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HUME AND EMPIRICISM

HUME AND EMPIRICISM

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HUME AND EMPIRICISM

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  1. HUME AND EMPIRICISM

  2. David Hume – Scottish philosopher – 1711-1776. Epistemological approach set out in two key works: • A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), • Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1748)

  3. Key issues • Hume’s view that our senses provide the raw materials of thought and knowledge – impressions and ideas. • ‘Hume’s Fork’ and the attack on Rationalism. • Humean account of causation – the central and fundamental type of inference we employ when investigating and thinking about the world. Constant conjunction and Humean ‘projectivism’. • The problem of induction.

  4. Hume’s Copy Principle: “All our simple ideas in their first appearance are derived from simple impressions, which are correspondent to them, and which they exactly represent” Our mind makes ideas: faint copies of impressions that enable us to think off-line. All knowledge begins with impressions: the deliverances of the senses. EMPIRICISM – HUMEAN MOTIVATIONS David Hume (1711-1776) Proof? Impressions ‘enter with the most force and violence’ or are more ‘vivacious’ than ideas People lacking either a sensory modality (e.g. taste) or impressions (e.g. tastes of wine) cannot form ideas of these things. Find me an idea that does not originate in experience.

  5. What about necessary truths? And metaphysical concepts of God and cause and self? The books of metaphysics should be “consigned to the flames” There are no substantial (interesting, metaphysical) a priori knowable truths. EMPIRICISM – HUMEAN MOTIVATIONS Relation of ideas = analytic and necessary truth. “All bachelors are unmarried” The idea of unmarried is analytically part of the idea of a bachelor. But what about important metaphysical truths such as “God exists”? “Every event has a cause”? Hume’s Fork: Any truth is either a “relation of ideas” or “a matter of fact” Either they are mere truths of definition or they are, if true, only contingently so. Matter of fact = synthetic and contingent truth. “Bernard is a bachelor” The idea of being a bachelor is no part of the idea of Bernard. It’s just a fact about Bernard that he is a bachelor. I can conceive of an uncaused event, so it is not necessarily true – not even by definition – that every event has a cause.

  6. Hume’s Fork

  7. Rationalists say that the concept of cause is an innate concept and that we live in a world where nothing happens without a cause. Furthermore, there’s no real relation of causation out there in the world. Causation is a psychological relationbetween impressions/ideas. The concept of cause is learned from experience. HUME AND CAUSATION We get the idea of a necessary connexion from seeing X and Y together many times. Necessity is psychological not metaphysical. Suppose that a brick is thrown at a window and it breaks. We say that the thrown brick caused the broken window. What’s a necessary connexion? How can experience discover this? But does it follow logically from the description of the first event – the thrown brick – that the second event – the broken window – would follow? So, causation boils down to the expectation that Y will follow X. • X causes Y = • X and Y are spatiotemporally contiguous. • X comes before Y • There is a necessaryconnexion between cause and effect. So, what does it mean to say that one thing causes another? So reason cannot discover causal connections. No!

  8. Fill in the gaps – ‘Hume’s motivations’ and ‘Hume, causation and induction’. • Consider why Hume says what he does. Make a note of any difficulties you think he might face • Sources - the video worksheet, Ch. 9, Reason and Experience booklet, Grayling handout. • Bonus points if you can fill in the blanks about Pavlov…

  9. Bonus points – Pavlov’s Dogs • Pavlov - stimulus-response model of explanation • When dogs fed a bell was rung. • The food (alone) sufficient to make the dogs salivate (unconditioned response). • After a while the ringing of the bell alone causes the dogs to salivate. • The conditioning history – habit – of the dogs determines their response to the environment. • Basis for explanation and prediction.

  10. Further reading and Homework • On Billiard Balls – Hume Against The Mechanists – RJP Issue 3 • http://www.richmond-philosophy.net/rjp/back_issues/rjp3_hill.pdf • For Thurs – (1) make sure you’ve finished the Locke work – Explain and describe one criticism of innate ideas and (2) Read the Hume and Empricism handout. • For next Mon - Explain with an example why the Humean account of causation challenges Rationalism.