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Introduction to Humanities Lecture 19 David Hume By David Kelsey
David Hume – –Born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Attended the University of Edinburgh at age 12. –Wrote his Treatise at College of la Fleche in Anjou, France from –Influential works by Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature, first published in 1739 Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, first published in 1748 Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, first published in 1779
Hume & Newton Hume aspires to do for human nature what Isaac Newton did for nonhuman nature: –A science of human understanding –to provide principles of explanation both simple and comprehensive. Isaac Newton: – –Invented the theory of universal gravitation every massive particle in the universe attracts every other massive particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them –Newton’s three laws: Every body remains in a state of rest or uniform motion unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force F = MA Action and reaction = equal, opposite and collinear. –Thought proper science never frames hypothesis A hypothesis is a principle of explanation not derived from a close examination of the facts Hypothesis not arrived at by by way of careful analysis of the sensible facts are arbitrary
Hume’s motivation Hume’s motivations for providing a science of human understanding: –Wants to debunk ‘popular superstition’: Whatever cannot be demonstrated on the basis of experience and reason –So he aims to show what the human understanding both is and is not capable of. If he can show that superstition claims to know what no one could possibly know… –And a science of human nature is fundamental We couldn’t know the truths of mathematics, natural philosophy or natural religion without first knowing the extent of human understanding, the nature of the ideas we employ or the operations we perform in our reasoning. (Treatise of Human Nature, Intro) Should illuminate all human intellectual endeavors.
Hume on Descartes Hume on Descartes: –Descartes dualism, his doctrine of a separate mind substance, frames a hypothesis. “For to me it seems evident, that the essence of the mind being equally unknown to us with that of external bodies, it must be equally impossible to form any notion of its powers and qualities otherwise than from careful and exact experiments, and the observation of those particular effects…And tho’ we must endeavour to render all our principles as universal as possible…’tis still certain that we cannot go beyond experience; and any hypothesis, that pretends to discover the ultimate original qualities of human nature, ought at first to be rejected as presumptuous and chimerical.” (Treatise, Intro) –So in forming any principles of the mind or understanding, we cannot go beyond what experience gives us…
Perceptions So Hume thinks we must form principles of human nature from the data. The data Hume speaks of are what he calls perceptions –All the contents of our minds when we are awake and alert, which for Hume is all our ideas. All the ideas of the sciences All the arbitrary and superstitious ideas Note that Hume holds the representational theory of mind that we see in Berkeley and others. –Hume aims to draw a line between legitimate and illegitimate ideas. –So Hume aims to uncover the origins of our ideas.
Hume’s theory of Ideas Hume’s theory of ideas: –Perceptions can be divided into impressions and ideas –Impressions Enter the mind with the most force and violence Sensations, passions and emotions –Ideas The faint images of impressions in thinking and reasoning –Examples: If you slap a table with your hand, the sound you hear is an impression and your recollection of that sound is an idea An exception: A terrifying dream…
Simple and Complex perceptions Hume also distinguishes between simple and complex perceptions –Simple perceptions: single, solitary ideas. Example: –Complex perceptions: built out of simples. Example:
Ideas and Impressions Ideas and Impressions: –For Hume it seems “all the perceptions of the mind are double, and appear both as impressions and ideas” (Treatise, I, 1, 1) –But Hume notices that this isn’t correct for you can have an idea that doesn’t correspond to any impression. Example: –But Hume notes that such cases are only cases of complex ideas. –So for every simple perception, our perceptions are always double. Every simple idea corresponds to a simple impression that resembles it.
Simple ideas depend on simple impressions Simple ideas depend on simple impressions: –Hume argues that every simple idea has some simple impression as a causal antecedent. “To give a child an idea of scarlet or orange, of sweet or bitter, I present the objects, or in other words, convey to him these impressions…We cannot form to ourselves a just idea of the taste of a pine-apple, without having actually tasted it.” (Treatise, I, 1, 1) –So the origin of all our ideas are impressions. –Without an impression, there is no idea. –A rule with devastating consequences!
Tracing ideas to impressions Tracing ideas to Impressions: –So Hume’s rule is this: if there is no impression then there is no idea –But from this Hume infers that every meaningful term is associated with an idea. –Determining if a term is meaningless: Trace the idea associated with the term back to an impression. If you can do so… If you try and fail… –“All ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: The mind has but a slender hold of them: They are apt to be confounded with other resembling ideas; and when we have often employed any term, though without a distinct meaning, we are apt to imagine it has a determinate idea, annexed to it. On the contrary, all impressions, that is, all sensations, either outward or inward, are strong and vivid: The limits between them are more exactly determined: Nor is it easy to fall into any error or mistake with regard to them. When we entertain, therefore, any suspicion, that a philosophical term is employed without any meaning or idea…we need but enquire, from what impression is that supposed idea derived? And if it is impossible to assign any, this will serve to confirm our suspicion.” (Enquiry, 99)
The Association of Ideas The Association of Ideas: –The principles that bind impressions and ideas together to produce the complex mental lives of humans –The world of ideas if governed by the gentle force of association. Association is a kind of attraction This gentle force operates without our consent, will or even consciousness of it. For Hume, the mind just works this way… He isn’t going to try to explain why, for to do so would be to frame a hypothesis… –He notes first that we should be able to test for such principles by observing our own trains of thought “It is evident that there is a principle of connexion between the different thoughts or ideas of the mind, and that, in their appearance to the memory or imagination, they introduce each other with a certain degree of method and regularity…Were the loosest and freest conversation to be transcribed, there would immediately be observed something, which connected in all its transitions…” (Enquiry, 101)
Principles of the Association of Ideas Hume thinks there are 3 principles of association: –“To me, there appear to be only three principles of connexion among ideas, namely Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect.” (Enquiry, 101) Resemblance: –“A picture naturally leads our thoughts to the original.” (Enquiry, 102) Contiguity in time or place: –“The mention of one apartment in a building naturally introduces an enquiry or discourse concerning the others.” (Enquiry, 102) Cause and effect: –“And if we think of a wound, we can scarcely forbear reflecting on the pain which follows it.“ (Enquiry, 102)
Relations of Ideas All objects of human enquiry are either relations of ideas or matters of fact: Relations of ideas: –The sciences of geometry, algebra and arithmetic Three times five… –Discoverable by the mere operations of thought, without dependence on anything existent in the universe –Consider the contrary of a relation of idea: Consider 2 added to 3 is not 5. This is False because of the way the ideas are related to each other It’s denial is contradictory We need make no appeals to experience to know it is false Instead, we can know it is false by the mere operation of thought
Matters of Fact Matters of fact: –The contrary of a matter of fact is still possible never implies a contradiction Can be “conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness” as the matter of fact itself, “as if ever so conformable to reality”. (Enquiry, 108) False because of the way the world actually is or turns out to be. To determine its truth or falsity we must consult the external world and experience –That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible and implies no more contradiction, than that the sun will rise tomorrow
Matters of Fact and the relation of cause and effect Hume says that relations of ideas can be certain but not so for matters of fact. –With matters of fact, our evidence is never great enough to amount to certainty. This is because… “All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of Cause and Effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses.” (Enquiry, 109) –The friend in France, the watch and the voice in the dark… So when we reach beyond our perceptions, we do so in virtue of the relation of cause and effect –A present impression is associated with some idea such that the impression is taken to be the effect of the idea
Knowledge of the relation of cause and effect For Hume, we cannot arrive at knowledge of relations of cause and effect independently of experience. –Our knowledge of cause and effect relations is not a priori… –“nor can our reason, unassisted by experience, ever draw any inference concerning real existence and matter of fact…causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason, but by experience.” (Enquiry, 110) Knowledge of the relations of cause and effect is dependent on our having some prior experience of the situation –Knowledge of relations of cause and effect is a posteriori, dependent entirely on experience –So causal predictions are made based upon past experience –If we have never had experience in dealing with a particular relation of cause and effect, we cannot make a prediction… –An example:
Causal arguments aren’t valid An example of causation: one billiard ball strikes another on a billiard table –1. I have seen one ball strike another many times –2. Each time, the ball that was struck has moved –Thus, 3. The struck ball will move this time. But does 3 follow necessarily from 1 & 2? –Isn’t it possible that this time something different will happen? –Validity? So Hume asks why we seem to always think that 3 follows from 1 & 2. –Don’t we assume something like the following: The future will (in the relevant respect) be like the past. –Validity! –This premise is known as the principle of the uniformity of nature.
The principle of the uniformity of nature The principle of the uniformity of nature: –Says that the future will (in the relevant respect) be like the past. But how do we know this is true? –It isn’t contradictory to suppose that cause and effect relationships might suddenly change Whether the principle is true is not a relation of ideas. It is a matter of fact… If we know the future is like the past, we do so based upon experience. Futures and pasts we have experienced… –So we get this argument in favor of the principle of the uniformity of nature: 1*. I have experienced many pairs of events that have been constantly conjoined in the past. 2*. Each time I found that similar pairs of events were conjoined in the future. Thus, 3*. the future will (in these respects) be like the past. –But we find ourselves asking the same question: Validity? Does 3* necessarily follow from 1* & 2*?
The non-justifiability of the principle of the uniformity of nature So Hume thinks we have no good reason for believing in the uniformity of nature. –It cannot rest on a rational foundation –Never validity… But for Hume it doesn’t follow that we must give up our belief in the uniformity of nature or in causal relations... –We cannot do without them for survival’s sake… –“Nature will always maintain her rights…and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever.” (Enquiry, 120) But if beliefs in relations of cause and effect aren’t rationally based, then what is their foundation?
The foundation of relations of cause and effect Knowledge of cause and effect through experience: When we experience the constant conjunction of events, we form a habit of expecting the second when we observe the first, and we believe the first causes the second –So our belief in relations of cause and effect is completely irrational… –But we do believe in causation. We cannot help it. But we believe in it by a kind of natural instinct: by custom and habit. –Human nature… “Custom, then, is the great guide of human life. It is that principle alone, which renders our experience useful to us, and makes us expect, for the future, a similar train of events with those which have appeared in the past. Without the influence of custom, we should be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact…” (Enquiry, 122) –So Hume is granting that we have a right to believe in something irrational. –Descartes?
The strength of causal relations Hume says that some causal relations come in degrees: –Some events are such that they are always conjoined to another. –And other events are such that it is only just often the case that when one occurs so does the other. –So for Hume, the more constant the conjunction between one event (A) and another (B), the more probable we think it that a new experience of the first (A) will be followed by one of the second (B). So we find ourselves believing those things most confidently which are most regular in our experience. Nature at work…
Necessary connection Causation is more than mere constant conjunction. It is necessary connection. –To say X causes Y is to say: X produces Y, if X occurs Y must occur and that X has the power to bring Y into being Hume on the necessary connection in causation: –Hume aims to discover if such a necessary connection is metaphysically real. He does so by trying to trace the idea back to an impression. –So his question is: can we ever observe this necessary connection?
The impression of a necessary connection So Hume asks: do we have an impression of the necessary connection? –Take the billiard ball example: do you observe the force or power that makes the second ball move? Hume thinks not! –“We are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion; any quality which binds the effect to the cause, and renders the one an infallible consequence of the other. We only find, that the one does actually, in fact, follow the other…Consequently, there is not, in any single, particular instance of cause and effect, anything which can suggest the idea of power or necessary connexion.” (Enquiry, 136) –The same holds for mental states: If you will your hand to move and your hand moves there is no impression observable of the connection between the willing and the moving of the hand. All I observe is one thing followed by another.
The foundation of our idea of necessary connection So we can get no impression of necessary connection. –“Upon the whole, there appears not, throughout all nature, any one instance of connexion, which is conceivable by us. All events seem entirely loose and separate. One event follows another; but we can never observe any tie between them. They seem conjoined, but never connected. And as we can have no idea of any thing, which never appeared to our outward sense or inward sentiment, the necessary conclusion seems to be, that we have no idea of connexion or power at all, and that these words are absolutely without meaning…” (Enquiry, 144) –Relations of cause and effect are learned from experience and experience can only show us constant conjunction –So the idea of a necessary connection is meaningless… But from where then do we get the idea of necessary connection? –“After a repetition of similar instances, the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of one event, to expect its usual attendant, and to believe that it will exist. This connexion, therefore, which we feel in the mind, this customary transition of the imagination from one object to its usual attendant, is the sentiment or impression, from which we form the idea of power or necessary connexion.” (Enquiry, 145)
The impression of necessary connection The impression: –So the impression of necessary connection is felt in the mind. –It is a kind of mental transition from cause to effect. –It is an expectation felt in the mind, of one event given another. –The expectation is habitual, like breathing. –So we project a necessary connection on objective events based upon our subjective experience, I.e. our sentiment or feeling which comes from our habit to expect one event following another.
Causation: a fiction Hume provides 2 definitions of cause: Constant conjunction: –“An object, followed by another, and where all the objects, similar to the first, are followed by objects similar to the second.” (Enquiry, 146) Necessary connection: –“An object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other.” (Enquiry, 146) So for Hume, causation as constant conjunction and necessary connection is a fiction. –As far as experience goes, necessary connections cannot be found. But we nevertheless apply such a connection to our experience. –But since we appeal to causation to determine all matters of fact, it appears we cannot come to know any matter of fact. –What we cannot know and skepticism:
Hume on the soul Hume calls the soul ‘the self’ –As he did with the notion of causation, he wants to consider whether the self is a meaningful term –So Hume considers whether we can trace the idea of self back to some impression… So the question Hume asks: is the term ‘self’ meaningless noise? –“From what impression cou’d this idea be derived? This question ‘tis impossible to answer without a manifest contradiction and absurdity; and yet ‘tis a question, which must necessarily be answer’d, if we wou’d have the idea of self pass for clear and intelligible. It must be some one impression, that gives rise to every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but that to which our several impressions and ideas are suppos’d to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, thro’ the whole course of our lives; since self is suppos’d to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and variable.” (Treatise, I, 4, 6)
Hume’s argument Hume’s argument that the term ‘self’ is meaningless: –1. The term ‘self’ is supposed to represent an idea of something that continues unchanged throughout a person’s life. –2. The idea of self is simple, not complex. –3. Without an impression, there is no idea. –4. So there must be an impression of self. (from 2&3) This impression must be one that resembles our idea of self. Our idea is of substance that remains throughout the course of our lives; unchanging “constant and invariable”. –5. There is no such simple impression of self. –6. So the term self is meaningless and we have no idea of self. (from 3 & 5)
Hume’s proof that there is no simple impression of self Hume’s proof that there is no simple impression of self: –“For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by a sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions remov’d by death, and cou’d I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the dissolution of my body, I shou’d be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.” (Treatise, I, 4, 6) –So Hume simply looks in himself. He finds no impression of a simple, unchanging, single substance underlying all our particular impressions. –What Hume thinks we do find in ourselves: Nothing but fleeting perceptions: ideas, sensations, feelings and emotions.
Evaluating the Argument Evaluating the argument: –What about premise 1? What is our idea of self? Maybe Hume is going about this all backwards… –What about premise 2? Is the idea of self simple? –Maybe premise 3 is false? Maybe we can push on his theory of ideas? –And of course we could challenge premise 5. If we look inside ourselves, do we have an impression of a simple substance?
What the mind is So when Hume looks for an impression of self that remains constant and unchanging he finds only fleeting perceptions. So for Hume the self is –“…nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perceptual flux and movement…the mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at any one time, nor identity in different; whatever natural propensity we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion of the place, where these scenes are represented, or of the materials, of which it is compos’d.” (Treatise,I, 4, 6)
Hume on the mind Hume on the self: –So the idea of self, like the idea of cause, is a fiction or human construct. –As a self, we are nothing but a “bundle” of perceptions. –The mind is no single substance. –The mind is like a theatre. In the theatre an amazingly complex play performs. The players are the perceptions. The theatre is just the performance of the play… –So Descartes was wrong after all! Thought doesn’t entail a thinker!
Hume on Freedom Hume on freedom: –For Hume, freedom is “a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone, who is not a prisoner and in chains.” (Enquiry, 159) –A person lacks freedom when he is in chains. When he cannot do what he wants to do. He is unfree because his actions are constrained, against his will. The unfree man who desires, wills and tries to walk away… –If the unfree man’s chains are removed, he is free to do what he wants… –So some person P is free with respect to some action A, when: if P chooses to perform A, then he performs A.
Freedom and Determinism Freedom and Determinism: –So, for Hume, freedom is a kind of hypothetical power to do something if one chooses to do it. –But one might worry that if a Newtonian world, a world determined by mechanical laws, persists there is no room for freedom of the will. Determinism is the view that human actions constitute no exception to the universal rule of causal law. –And Hume admits that Human actions are caused in the same sense as events in the material world. We can observe no necessary connection in either material or mental causation. Causation is just regularity or constant conjunction. “men still entertain a strong propensity to believe, that they penetrate farther into the powers of nature, and perceive something like a necessary connexion between the cause and the effect. When again they turn their reflections towards the operations of their own minds, and feel no such connexion of the motive and the action; they are thence apt to suppose, that there is a difference between the effects, which result from material force, and those which arise from thoguht and intelligence.” (Enquiry, 156, 157)
Hume’s compatibilism Hume’s compatibilism: –So for Hume causes are just constant conjunctions, regularities. –But freedom is just a kind of regularity. It is the hypothetical power to do something if we choose to do it. The regularity of: the actions we choose following upon our choosing them… –So if the world is wholly determined by causal laws and yet freedom is just a causal law, we can have both determinism and freedom of the will. This is the view known as Compatibilism Hume’s Compatibilism and Naturalism: man is just another natural fact, like everything else in the natural world, operating under natural causal laws…
Questions about Hume’s account of freedom Questions about Hume’s account of freedom: –Questions unanswered: What does this power of turning intention to action amount to? –So isn’t Hume’s explanation of freedom a kind of surface or superficial explanation only? Only the extension of freedom is given, not the intension. –But of course Hume will say that he cannot give an account or explanation of the power of willing actions to be. To do so would be to frame a hypothesis! –But we still want to ask: what is freedom of the will?
Hume on God Hume on God: –Hume is taken by many to be an atheist for Hume shows that we have no good reason to believe in God. –Hume sets out to show that several key arguments for God’s existence are unsound. –First, he disproves the ontological argument –Remember the ontological argument assumes: You cannot think of God without thinking God exists –For Hume, it may be that thinking of God entails thinking that he exists but this concerns only relations of ideas not matters of fact. So pointing out that the thought of God includes in it the thought of existence doesn’t entail the truth of the matter of fact that God exists. A relation among ideas, even one that is necessary, gets no traction and can have no causal power on how things are in the world.
Hume on Descartes first proof for God’s existence Descartes first argument for God’s existence: –1. I have an idea of God –2. This idea must have a cause –3. The cause must be equal in formal reality to the subjective reality of the idea –4. I myself could not possibly be the cause –5. So God must be the cause of my idea Hume wants to deny premise 3. But Hume thinks that our idea of God as perfect entity comes from reflecting on our own imperfections: –“The idea of God, as meaning infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being, arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind, and augmenting, without limit, those qualities of goodness and wisdom.” (Enquiry, 97-98)
The idea of God in ourselves So for Hume, the origin of our idea of God is in impressions of our imperfect selves. –We reflect on ourselves and find impressions of imperfect intelligence and goodness. –From our impressions we can gain the idea of more and less. –But then we can add our idea of more with our ideas of intelligence or goodness. –In this way we get the idea of a being more intelligent and good than we are. –We can then reiterate this inference until we get perfection… Thus, the idea of perfect entity can come from an object with less than perfect formal reality, for the ideas of perfection can be formed from the ideas of imperfection! –What would Descartes say in response?
The argument from design The argument from design: –“Look around the world: Contemplate the whole and every part of it: You will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain….The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble, and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed. By this argument a posteriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity and his similarity to human mind and intelligence.” (Dialogues, II, 45)
The argument from design: formalized The argument from design: –1. A machine is the effect of intelligence For every clock… –2. The world is like a machine It is an ordered whole. Newtonian mechanics tells us so. So the world is like a clock… –3. Thus, the world is the effect of some intelligence –An argument a posteriori: it is an argument that depends upon experience and matters of fact… –An argument by analogy: Since worlds are like machines and machines have designers so too does the world have a designer. –A causal argument: The first premise and conclusion…
Hume’s response to the argument from design Hume raises many questions about the argument from design: –1. A posteriori arguments are never valid and can never entail their conclusions. Thus, the most the argument from design can give us is probability… –2. Causal arguments follow this principle: the cause must be proportioned to the effect. “If the cause be known only by the effect, we never ought to ascribe to it any qualities, beyond what are precisely requisite to produce the effect.” (Enquiry, 190) But if you look around the world it certainly isn’t perfectly good, intelligent or wise. It seems to have none of the qualities we attribute to God and so cannot prove the existence of a perfect God…
Hume’s third response to the design argument Taking the analogy seriously: The analogy is between machines and their designers and the universe and its designer. –Many people often cooperate to make a machine Many Gods –Wicked people can create technological marvels a wicked God –Machines are made by mortals a Mortal God –The best machines are a result of a long history of gradual improvements. But then “Many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out; much labor lost; many fruitless trials made; and a slow but continued improvement carried on during infinite ages in the art of world-making.” (Dialogues, 36) –What Hume shows us here is that any of these is possible. And we have no way of knowing which are the similarities between worlds and machines and which are not.
Hume’s final response to the design argument Hume’s final response: –There is one respect in which the universe is entirely unlike machines –The universe is “entirely singular” –We can infer the cause of a machine because we have in the past experienced the constant conjunction of machines and designers. –But if we apply this reasoning to the universe, we would need past experience of the making of worlds, such that worlds are constantly conjoined to designers. And yet…
Skeptical doubts Causal arguments and skeptical doubts: –We cannot infer, by causal argument, the existence of God. Likewise, we cannot infer, by causal argument, the existence of a material world beyond our perceptions. If we can have no impression of the conjunction of an external object and the impression it causes, we can’t infer the existence of the external object from any impressions of them we might have. And yet we can’t ever observe the constant conjunction of an external object and the impression it causes… –So then what we seem to have here is skepticism: We have no reason to believe in God or an external world…
Hume’s morality Hume’s morality: –Hume says first that “the ultimate ends of human action can never, in any case, be accounted for by reason, but recommend themselves entirely to the sentiments and affections of mankind, without any dependence on the intellectual faculties.” (An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 163) –In the absence of a desire or passion, reason alone cannot produce action. “Ask a man why he uses exercise; he will answer because he desires to keep his health…” (Principles, 162) Passion or desire motivate to action and reason is inert. Reason is the slave of the passions. –Likewise for moral judgments, if they are to have have effect on action, they must be motivated by passions.
Morality isn’t a matter of fact Morality isn’t a matter of fact: –“Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Wilful murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find the matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. In whichever way you take it, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts…The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you consider the object. You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, towards this action. Here is a matter of fact; but ‘tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compar’d to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind.” (Treatise, II, 3, 1) –So virtue and vice aren’t primary qualities they are secondary qualities. –We project onto the facts an idea of virtue or vice which has an origin in a feeling in the mind. Note this is like our idea of the necessary connection in causation which has its origin in a feeling of expectation.. –This feeling is one of approval or disapproval which are expressed in terms like good or bad, right or wrong.
Facts and values Facts and values: –The is ought problem says this: an ought (or value) cannot be derived from an is (or fact). –For Hume there are no value facts at all. –Value has its origin in valuing, I.e. perceiving. –So values are projections onto the facts and facts have no value in and of themselves. –So the foundations of morality are found in sentiment, in feelings of approval and disapproval, not in reason.
A scientific investigation of morality So if we conduct a scientific investigation of morality it will consist in an investigation of the things we approve and disapprove of and why. –Hume examines: we tend to approve of the things which are agreeable or useful, either to ourselves or to others. Agreeable things elicit our immediate approval while useful things promote the occurrence of an agreeable thing. –Hume also says one of the passions had by humans is sympathy or what he calls ‘fellow feeling’. This is why we can have concern for others or for the greater good.
Does Hume’s view imply Relativism A possible implication and reply to Hume’s account of morality: –Since a feeling or sentiment of approval or disapproval seems relative to the individual doesn’t it follow that Hume’s account of morality implies Moral Relativism? –Hume’s reply: Sympathy is an original passion in human nature. It works toward a commanality in the moral sense of us all.
Hume the skeptic Hume the skeptic: –Causation is mere constant conjunction –There is no good reason to believe in God, the self, the objectivity of morals or an external world. –Hume’s skepticism isn’t Descartes though. Descartes skepticism, which Hume calls antecedent skepticism: “recommends an universal doubt, not only of all our former opinions and principles, but also of our very faculties; of whose veracity, say they, we must assure ourselves, by a chain of reasoning, deduced from some original principle, which cannot possibly be fallacious or deceitful. But neither is there any such original principle, which has a prerogative above others, that are self-evident and convincing: Or if there were, could we advance a step beyond it, but by the use of those very faculties, of which we are supposed to be already diffident.” (Enquiry, 199) So if you could doubt everything, there would be no way back to rational belief For to get back you would have to use the very reasoning faculties you doubt…
Hume’s mitigated skepticism Hume’s mitigated skepticism: –“The greater part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in their opinions…But could such dogmatical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human understanding, even in its most perfect state, and when most accurate and cautious in its determinations; such a reflection would naturally inspire them with more modesty and reserve, and diminish their fond opinion of themselves, and their prejudice against antagonists…In general there is a degree of doubt, and caution, and modesty, which, in all kinds of scrutiny and decision, ought for ever to accompany a just reasoner.” (Enquiry, 207-8) –An attempt to keep in mind “the strange infirmities of human understanding” –Makes for modesty and caution… –It will teach us the limitations of our human capacities –It will encourage us to devote our understanding to the problems of common life…
The perils of skeptical doubt Hume: –“ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and [to] look upon no opinion even as more probably or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence…I am counfounded 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.” (Treatise, I, 4, 7) –So the skeptical conclusions of his philosophy have lead Hume into depression and utter paralysis. It is a kind of philosophical melancholy and delirium, a shivering terror at our lack of certainty
Escaping the perils of skeptical doubt Escaping the perils of skeptical doubt: –“Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I wou’d return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain’d, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.” (Treatise, I, 4, 7) –We can’t escape the depression through reason –Nature is always too strong for principle. –Custom and habit ensure that we don’t sit shivering in terror at our lack of certainty. Maybe it takes one lively impression of the senses… Activities of every day life…
Final thoughts on Hume If philosophy has lead us into such drastic doubts about our nature, where can it take us: –The value of the science of human nature has provided us with the limits and scope of our understanding. –It frees us from the dogmatism and superstition that plagues man Problems for Hume’s view: –Challenging his theory of ideas: Could we challenge his rule that for every idea there is a corresponding impression? –Challenging Empiricism Rationalism instead? –Challenging the Newtonian model: Why a Newtonian model for human nature?