David Hume Essay

David Hume Essay

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David Hume Hume, David, 1711-76, Scottish philosopher and historian. Hume carried
the empiricism of John Locke and George Berkeley to the logical
extreme of radical skepticism. He repudiated the possibility of
certain knowledge, finding in the mind nothing but a series of
sensations, and held that cause-and-effect in the natural world
derives solely from the conjunction of two impressions. Hume's
skepticism is also evident in his writings on religion, in which he
rejected any rational or natural theology. David Hume lived in the
constitutional monarchy of George II under the Prime Ministers
Walpole, Pelham and Pitt, a Britain which had thoroughly established a
stable bourgeois system of government and was interested in building
its Empire. Hume died in the year of the American War of Independence.
Hume denied theological doctrines and acknowledged the evils that
religion had wrought upon humanity. How was one to develop then a
"secular" system of philosophy and morality. What answer could be
given to Berkeley's "proof" that the concept of a material world
beyond sensation was a "metaphysical absurdity"? How could we get on
with science and industry, trade and conquest, without religion? Hume
accepted Berkeley's proof, but developed the philosophy of Skepticism,
a British compromise, in which, while the knowledge we gain from
experience cannot constitute theoretical knowledge or necessity, it is
good enough for practical purposes, sufficient for practical life.
Hume says:

Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, ...


... middle of paper ...


...akes us expect,
for the future, a similar train of events with those which have
appeared in the past. (Hume, David S. "Concerning Human Understanding"
Section V, Part I, 36)

Hume's obvious goal was to refute Descartes, and defend Berkely. He
does an admirable job, considering any statement even remotely
acknowledging Descartes' theory of thought as being the only thing we
cannot disprove, would in turn disprove his own theories. However,
Hume misses the boat, in his defense of his own beliefs. True
knowledge is gained from the thought process and experience. It is the
combination of these two factors that allows us to define truth.
Descartes was half right, and Berkley was half right. Truth cannot be
determined until the possible results have been rationalized, and the
actual results of events have been measured.

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