive doubt and a fertile environment for all kinds of absurdity and mysticism. Ultimately all science depends upon observation of the world for its knowledge, and thus Hume's problem of induction must be solved if we are to have certainty of knowledge.

As Ayer explains of the philosophical skeptic;. The solution to this profound problem is in two parts and is beautiful in its simplicity.

David Hume

Thus we no longer depend upon repeated observation to inductively deduce that the stone falls when I let it go, for we can now use deductive logic from first principles to deduce that the stone falls to the earth because its In-Waves are traveling more slowly through the Space of the Earth. This then explains why we can trust inductive reasoning, for its assumption that the future is like the past is valid, and this also then explains why science has been so successful even though it was founded on an inductive logic whose validity until now could not be shown to be true.

Now the skeptic can still argue that while I may have replaced induction with deduction, nonetheless I still depend upon induction, i. This is true, but I then can justify this use of induction to support deduction, by showing that this wave theory of matter explains why the future is similar to the past, and therefore deduce that induction is valid. Solidity, Extension, Motion; these qualities are all complete in themselves, and never point out any other event which may result from them.

The scenes of the universe are continually shifting, and one object follows another in an uninterrupted succession; but the power of force, which actuates the whole machine, is entirely concealed from us, and never discovers itself in any of the sensible qualities of body. Solidity and Extension are Properties of Space. Solid objects like rocks exist in Space as a collection of Spherical Standing Waves whose Wave-Centers Focal-Points make up the many trillions of Particles that constitute the matter of the rock.

These Wave-Centers become trapped in standing wave arrays e. This then prevents the Wave-Centers from moving closer together which we sense as a solid rock in Space. Finally, Force , is caused by a change in Velocity of the In-Waves , which then causes a change in the future location of where these In-Waves will meet at their Wave-Center, which we see as the accelerated motion of the 'Particle'. It is easy for a profound philosopher to commit a mistake in his subtle reasonings; and one mistake is the necessary parent of another, while he pushes on his consequences, and is not deterred from embracing any conclusion, by its unusual appearance, or its contradiction to popular opinion.

Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.

Accuracy is, in every case, advantageous to beauty, and just reasoning to delicate sentiment. In vain would we exalt the one by depreciating the other.

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Besides, we may observe, in every art or profession, even those which most concern life or action, that a spirit of accuracy, however acquired, carries all of them nearer their perfection, and renders them more subservient to the interests of society. The politician will acquire greater foresight and subtlety, in the subdividing and balancing of power; the lawyer more method and finer principles in his reasoning; and the general more regularity in his discipline, and more caution in his plans and operations.

In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: the mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Or, to express myself in philosophical language, all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones. When we entertain, therefore, any suspicion that a philosophical term is employed without any meaning or idea as is but too frequent , we need but enquire, from what impressions is that supposed idea derived? And if it be impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our suspicion.

By bringing ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably hope to remove all dispute, which may arise, concerning their nature and reality. All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. The mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never be discovered in it.

My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake the the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will not say scepticism , I want to learn the foundation of this inference.

No reading, no enquiry has yet been able to remove my difficulty, or give me satisfaction in a matter of such importance. Can I do better than propose the difficulty to the public, even though, perhaps, I have small hopes of obtaining a solution? We shall at least, by this means, be sensible of our ignorance, if we do not augment our knowledge. I must confess that a man is guilty of unpardonable arrogance who concludes, because an argument has escaped his own investigation, that therefore it does not really exist. It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants- nay infants, nay even brute beasts- improve by experience, and learn the qualities of natural objects, by observing the effects which result from them.

When a child has felt the sensation of pain from touching the flame of a candle, he will be careful not to put his hand near any candle; but will expect a similar effect from a cause which is similar in its sensible qualities and appearance. Nothing can be more contrary than such a philosophy to the supine indolence of the mind, its rash arrogance, its lofty pretensions, and its superstitious credulity. Every passion is mortified by it except the love of truth; and that passion never is, nor can be, carried to too high a degree. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever.

Nothing is more free than the imagination of man; and though it cannot exceed that original stock of ideas furnished by the internal and external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction and vision. When I throw a piece of dry wood into a fire, my mind is immediately carried to conceive, that it augments, not extinguishes the flame.

This transition of thought from the cause to the effect proceeds not from reason. It derives its origin altogether from custom and experience. It seems evident, that, when the mind looks forward to discover the event, which may result from the throw of such a dye, it considers the turning up of each particular side as alike probable; and this is the very nature of chance , to render all the particular events, comprehended in it, entirely equal. There are no ideas, which occur in metaphysics, more obscure and uncertain, than those of power, force, energy or necessary connexion, of which it is every moment necessary for us to treat in all our disquisitions.

It seems a proposition, which will not admit of much dispute, that all our ideas are nothing but copies of our impressions, or, in other words, that it is impossible for us to think of any thing, which we have not antecedently felt, either by our external or internal senses. I have endeavoured to explain and prove this proposition, and have expressed my hopes, that, by a proper application of it, men may reach a greater clearness and precision in philosophical reasonings, than what they have hitherto been able to attain.

Complex ideas may, perhaps, be well known by definition, which is nothing but an enumeration of those parts or simple ideas, that compose them. But when we have pushed up definitions to the most simple ideas, and find still some ambiguity and obscurity; what resource are we then possessed of? By what invention can we throw light upon these ideas, and render them altogether precise and determinate to our intellectual view?

Produce the impressions or original sentiments, from which the ideas are copied. These impressions are all strong and sensible. They admit not of ambiguity. They are not only placed in a full light of themselves, but may throw light on their correspondent ideas, which lie in obscurity. And by this means, we may, perhaps, attain a new microscope or species of optics, by which, in the moral sciences, the most minute, and most simple ideas may be so enlarged as to fall readily under our apprehension, and be equally known with the grossest and most sensible ideas, that can be the object of our enquiry.

Necessity, according to the sense in which it is here taken, has never yet been rejected, nor can ever, I think, be rejected by any philosopher. It may only, perhaps, be pretended that the mind can perceive, in the operations of matter, some farther connexion between the cause and effect; and connexion that has not place in voluntary actions of intelligent beings.

Now whether it be so or not, can only appear upon examination; and it is incumbent on these philosophers to make good their assertion, by defining or describing that necessity, and pointing it out to us in the operations of material causes. It would seem, indeed, that men begin at the wrong end of this question concerning liberty and necessity, when they enter upon it by examining the faculties of the soul, the influence of the understanding, and the operations of the will. Let them first discuss a more simple question, namely, the operations of body and of brute unintelligent matter; and try whether they can there form any idea of causation and necessity, except that of a constant conjunction of objects, and subsequent inference of the mind from one to another.

By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Necessity may be defined in two ways, conformably to the two definitions of cause, of which it makes an essential part. It consists either in the constant conjunction of like objects, or in the inference of the understanding from one object to another. It is experience only, which gives authority to human testimony; and it is the same experience, which assures us of the laws of Nature.

Our most holy religion is founded on Faith, not on reason And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience. If the cause, assigned for any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause, or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proposition to the effect. But if we ascribe to it farther qualities, or affirm it capable of producing other effects, we can only indulge the licence of conjecture, and arbitrarily suppose the existence of qualities and energies, without reason or authority.

The same rule holds, whether the cause assigned be brute unconscious matter, or a rational intelligent being. If the cause be known only by the effect, we never ought to ascribe to it any qualities, beyond what are precisely requisite to produce the effect: Nor can we, by any rules of just reasoning, return back from the cause, and infer other effects from it, beyond those by which alone it is known to us. I deny a providence, you say, and supreme governor of the world, who guides the course of events, and punishes the vicious with infamy and disappointment, and rewards the virtuous with honour and success, in all their undertakings.

But surely, I deny not the course itself of events, which lies open to every one's inquiry and examination. I acknowledge, that, in the present order of things, virtue is attended with more peace of mind than vice, and meets with a more favorable reception from the world. I am sensible, that, according to the past experience of mankind, friendship is the chief joy of human life, and moderation the only source of tranquility and happiness. I never balance between the virtuous and the vicious course of life; but am sensible, that, to a well-disposed mind, every advantage is on the side of the former.

And what can you say more, allowing all your suppositions and reasonings? It is still open for me, as well as you, to regulate my behavior, by my experience of past events. While we argue from the course of nature, and infer a particular intelligent cause, which first bestowed, and still preserves order in the universe, we embrace a principle, which is both uncertain and useless.

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It is uncertain; because the subject lies entirely beyond the reach of human experience. It is useless; because our knowledge of this cause being derived entirely from the course of nature, we can never, according to the rules of just reasoning, return back from the cause with any new inference, or making additions to the common and experienced course of nature, establish any new principles of conduct and behavior. But allowing you to make experience as indeed I think you ought the only standard of our judgment concerning this, and all other questions of fact.

And as this is the obvious appearance of things, it must be admitted, till some hypothesis be discovered, which by penetrating deeper into human nature, may prove the former affections to be nothing but modifications of the latter. All attempts of this kind have hitherto proved fruitless, and seem to have proceeded entirely from that love of simplicity which has been the source of much false reasoning in philosophy.

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The simplest and most obvious cause which can there be assigned for any phenomena, is probably the true one. On how we can be certain we know the Truth about Reality. Quotations David Hume , A. Quotations David Hume. Physical objects are not in space, but these objects are spatially extended. In this way the concept 'empty space' loses its meaning. The particle can only appear as a limited region in space in which the field strength or the energy density are particularly high.

The free, unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life. We must not conceal from ourselves that no improvement in the present depressing situation is possible without a severe struggle; for the handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided. Humanity is going to need a substantially new way of thinking if it is to survive! We can now deduce the most simple science theory of reality - the wave structure of matter in space.

By understanding how we and everything around us are interconnected in Space we can then deduce solutions to the fundamental problems of human knowledge in physics , philosophy , metaphysics , theology , education , health , evolution and ecology , politics and society. This is the profound new way of thinking that Einstein realised , that we exist as spatially extended structures of the universe - the discrete and separate body an illusion.

This simply confirms the intuitions of the ancient philosophers and mystics. But that depends on you, the people who care about science and society, realise the importance of truth and reality. Just click on the Social Network links below, or copy a nice image or quote you like and share it. Thus, it was as a historian that Hume finally achieved literary fame. For a year from , he held the appointment of Under Secretary of State for the Northern Department in London, before retiring back to Edinburgh in He died in Edinburgh on 25 August , aged 65, probably as a result of a debilitating cancer he suffered from in his latter years, and was buried , as he requested, on Calton Hill, overlooking his home in the New Town of Edinburgh.

He remained to the end positive and humane, well-loved by all who knew him, and he retained great equanimity in the face of his suffering and death. He spent most of the next ten years frantically trying to capture these thoughts on paper, resulting in "A Treatise of Human Nature" which he completed in at the age of just 26 and published two years later. This book, which he subtitled "An Attempt to Introduce the Experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects" , is now considered to be Hume's most important work and one of the most important books in the whole of Western philosophy, despite its poor initial reception.

He refined the "Treatise" in the later "Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding" actually published as "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" in , along with a companion volume "An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals" , although these publications proved hardly more successful than the original "Treatise" on which they were based. Hume was a thorough-going Empiricist , the last chronologically of the three great British Empiricists of the 18th Century along with John Locke and Bishop George Berkeley , and the most extreme.

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He believed that, as he put it, "the science of man is the only solid foundation for the other sciences", that human experience is as close are we are ever going to get to the truth , and that experience and observation must be the foundations of any logical argument. Anticipating the Logical Positivist movement by almost two centuries, Hume was essentially attempting to demonstrate how ordinary propositions about objects, causal relations, the self, etc, are semantically equivalent to propositions about one's experiences.

He argued that all of human knowledge can be divided into two categories: relations of ideas e. In the face of this, he argued, in sharp contradistinction to the French Rationalists , that even the most basic beliefs about the natural world, or even in the existence of the self, cannot be conclusively established by reason , but we accept them anyway because of their basis in instinct and custom , a hard-line Empiricist attitude verging on complete Skepticism.

But Hume's Empiricism and Skepticism was mainly concerned with Epistemology and with the limits of our ability to know things. Although he would almost certainly have believed that there was indeed an independently existing world of material objects, causally interacting with each other, which we perceive and represent to ourselves through our senses, his point was that none of this could be actually proved.

He freely admitted that we can form beliefs about that which extends beyond any possible experience through the operation of faculties such as custom and the imagination , but he was entirely skeptical about any claims to knowledge on this basis.

He noted that humans tend to believe that things behave in a regular manner , and that patterns in the behavior of objects will persist into the future and throughout the unobserved present an idea sometimes called the Principle of the Uniformity of Nature. Hume argued forcefully that such a belief cannot be justified , other than by the very sort of reasoning that is under question induction , which would be circular reasoning. Hume's solution to this problem was to argue that it is natural instinct , rather than reason, that explains our ability to make inductive inferences, and many have seen this as a major contribution to Epistemology and the theory of knowledge.

Hume was a great believer in the scientific method championed by Francis Bacon , Galileo Galilei - and Sir Isaac Newton - However, the application of the problem of induction to science suggests that all of science is actually based on a logical fallacy. The so-called induction fallacy states that, just because something has happened in the past, it cannot be assumed that it will happen again, no matter how often it seems to happen. However, this is exactly what the scientific method is built on, and Hume was forced to conclude, rather unsatisfactorily, that even though the fallacy applies, the scientific method appears to work.

Closely linked to the problem of induction is the notion of causality or causation. It is not always clear how we know that something is actually caused by another thing and, although day always follows night and night day, there is still no causal link between them. For Hume, the features or properties of an object are all that really exist, and there is no actual object or substance of which they are the features.

Thus, he argued, an apple, when stripped of all its properties color, size, shape, smell, taste, etc , is impossible to conceive of and effectively ceases to exist. Hume's anti- Rationalism , however, was not confined to his theory of belief and knowledge, but also extended into other spheres, including Ethics. Thus, he severely circumscribed reason's role in the production of action, and stressed that desires are necessary for motivation , and this view on human motivation and action formed the cornerstone of his ethical theory.

He conceived moral or ethical sentiments to be intrinsically motivating , and to be the providers of reasons for action. Thus, he argued, given that one cannot be motivated by reason alone given that motivation requires the additional input of the passions , then reason cannot be behind morality. His theory of Ethics , sometimes described as sentimentalism , has helped to inspire various forms of non-cognitivist and moral nihilist ethical theories including emotivism , ethical expressivism , quasi-realism , error theory , etc.

However, Hume pointed out, there are significant differences between descriptive statements about what is and prescriptive or normative statements about what ought to be , and it is not at all obvious how we can get from making descriptive statements to prescriptive. As an Empiricist , Hume was always concerned with going back to experience and observation, and this led him to touch on some difficult ideas in what would later become known as the Philosophy of Language.

For instance, he was convinced that for a word to mean anything at all, it had to relate to a specific idea , and for an idea to have real content it had to be derived from real experience. If no such underlying experience can be found, therefore, the word effectively has no meaning.

In fact, he drew a distinction between thinking which concerns clear ideas which have a real source in experience and just everyday talking which often uses confused notions with no real foundation in experience. This reasoning also led him to develop what has become known as "Hume's Fork". For any new idea or concept under consideration, he said, we should always ask whether it concerns either a matter of fact in which case one should then ask whether it is based on observation and experience , or the relation between ideas e.

If it is neither , then the idea has no value and no real meaning and should be discarded. Like Thomas Hobbes before him, Hume sought to reconcile human freedom with the mechanist or determinist belief that human beings are part of a deterministic universe whose happenings are governed by the laws of physics. Furthermore, he argued that, in order to be held morally responsible , it is required that our behavior be caused or necessitated.

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My impression of the violet I just picked is complex. More importantly still, perhaps, it has to be demonstrated. Edinburgh: A. The two claims are only distinguishable by observation and experience. Sraffa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Suppose, he posited, that an earthquake struck Mexico City for the first time in its history, resulting in the destruction of the city.

Hume wrote a great deal on religion , although, due to the rather repressive religious climate of the day, he deliberately constrained his words as it was, the Church of Scotland seriously considered bringing charges of infidelity against him. He never openly declared himself to be an atheist , and did not acknowledge his authorship of many of his works in this area until close to his death and some were not even published until afterward.

Some consider it his best work, and many of his arguments have become the foundation of much of the succeeding secular thinking about religion.