David Hume Essay Research Paper David Hume1

David Hume Essay, Research Paper

David Hume

1. Hume says, If we would satisfy ourselves, therefore, concerning the

nature of that evidence, which assures us to matters of fact, we must

enquire how we arrive at the knowledge of cause and effect. Hume then

makes the claim that; knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance,

attained by reasonings a priori. The support for this claim is that

knowledge of cause and effect arises entirely from experience. If you

presented an object to a man that he had never come in contact with, he

would not be able to give you the causes or the effects of this mysterious

object. You can not tell the causes or effects of a new object from the

qualities, which appear to the senses. Hume writes, nor does any man

imagine that the explosion of gunpowder, or the attraction of a loadstone,

could ever be discovered by arguments a priori. Only through experiences

with gunpowder and a loadstone would you be able to know the cause, which

produced it, or the effects, which will arise for it. Hume writes, When

we reason a priori, and consider merely any object or cause, as it appears

to the mind, independent of all observations, it never could suggest to us

the notion of any distinct object, such as its effect; mush less, show us

the inseparable and inviolable connexion between them. A man must be very

sagacious who could discover by reasoning that crystal is the effect of

heat, and ice and cold, without being previously acquainted with the

operation of these qualities. Therefore, cause and effect is learned

through experience.

2. The circular reasoning in Section IV, Part II, paragraph 6, is, we have

said that all arguments concerning existence are founded on the relation of

cause and effect; that our knowledge of the relation is derived entirely

from experience; and that all our experimental conclusions proceed upon the

supposition that the future will be conformable to the past. If we are to

put trust in past experience and make it the standard of our future

judgement then the arguments to support the statement must be probable or

matter of fact and real existence. There is no such argument to support

the supposition. To attempt and prove the last statement about the future

being conformable to the past by probable arguments is evidently going in a

circle because no probable argument exists.

3. When a man says, I have found, in all instances, such sensible

qualities conjoined with such secret powers: And when he says, Similar

sensible qualities will always be conjoined with similar secret powers

This is the problem with induction as Hume saw it. When people experience

similarity among natural objects, they then to form conclusions based on

reoccurring observations. If every zebra I saw had stripes, I would come

to the conclusion that all zebras had stripes. The problem is that I have

not seen all zebras, so my conclusion about zebras might be false. All the

premises about zebras might be true, but my conclusion could be false. It

is likely to some degree that all zebras I see will have stripes, but it is

possible that my conclusion is wrong. I can imagine a zebra without

stripes, but I have never seen one. That does not mean it does not exist.

Hume’s solution

1. Once a person acquires more experience and has lived long enough to

observe similar objects, he will constantly infer the existence of one

object from the appearance of the other. He has not from all his

experience acquired any idea or knowledge of the secret power by which the

one object produces the other. He will continue in this same course of

wrongful thinking. This is the problem. Hume presents a sceptical

solution to this problem. His solution is, This principle of Custom or

Habit. For wherever the repetition of any particular act or operation

produces a propensity to renew the same act or operation, without being

impelled by any reasoning or process of the understanding, we always say,

that this propensity is the effect of Custom. This solution gives us the

answer as to why we believe that all zebras have stripes. It is a solution

to the problem of induction. It is a principle of human nature. All

inferences from experience, therefore, are effects of custom, not of

reasoning. Custom is the guide to the future; it allows us to except a

similar course of events with those that have appeared in the past.

2. It does not seem like a solution to the problem. The problem is people

tend to form beliefs about objects through experience. If every Nintendo I

saw was black, then I would form the belief that all Nintendo’s are black.

But in my mind I can conceive a blue Nintendo, but still believe that no

such thing exists. Also, I have not seen ever Nintendo in the world so it

is possible that somewhere there is a blue Nintendo. This principle of

Custom that Hume provides as an answer to the problem is not really a

solution. I believe that it is merely a definition. He says that when we

repeatedly see any particular act or operation, we produce the belief that

the act or operation will repeat itself again because of the effect of

Custom. That does not help us any with the problem. It just defines why

we have the problem. I don’t believe that Hume’s solution takes us any

farther, but it does clarify the problem a little more.


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