PHIL 100 Sections 0203,0204,-0207
TA: Kallfelz, W.
The Genius of Scotland: A Brief Summary
Scotland, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, witnessed some remarkable
minds that determined the subsequent course of Western history. (James Watt:
technology, Adam Smith: Economics, David Hume: philosophy/economics/history.)
David Hume, like England’s predecessor John Locke, wrote philosophy “on the side.”
Locke earned his living as a physician.
Hume was trained in law, worked as a librarian,
and served political posts before his successful publications of
A History of England
him financial reward and independence .
Aside from his four major publications in
Treatise of Human Nature,
[1739 (vol 1), 1740 (vol 2)],
Essays: Moral and
Enquiry into Human Understanding
Natural Religion (DNR)
This only scratches the surface: he also published
a highly successful and influential
History of England
[1754, 1756, 1759, 1762.]
Hume figured himself an epistemological “Copernicus,” directing our understanding
from what’s “out there in the world” to the
: human understanding
as a study on “what objects our understanding were…fitted to deal
He advanced a highly nuanced and subtly
position which can be
summarized in the following central claim:
H1: We cannot
(i.e. establish) knowledge of the world upon sensory
we can only examine the psychology of our beliefs about the
though it’s an “irresistible and fortunate part of our nature to have
this “irresistible and fortunate part of our nature?”
Philo (basically the
mouthpiece of Hume’s ideas) articulates it in the outset: “Experience, therefore,
proves that there is an original principle of order in mind, not in matter.
similar effects we infer similar causes.
(Part II, p.61)
This pithy statement essentially “nuked” most of what was considered essential in
First, a couple of definitions:
This can be thought of “Copernican” because the basis of knowledge
depends on the dynamic faculty of
fixed (presumed to be static
) out there in the world.
(Analogous to the
versus the previous belief of its ‘fixed state.’)
It represented what historians describe as
the epistemological turn…
a philosophical position which puts
as its central enterprise, displacing metaphysics.
In other words, questions concerning the
‘ultimate nature of reality’ were subsumed under questions concerning
how we come to know reality.
Immanuel Kant, in reply to Hume, can be seen as the leading figure of this epistemological turn.