Hume Essay, Research Paper
INTRODUCTION In this essay I will be discussing a very important conflict that Hume reflects in the conclusion of Book I, A Treatise of Human Nature. The thesis of this essay is to analyze the “conflict” between causal reasoning and the continued existence of external objects. Now, to be more specific I should say that I am inclining on Hume’s side about the conflict being real for same thing cannot exist at one time and again at a later time, and also in between or at the same time. To summarize the conflict presented, it basically involves cause and effect, yielding the primary/secondary quality distinction and continued existence of matter depending on secondary qualities. Further, there is an argument for the claim that causal reasoning is of fundamental importance for our knowledge of matters of fact, although the conflict is still a problem. I will argue firmly that the conflict is real by providing several statements that show not in its favor, but against it, and contrary them. These statements will form the basis of discussion of this essay, and at the same time, focusing on the relevancy, that being the thesis. DISCUSSION In my opinion, many infirmities are shared by all humans. A quick summary of the situation is that we can only assent due to the feeling of “a strong propensity to consider objects strongly in that view, under which they appear to me.”(1.4.7, 3) It seems as though experience and habit are principles that operate on the imagination to produce stronger reactions than others. We even need this to consider what is present to our senses as objects, and the succession of perceptions themselves. Otherwise we are stuck in the present, without even memory as stated by Hume, “The memory, senses, and understanding are, therefore, all of them founded on the imagination, or the vivacity of our ideas.” (1.4.7, 3) These are the main principles that sometimes present the conflict of cause and effect which arises between causal reasoning and the belief in continued existence of external objects. However, this is not the only indignity that arises at this point. We must also seek for causes and effects working from the immediate to the remote without being content with knowing the immediate causes, but instead by pushing on our enquiries and then to the “efficacious quality, on which the tie depends.” (1.4.7, 5) However this is to be found merely in ourselves, the determination of the mind to make a transition. “Such a discovery not only cuts off all hope of ever attaining satisfaction, but even prevents our very wishes; since it appears, that when we say we desire to know the ultimate and operating principle, as something, which resides in the external object, we either contradict ourselves, or talk without a meaning.” (1.4.7, 5) Hume believed that ideas are always derived from impressions and that we cannot understand a word that we have never seen, unless you or I, have experienced sensory impressions of such a word or have had its meaning explained by means of other words that were directly associated with sensory impressions, at the time of learning. The meaning of such a word can be learned this way, only in such a way that the idea it expresses is complex and analysable into simpler components, in which all of our simple ideas must have been derived from impressions. Hume claimed that this is the kernel of truth in the empiricist doctrine and that there are no innate ideas. Hume also believed that we can always gain a clearer understanding of our ideas by asking from what impressions they were derived. Sometimes indeed, we find no impressions to correspond to some imagined idea, and according to Hume, we have to conclude that we have been using a word vacuously, without any idea or meaning being attached to it. As mentioned earlier in the essay, there is an argument for the claim that causal reasoning is of fundamental importance for our knowledge of matters of fact. This brings an important question to our attention, how can Hume have acquired the idea of causation, and from what impression or impressions was it derived? Hume breaks down this question into three simpler ideas which are contiguity (spatial contact), emporal precedence and necessary connection. Necessary conection imposes serveral problems, since Hume cannot see how this idea could have come from anything directly encountered in our experience. In such circumstances, where the answer to a question about truth conditions does not yield any suggestion of an answer to the question about verification, it becomes problematic how we ever can come to know the truth of a causal statement, and thus how we ever could have acquired the concepts of cause and effect. The problem is to be solved, according to Hume, by providing an account of the origin of the idea of necessary connection that makes it possible to understand how people can successfully learn and use causal concepts. It clearly appears then, that of those three relations, which depend not upon the mere ideas, the only one, that can be traced beyond our senses, and informs us of existences and objects, which we do not see or feel, is causation. Hume’s response to the conflict in question, is that we must preserve our scepticism, because we assent only when reason is lively, where the cost of scepticism is too high. Proceeding upon one singular quality of the imagination, by a parity of reason all of them must be embraced. The refined speculations do have a a strong effect, an intense view of the contradictions have made him think. He asks what he can believe, “I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, inviron’d with the deepest darkness, and utterly depriv’d of the use of every member and faculty.” (1.4.7,8) Even though Hume cannot bring himself to be a complete skeptic, he is still concerned but he will not analyze any more, “If I must be a fool, as all those who reason or believe anything certainly are, my follies shall at least be natural and agreeable.” (1.4.7, 10) CONCLUSION Concluding this essay I would like to say that I still agree with Hume’s conclusion on the conflict. I do believe the conflict is real, but since causal reasoning is a fundamental importanace for our knowledge of matters of fact, we cannot simply ignore it. If we must have both, causal reasoning and continued existence of external objects, then we must agree with this conflict, since it is present. Hume is satisfied with the complex account of how a succession of errors leads to the belief in external objects, and I agree with him. I believe we can give in to the propensity to assertion of particular points at particular instants. We may even use such strong language as “’tis evident, ’tis certain, ’tis undeniable .” (1.4.7, 15), but in my opinion they are just sentiments, not dogmatism. Hume, and not only him, but my own understanding has ceartinly persuaded me in believing he is correct, the conflict exists.
Hume: A treatise Of Human Nature Internet: Various Sites