Essay, Research Paper: David Hume


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I would like to start by stating that the arguments I will present about David
Hume’s “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” are not going to be
leaning completely towards his point of view or against it due to the fact that
I agree with certain views on his philosophy and disagree with others. In “Of
the Origin of Ideas”, Hume divides all perceptions into two basic kinds:
impressions, which are the “livelier” and “more vivid” perceptions; and
ideas, which are “less lively” copies of the original impression. He gives
some excellent analogies to back this up. For example, he says “when we think
of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold, and mountain,
with which we were formerly aquainted ”. I consider this point of view to be
completely logical and agree with Hume, but at the same time I’m a little
skeptic about it because he himself gives a counterexample to his own claim that
simple ideas are always copied from impression. In the whole example of
introducing a new shade of color, I disagree with Hume when he states that
“… this instance is so singular, that it is scarcely worth our observing,
and does not merit, that for it alone we should alter our general maxim”
because what if there are other instances where the same thing could happen. Did
he have an infinite amount of time to go through all the possibilities of all
the cases that could happen in an entire lifetime or just generally in life? In
“Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding”, he says
that “all reasoning about matters of fact seem to be founded on the relation
of Cause and Effect” and this was something that I agreed on with him because
if I challenge it and put it to test, it seems to work every time, but he
doesn’t stop there. He says if you agree with the cause and effect concept,
then you must find out how we arrive at the knowledge of cause and effect. Then
his answer to this is that you don’t know the cause and effect of an object
just by looking at it and reasoning a priori, but solely through experience.
This is yet another topic where I agree on, but am skeptic about his conclusion
on it because he is basically saying that nothing should be assumed do to prior
experience and should be challenged at all times. For example, he says “All
our reasonings a priori will never be able to shew us any foundation for this
preference”, and also that “It could not, therefore, be discovered in the
cause, and the first invention or conception of it, a priori, must be entirely
arbitrary”. Sure, this would probably be the best way to be certain about a
factual matter, but we as humans are not immortal so I say it would be ludicrous
to go on living life in this frame of mind. I think Hume’s view on cause and
effect is similar to Descartes’’ view on reality because they are both super
skeptic about the matter of facts, but a major difference would be that Hume
actually believes in the fact once it has been challenged and Descartes would
doubt everything even if experienced and challenged. Like Hume, Locke believed
that you are born with a blank mind and then through experiences you would gain
knowledge, but there was a difference in the way each viewed this notion. Locke
believed that an object obtained certain qualities or attributes, which were
powers and these powers would then produce the ideas. He also broke these
qualities into two types, which were primary and secondary. The primary were the
simple ideas like solidity, texture, extension, figure, and motion. The
secondary were not in the objects themselves, but were powers to produce color,
sound, taste, and other things of the sort. This seems like a rational way to
look at how one might come to gain knowledge, but I prefer Hume’s way of
thinking a lot better. He says that we obtain all our conclusions from the
principle of “Custom and Habit”. He describes custom as being the repetition
of any particular act or operation, which produces the tendency to start over
the same act without being influenced by reason. In conclusion about custom, he
says, “ Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of
every matter of fact, beyond what is immediately present to the memory and
senses”. This is the statement I like the most because it’s how every human
being lives today whether they realize it or not.
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