David Hume was a Scottish philosopher in the 1700s

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher in the 1700s, who was an empiricist. He argues that our knowledge results form intuition and deduction. This knowledge is based on perceptions and go further to impressions and ideas. These impressions include sensations which come from ur senses or the impressions that come from our experiences. The ideas are made up of beliefs, memories and images and are the reflections of impressions. This leads to the idea of relations and the cause and effect theory. For Hume the substantive knowledge of the material world comes from what he calls ‘belief’. He separates knowledge and belief and makes belief inferior to knowledge.
This is the belief in the existence of an external world and it’s based on the consistency of perception, when we see things on how they appear to us. These individual perceptions in when she see things are part of the belief in the external world being real. Hume finds out what process gives rise to the common sense belief of the external world. Perceptions are the basis of our experimental knowledge and impressions and ideas are part of our perceptions. He argues that the common sense belief is part of our ideas that are derived from our impressions, through our senses. The ideas are made up of the connection between contiguity, resilience and time and effect.
Hume believes that belief is something which is in us independently if we want the belief to be here or not. Our mind ‘has the command over all its ideas, and can separate, unite, mix, and vary them, as it pleases’. We can’t believe what we want to. However, if believe did add a new idea to those ideas which are already before our mind than we could have the power to believe In what we want to. An example could be ‘existence’ because this means our being and any idea comes from our being. Hume thinks that ‘any idea we please to form is the idea of being and the idea of being is any idea we please to form’. The illustration of God is an example of this idea, because when you think of him and look for him you have this idea of him. When you think of him as existent, no new idea has come to your mind and opinion of him as all powerful. He is saying that when you think of God and when you think of Him and believe in him to exist, the idea of Him doesn’t diminish but it also doesn’t increase. This shows how Hume thinks that belief doesn’t mean that an idea is added to the ideas already in our minds. There are disagreements that can happen, between how each person takes in the same information. If someone believes in something and the the other person doesn’t, the ideas in both of their minds are the same. If the ideas were different, and how they conceive information than they wouldn’t have disagreed.
Hume’s analysis of belief consists of the idea of ‘Constant Conjunctions’. It is a kind of believe which we have when we are in a situation and we take it as a sign of another situation that happened in the passed. It’s a belief that comes from the past experiences of ‘Constant Conjunctions’. An example is seeing hearing barking sounds which makes us assume that there is a dog in the garden. Hume states that the things which we see around us have a consistency. They look the same, when we have a look at them again and this is consistency. However, if we look at the same things again after some time, this consistency isn’t perfect. Time changes things, how bodies look, changes in colors and the positions of things, which can cause them to be unrecognizable over time. When things go through change they still have coherence and because of the movement from constancy and coherence to being the same object. If the object is the same, than it means that it existed and so it’s external to our mind. Hume uses mathematics as an example for relations of ideas. However, he also claims that the relations of ideas are intuitively certain and he illustrates the relations in examples which derive from impressions ‘easy to decide, that any of them is superior or inferior to another, when their difference is considerable. This decision we always pronounce at first sight, without any enquiry or reasoning.
This leads to a debate about what counts as a relation of ideas. Hume thinks that ‘mere operation of thought’ can’t tell us anything about what exists and what doesn’t. Descartes on the other hand, argues that things can be shows to be certain by intuition and reason. Hume argues that priori knowledge, that is knowledge which is about the relations of ideas is analytic. The matters of fact that are synthetic is a posteriori. This means that we come to this argument from the evidence that we see. This means that things that we know which aren’t true by logic, every ‘matter of fact’ we have to learn ourselves in trying out our senses. This knowledge of matter of fact is always posteriori, because we learn this knowledge by observing and using our senses such as observation and induction. This refers to the knowledge of what we experience or can remember and the matters of fact that are beyond of what we can remember, is look with probable arguments. We can’t use evidence to analyze this knowledge. Hume says ‘to enquire what is the nature of that evidence which assures us of any real existence and matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of the senses, or the records of our memory’, which means that our knowledge relies on cause inference where we come to a conclusion that where something is or is likely to be the cause of something else. The causal inference is based on the experiences we had in the past. Hume questions this belief of connection between cause and effect. He argues about causation coming from a relation and not from causes.
The matters of fact are ‘probable’ which contrasts to relations of of ideas that are certain. Probability helps use form beliefs about matters of fact. Hume says, ‘The skeptics in looking for certainty set a value on Probability’. This happens, because we are exposed to the facts constantly. The ‘degrees of belief’ is used to see how often something happens in our experiences. It’s a method that our mind can know how reliable something is by how often it occurs. If an experience keeps happening repetitively we claim that the same thing will be happening again. This is the idea of custom and induction, which means that our reasoning about the experiences comes from custom and not from the understanding, which is why the events have to happen more than once so we can see the connection. Hume states that we can’t have rationally justified beliefs. This is because of the state of mind, that he ‘believes emerges naturally when the mechanisms that cause our beliefs are forced to interact with the conviction that very few of our beliefs are capable of being rationally justified’. This reflection can’t fully cover the process that explains our every day beliefs about the existence and the existence of objects like trees.
For Hume, a custom is the same as a cause and this cause’s nature is made of his conception of the mechanical operations of our imagination. Custom is ‘repetition of any particular act or operation’ which impels us to do it’ without impelled by any reasoning’. He describes it as an instinct or ‘mechanical tendency which is within us. He speaks of ‘experimental reasoning’ that we have, the same way that beasts do. ‘Mechanical power’ acts in us and is ‘unknown to ourselves’. He also believes that metaphysics was illusion because it doesn’t have experimental reasoning. This reasoning consists ‘mechanical power’ which is independent of the action of higher reason. Hume believes that we should explore the limits of the knowledge that we can get from the original cause and this exploration gives rise Hume’s ‘liminal natural theology’. ‘If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?’. He refers to it as an illusion and sophistry, because it as no reasoning on quantity or number and it doesn’t have any reasoning about it’s existence. This contrasts to mathematics where we deal with relations of ideas. They are certain because every assertion is certain, it is demonstrated and the truth of that depends on the the relations of these ideas. The truth of mathematics, can’t be supported or dis-acknowledged. Hume focuses on impressions and ideas, anything that is beyond that goes into meaningless metaphysics.
The two worlds of skepticism in the Corteisan and Humean world, both strive for certainty. However, in Hume’s opinion the Cartesian conception of the world is mistaken. Descartes thinks that we understand how one thing causes another to occur, that one event has to cause the effect to happen. Hume argues the opposite, that events are temporary and there is no necessity that when on thing happens, another must happen. He states that, even if we have a cause and a effect that we can think of as an event that must be connected, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily connected. Hume makes a point that because of history, we can make judgements in the example of Adam. ‘Adam, could not have inferred from the fluidity’, this example makes a point that if we believe Descartes opinion for us not understanding the world than Adam and Even, wouldn’t make any inferences. Adam is an example of the Cartesian theory of mind free of its body, which allows him to understand the world. Hume, argues that Adam could be not able to make casual inferences.
In conclusion Hume’s theory of knowledge shows experience as the fundamental point of causation. The idea of constant conjunction, where one object comes from another by experience. The objects that we see re occur regularly in an order contiguity. That’s why we look at them as cause and effect, the existence of one following from the other. Probability and degree of belief lead us to thinking that the event will happen again. However, some things we can’t know by experience and we can only know through our senses. Cartesian and Humean worlds, both strive for certainty, but Hume challenges some of the Descartes points through the use of history. He believes in something greater than our minds, that there is an external world. The important part about belief is the actual way it’s conceived and not the content.


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