Essay PreviewMore ↓
Remember that according to Descartes, what I know first and foremost are my ideas. It is only later that he seeks to know if the extramental world exists, and so he begins with his ideas and then moves towards real being (rather than vice versa). Somewhere along the line the notion of idea undergoes a transformation. Soon an idea becomes a sense impression or an image. Remember that for the Greeks and Mediaeval thinkers, an idea is not reducible to an image. An idea cannot be imagined, but is an essence abstracted from the phantasm and understood. But this gets confused after Descartes. For example, John Locke says that ideas "...stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking..."
Note how he lumps together "phantasm, species, or whatever". This is very sloppy, but influential nonetheless. And notice how he maintains that the object of our knowledge is the idea, and not real being (as it was for the Greek and Mediaeval thinkers).
David Hume, following this line of thinking, begins by distinguishing the contents of human experience (which is ultimately reducible to perceptions) into: a) impressions and b) ideas.
Impressions are given sensations that arise from "unknown causes". Remember that what we know are our impressions, according to this trend. Whether there is something that corresponds to these impressions is unknown, for we don't know real being, we know impressions (a la Descartes).
Ideas are man's thoughts. They are fainter copies of impressions, and so they are images in the imagination that are remembered.
Every idea stems ultimately from a corresponding impression. Complex ideas are ultimately reducible to impressions; for they can be analyzed into simple ideas, which in turn can be reduced to impressions.
The consequences of these principles are important to note. That is why Hume is important, for he shows us where Empiricism ultimately leads.
How to Cite this Page
"David Hume's Theory of Knowledge." 123HelpMe.com. 13 Dec 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Empiricism (en- peiran; to try something for yourself): The doctrine that all knowledge must come through the senses; there are no innate ideas born within us that only require to be remembered (ie, Plato). All knowledge is reducible to sensation, that is, our concepts are only sense images. In short, there is no knowledge other than that obtained by sense observation. Remember that according to Descartes, what I know first and foremost are my ideas. It is only later that he seeks to know if the extramental world exists, and so he begins with his ideas and then moves towards real being (rather than vice versa).... [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]
1350 words (3.9 pages)
- David Hume was an imperialist philosopher who revolutionized scientific argument and methodology with his skepticism. His arguments about the way people though up to his day, and still today, are fundamental in explaining how we gain knowledge and what we do with this knowledge. Hume helped pave a road leading toward a higher state of consciousness for humanity with his theory concerning the perceptions of the mind. He divided the minds perception into two distinct group's impression and ideas. With these two classifications Hume rationalized the depths of human understanding.... [tags: David Hume, Knowledge, philosophy]
1766 words (5 pages)
- DAVID HUME (1711-1776) is considered as one of the more notable philosophers that was a representative of the empiricism. Hume stated that it was critical that the concept of causality wasn’t denied and that this principle had an existing objective. He argued that cause and effect are factors that not are united by ties needed; if not that his union is arbitrary. By custom or by habits, nothing ensures that the logical or experience happens without a cause. For example the Sunrise necessarily follows an effect: supply of heat to the Earth.... [tags: Metaphysics, Ontology, Causality, David Hume]
817 words (2.3 pages)
- David Hume is considered to be one of the big three British empiricists, along with Hobbes and Locke, and lived near the end of the Enlightenment. The Catholic Church was losing its control over science, politics and philosophy and the Aristotelian world view was being swallowed up by a more mechanistic viewpoint. Galileo found the theory provided by Copernicus to be correct, that our earth was not the center of everything, but the celestial bodies including the earth circled the sun. Mathematicians abounded.... [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]
1677 words (4.8 pages)
- The mystery of consciousness has puzzled humans for thousands of years. We feel pain, hunger, and countless other perceived emotions that we know to be true. We are all aware that we are conscious; however, nobody has discovered whether or not the human body is organized in a specific way that leads to consciousness. The fact is that the existence of consciousness, the very essence of knowledge, is undeniable, regardless of the lack of a concrete systematic organization of facts to explain it.... [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]
1369 words (3.9 pages)
- Hume: Vices and Virtues Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems such as those regarding existence, reality, knowledge, values, the human mind and language. “I think, therefore I am” is a famous quotation that attempts to define this study very simply, and the philosopher quoted was Rene Descartes, a 17th century Frenchman who is widely regarded as the Father of Modern Philosophy. David Hume was an 18th century Scotsman who is considered by many to be the most important philosopher ever to write in English.... [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]
1060 words (3 pages)
- • David Hume took the logic aspects behind Locke and Berkeley theory on sensory experience leading to one’s knowledge and came up with the most comprehensible understanding of empiricism. • Hume thought that through science he could find the reason for conflict and the justification behind every humans thoughts, whether the ideas had any equal accuracy. • Strongly believed that the method of science would lead him to finding the understanding of how the minds of human make though and process • Hume found that science failed him, and that human though process only extends to a certain limit.... [tags: Mind, Thought, Cognition, Idea]
1006 words (2.9 pages)
- "The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public." –( George Jessel ). One can say or try and dissect the brain and try to figure what’s going on inside of it and that’s what Philosophers today try to accomplish, but a question can be raised from this. Why is that why must the brain be dissected. This question is raised for the simple fact that Philosophers really want to know what’s going on the human brain. This can also go back to “knowing” and believing in something that can be proven as a fact.... [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]
1929 words (5.5 pages)
- Hume’s Epistemology David Hume was a Scottish philosopher known for his ideas of skepticism and empiricism. Hume strived to better develop John Locke’s idea of empiricism by using a scientific study of our own human nature. We cannot lean on common sense to exemplify human conduct without offering any clarification to the subject. In other words, Hume says that since human beings do, as a matter of fact, live and function in this world, observation of how humans do so is imminent. The primary goal of philosophy is simply to explain and justify the reasoning of why we believe what we do.... [tags: Ideas,Impressions]
889 words (2.5 pages)
- Pragmatism, Empiricism and David Hume Pragmatism is based on the philosophy that ideas must be tested and re-tested, that experiences dictate reality. Pragmatists also believe in no absolute truths or values existing. David Hume argues that, “no proof can be derived from any fact, of which we are so intimately conscious; nor is there anything of which we can be certain, if we doubt this” (Treatise 2645). Hume’s empiricist ideals were roots to early pragmatic thought, by way of the theory that, in our reality, nothing is certain and everything that can be sensed must be constantly qualified to find a place in reality.... [tags: essays research papers]
611 words (1.7 pages)
1) The Rejection of the Principle of Causality: The idea of cause and effect is groundless, according to Hume. In the idea of causality, it is maintained that there is a necessary connection between the effect and its cause. The baseball moved across the plate because of (the cause being) the rapid movement of my arm. The eight ball moved because (the cause being) it was struck by the white ball, which was moving. We say that there is a relationship between what we refer to as the cause and what we refer to as the effect, and that relationship is not merely contingent (may or may not follow the movement of my arm or the movement of the white ball), but is rather necessary. The white ball will necessarily move, unless there is something causing it to do otherwise (ie, it is glued to the pool table). But if ideas are nothing but faint and remembered impressions (perceptions), what is the impression or perception that is at the root of such an idea as causality? We see one impression, namely the movement of the white ball, and this is followed by another impression, the movement of the eight ball. But where is the perception of the necessary connection between the movement of the white ball and the movement of the eight ball? There is none. So why then do we talk of cause and effect? How do we know that the white ball caused the eight ball to move? Remember, all knowledge is reducible to sense perceptions. "There is a transfer of energy between the white ball and the eight ball", says the physicist. Hume replies: "There are no ideas, which occur in metaphysics more obscure and uncertain, than those of power, force, energy or necessary connection, of which it is every moment necessary for us to treat in all our disquisitions....In reality, there is no part of matter, that does ever, by its sensible qualities, discover any power or energy, or give us ground to imagine, that it could produce anything, or be followed by any other object, which we could denominate its effect" (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sec 7, part 1)
In short, we don't know that the white ball caused the eight ball to move. We assume that it does, for we see these impressions in sequence, and when we see them in such sequence often enough, we conclude that the one is caused by the other. But there is no grounds for this conclusion, according to Hume. This idea has no corresponding impression, and so the idea cannot be empirically verified. So, the idea is rejected as groundless.
It is only the continual conjunction of the same sense data in the same temporal sequence that gives rise to the expectation that they will continue to be so conjoined in the future. The idea that they must be so conjoined arises in the imagination. But this idea, as was said, is without grounds. And so Hume rejects Descartes' idea that whatever has a beginning has a cause for its existence. He does so, mind you, with Descartes own principles: if I can clearly and distinctly conceive of one thing without another, I can be assured that the two are really different and the one is able to exist without the other. But one can certainly imagine one thing not existing and the next moment existing without the idea of a cause. The actual separation of these objects is therefore quite possible and implies no absurdity.
Now recall that the foundation for all science is the principle of causality; for science is a search for causes. Philosophy is the search for the ultimate causes of things, and the investigative sciences search for the proximate causes of things. If what Hume says is true, then science is an impossibility. There is no science.
2) The rejection of the notion of substance: This amounts to a rejection of the idea of "thing" or entity, or substance. Recall that for Aristotle, real quality is always the quality of a "thing" or substance. One can only speak of colored things as real. So too quantity in the real world is always the quantity of a thing or substance (ie, the fat cat). But according to Hume, all we know are impressions. This idea of "substance" as the substratum of the accidental modes of being is therefore groundless. Let us perceive the substance in itself. We cannot. Recall that substance, according to the Greek and Mediaeval thinkers, is intelligible. And so we can see why Hume would be lead to reject this notion of substance. Show me the entity behind the attributes. We cannot. Therefore positing its existence is without foundation.
Therefore it follows that your pet cat is not a thing or entity or substance. Your pet cat is a bundle of sensations or impressions, a collection of sense data that you find regularly associated with each other. It is this regular association that leads one to posit the notion of substance. But this idea has no empirical foundation. Therefore, Hume rejects "thing" or entity, that is, the notion of substance. There is no such thing as a permanent essence or intelligible structure proper to things.
What about myself as a thinking thing? There is no self. There is just a continually changing collection of impressions, emotions and feelings that are linked together into a unity, and we observe this unity in memory and simply name it accordingly.
Of course the existence of God cannot be proven, for to do so requires the principle of causality, which is groundless according to Hume. Therefore all proofs of God's existence are ultimately groundless.