David Hume

David Hume - David Hume, Scottish (1711-1776) (The...

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David Hume, Scottish (1711-1776) (The vehemence with which Hume’s skepticism was received is exemplified by Lord Charlemont, who spoke of David Hume as more like a ' turtle - eating alderman ' than 'a refined philosopher’.) The Problem of the Criterion and the Empirical Principle Hume’s work on epistemology is expressed principally in two volumes: A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40) and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1777). The first attempt was worked out by Hume in 1734-1737 and upon its publication, “fell dead-born from the press”. The second attempt at a statement of the principles of human understanding is undertaken in the Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding from which our text is excerpted and represents, as Hume describes in the advertisement, corrections in the “negligences in his former reasoning” and can be regarded as “containing his philosophical sentiments and principles.” In both the Treatise and in the Enquiry , Hume is keen to examine the sources and justification of our claims of knowledge. Recall the question raised by Roderick Chisholm in The Problem of the Criterion: “what is the proper method for deciding which are the good beliefs and which are the bad ones—which beliefs are genuine cases of knowledge and which beliefs are not?” ( Reason and Responsibility , p. 141) Hume argues that what can be known must be derivable from sense experience. In this respect, Hume is a Methodist in Chisholm’s distinction in the sense that we must first have a method before we can say what we can know. This method is to trace our knowledge back to its foundation in experience. *1,2,3 The Origin of Ideas (Enquiry Section II)
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Like Locke, David Hume was a content empiricist. He accepted Locke’s view of the mind as empty ( a tabula rasa ) before being filled by its experiences and cognitions. All thought is ultimately derived from sense impressions. And like Locke (ideas of sensation and reflection) , Hume accepts that there are two kinds of ideas: sense impressions and “thoughts” and “ideas” properly speaking, the first of which have their source in “outward sentiment”, the latter in “inward sentiment”. Our impressions have a liveliness that marks them as distinct from ideas which are paler copies of the original impressions and can be deployed by our memory (less lively) and our imagination (least lively). In Hume’s case, our ideas of reality are the objects of immediate awareness and to the extent that we are able to fuse the atoms of sense impressions into whole figures (persons and bodies) gives us the content of our ideas about reality. Hume is famous for his assertion that our idea of personal identity is based on nothing more than a “bundle of sense impressions”. As with Locke, this scheme of perception of qualities is well depicted in the pointillism of Seurat: George Seurat (1859-91) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
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All mental activity involves the presence before the mind of some mental entity. In this
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHIL 50 taught by Professor Hahn during the Spring '08 term at Marquette.

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David Hume - David Hume, Scottish (1711-1776) (The...

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