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Yeah. When he was an adolescent boy his mother said of him. Daisy is a well-meaning critter but calm and weak minded. His mother was a poor judge of her son. Her son David it was to become David Hume the sharpest intellect in the history of British philosophy and not what you would call weak minded. But as
for being a well-meaning critter her son Davie was far from being well meaning he was the most mercilessly destructive of all the British empiricists and he took a fiendish delight in annihilating the claims of philosophy. Shocking the holders of religion and undermining the validity of scientific laws and the entire enlightenment belief in progress. His lawyers in it's out were details on eventful. He was born in Edinburgh in Scotland in 711. He grew up in genteel poverty at the Hume family estate called nine wells in the Scottish Lowlands. A few miles from the English border knowing well as is described by a recent biographer of Hume as the pleasantest place imaginable standing on a hill overlooking the rushing waters of the Whitewater river in a magnificent landscape of distant mountains Hume attended the University of Edinburgh for three or four years leaving
before he was 16 years old without taking a degree. At first he tried to do what his family wished him to do and he began to study to become a lawyer. But he tells us in his autobiography while his family thought he was reading all the books he was secretly devouring philosophy. After three years he reports that there opened up to me a new sea of thought which was so exciting that it made him want to give up everything else and devote himself entirely to it. The law and now appeared nauseous to him as a result. He promptly abandoned the study of law and gave up the financial security. It could have given him what had he seen. What was this new scene of thought which led him to feel that he was the master conqueror and destroyer of all possible loss. The breakthrough which Hume the empiricist had was this. What if all our scientific knowledge is not no ones at all and has no
certainty and has no way of being proved to be certain. But it is only based upon our feelings that what the senses give us is true. But then all the achievements of the great new sciences of astronomy physics chemistry physiology all these marvels of the age of the Enlightenment bite the dust. They are nothing but sentiments feelings that what we perceive over and over again in orderly fashion is true humans exciting new philosophical outlook was based upon the empiricism of Locke and Barclay who defended sense perception and argued that True knowledge comes only from sense perception and is tested by it. But Hume began to move toward the frightening thought. Of that if the empiricists are right then our best knowledge scientific laws are nothing but sense perceptions which our feelings lead us to believe in. Therefore it is doubtful that we have
any knowledge at all. We have only sense perceptions observations plus feelings here in these thoughts of the young. Hume was a radical extreme skepticism an extreme form of doting. The possibility that certainty in knowledge is attainable. Descartes skepticism looks puny weak timid by comparison with this. Descartes had planned and found a foundation for knowledge that would establish its certainty. HUME seemed to be planning to destroy any possible foundation that could establish the certainty of knowledge. Is it any wonder that after the first flush of excitement the first gratification of feeling that he was the young David slaying the Goliath of all science philosophy and theology that he panicked that he became overcome by anxiety. The bottom of everything dropped out for him. In the fall of seventeen hundred twenty nine
he had a severe nervous breakdown which lasted for the next five years with physical symptoms and feelings of depression and weakness. He struggled to read and to continue to write. And he tells us that he used up great stacks of paper. But he complains that he was not able to follow through any train of thought or to write the polished prose that he demanded of himself. I had no hopes he complains of delivering my opinions with such elegance and neatness as to draw to me the attention of the world. This was what you always wanted after five years of this here and decided to give up philosophy. But in a few months he decided that action might be a cure and he left home and went to law flush in France one hundred fifty miles southeast of Paris. That was the location of Descartes the old Jesuit college do you recall a fact which pointedly ignored.
There are human holed up in a small apartment on a country estate and made use of the college library at the end of three is of intensive writing. His first and greatest book The Treatise of human nature was almost completed in seventeen hundred thirty seven. He returned to London editor of the manuscript and arranged for the previous to be published. He had expected the treatise to be hailed immediately as a philosophic masterpiece but he was bitterly disappointed. The reviews of the book were unfavorable. Few people seemed to have read it. Fewer still seem to have understood it Hume said of the book. It fell dead born from the press. HUME next tried to get a professorship at the University of Edinburgh but he was turned down on religious grounds because all of his open locking of church go was because of his contempt for religious belief. So me is Lady of the University of Glasgow turned him down for the same reason. Hume was never to become a
university professor but he supported himself first as a tutor and later as a secretary to various wealthy and influential persons including the British ambassador to France. He was finally appointed as an undersecretary of state. As a mature man Hume was described in this way his face was brought in fast his mouth wide and without any other expression than that of imbecility. His eyes were vacant and spiritless and the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle eating Alderman than that of a refined philosopher. His speech in English was rendered ridiculous by the broadest Scotch accent and his French was if possible still more labile so that wisdom never before disguised herself in so uncouth other uncomplimentary rocks were made by the historian and given about and given
said he was the fattest pig in the stock I despite these unflattering descriptions. HUME became a celebrity a well-established literary figure as an historian and as a philosopher. When he went back to front as secretary to the British ambassador he was hailed in Paris as a huge success. He had fulfilled what he said was his ruling passion the love of literary slain. He had at last accomplished what in the depths of his early depression a nervous breakdown. He thought he would never be able to do and that is to draw to myself the attention of the world. Now to take a closer look at Hume's philosophy and the way in which he is wrecking ball will work in the introduction to the treatise of human nature. He says his purpose is to study the science of man and to explain the principles of human nature. Like Newton he is going to reduce the science of man as Newton reduced mechanics to a few simple
principles. But why is he going to do this. It is because all other sciences are based upon the science of man. Therefore to study the science of man the science of human nature is really to study the foundation of all human knowledge. What human tends to do is to ask with regard to all I want knowledge one. How do you know what is the origin of your knowledge and to what are the limits of human knowledge. These are the questions which empiricism raises and Hume will push them consistently and relentlessly. And he already knows what he will show that we have no knowledge but only beliefs of sense perception which we feel are true. Why did he begin his treatise with the search for the foundations of human knowledge. His purpose in asking what are the foundations of all knowledge is to show that there is only one foundation consisting of one kind of knowledge and that is knowledge by sense perception.
His purpose is destructive it is to destroy the age of philosophic belief that there are two kinds of knowledge that one is the ordinary lower level knowledge of the sensible world the world of flux which Plato called the world of true opinion. Descartes called this a lower type of knowledge. He confused ideas of the senses for both Plato and Descartes. There is a superior level of knowledge which has a reason as its source and which provides certainty to knowledge. Plato used the divided line of knowledge and the imagery of assent and of a ladder of knowledge by which we call him to a superior type of truth which is gained by the knowledge of the eternal forms of the intelligible world. Descartes called this superior type of knowledge rational truth consisting of all a clear and distinct ideas both Plato one Descartes argued from the assumption that there are these two types of knowledge that above all ordinary
knowledge by sense perception. There is a superior kind of knowledge whose source is in human reason and that this superior knowledge unable to know truth about reality and so to have a metaphysics a theory which provides knowledge about the nature of reality. We have seen Plato's metaphysics his theory of reality as consisting of the eternal forms we have seen Descartes to metaphysics his theory of reality as consisting of mental and physical substances enter human. You do know that there are two kinds of knowledge. The notion that there is a superior kind of knowledge that philosophers can reach by reason. Knowledge of the nature of reality metaphysical knowledge. This notion he says is completely false. A total illusion. Philosophers who forced this notion upon a gullible public are guilty of fraud and beseech metaphysics such as that of Plato or St Thomas or of Descartes is the product says
human of rash arrogance or lofty tensions and superstitious credulity on the part of those who believe them. We can never know the nature of ultimate reality. You wab use loans for loss of those who claim to know the nature of ultimate reality are knaves and fools. They are forced because they do not understand that this is a kind of knowledge that human beings can never have. We are limited in what we can know to sense perception and they are names insofar as they persuade us to follow them in their in usury false philosophy. The fact is as Hume that we shall never know what are the causes of the sense perceptions that we have. What are the true qualities of things in the world and why things are as they are. We shall never know the nature and the purpose or plan of the world. Reason can never discover this. Hume says these ultimate Springs and principles are totally shot up from human curiosity and
inquiry. Human understanding is limited and the things that metaphysics seeks to know we can never know. There is only one kind of knowledge and that is knowledge by sense perception by sensory experience. Here Hume was stating the bedrock principle of all empiricism that the only legitimate source and test of knowledge is by sense perception. And with this principle as we have seen empiricism attacks all Russian alyssum all that of physics all philosophic systems all master builders such as Plato and St. Thomas and a car. Now what does Hume have to offer about sense perception which according to him is the only source of knowledge that we have and to which all the human beings can ever know is for ever limited the contents of consciousness in general.
He calls perceptions you remember that Descartes called them ideas. Human divides perceptions into impressions and ideas impressions are our immediate sensations passions and emotions. The immediate danger of seeing touching and hearing desiring loving hating ideas are copies or faint images of impressions such as we had in thinking about our impressions or recalling any of our immediate impressions. For example if you look at the room you're in. You have an impression of it sensations of its size its furnishings the color of the walls the windows the ticking of the clock work. HUME looks at his room and he says in his book when I shut my eyes and think of my chamber the ideas I form are exact representation of the impressions I felt. Nor is there any circumstance of the one which is not in the other. Ideas and impressions appear always to correspond to
each other. HUME goes on to say that the difference between impressions and ideas is in the greater force and the liveliness of impressions. Our immediate impressions impressions he says enter our consciousness with more force and violence. By contrast ideas are only images of our impressions which occur in our thinking reasoning and remembering. HUME goes on to distinguish between simple and complex impressions and the simple and complex ideas which are images of them. My perception of red as in the color of this book is a simple impression and my recollection of this red color is a simple idea but I can stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington at night and look at the brilliantly illuminated Capitol building in the distance. This is an impression too but a very complex one consisting of many impressions of darkness and lights blackness and yellow glows of lamps white marble grayish in
shadows. It is a complex impression and my recollection of it is a complex idea. We can show so soon that every one of my simple ideas of the Capitol has a simple impression which it resembles Hume was making any importance empiricist argument here that we cannot know anything which we have not had a prior impression Augie in sensory experience. The rule holds for all our simple impressions that every simple idea has a simple impression which precedes it and every simple impression has a correspondent idea. The fundamental principle that he sees that he has established is this. All our simple ideas in their first appearance derives from simple impressions which are correspondent to them he says and which they exactly represent. How was he going to
use this seemingly innocent account of our experience as consisting of impressions and ideas. How was he going to use his clain that every idea has a corresponding impression from which it arises. He would use it for magically and devastatingly to analyze and demolish a number of important philosophic ideas. It is his most powerful wrecking ball. All he needs to do is to OSC from What impression does this idea come if from no impression then the idea is worthless. So with regard to the idea of substance used by some Thomas Aquinas used by the scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages used by Descartes for on water impressions who mocks them. Does your idea of substance arise. There answer can only be from impressions of qualities we experience. Qualities of Sonny's shape color qualities that
we can touch and see and smell and so we cannot say that substances exist. We can know that something exists only if we have an impression of it. Only if we have sensory experience of it and so Hume deflates the claim that substances exist. He destroys the claim by showing that we have no impressions of physical substances. All we have knowledge of is our impressions of various qualities. HUME goes on to say philosophers have been using empty meaningless words like physical substance mental substance mind self as if they actually referred to things which exist and they do not. Twentieth Century linguistic philosophers have echoed Hume's view on analysis as human. We find that there are no impressions of any of these substances. We have impressions only of the qualities we
experience. And so these words substance mind self have no meaning since they come from no impression. And so Hume is able to use his rule that all ideas arise from the impressions to which they correspond in order to demolish all such ideas as these. His rule is simple and powerful where there is no impression. There is no idea no impression. The idea is meaningless. We can now move on to Hume's theory of the association of ideas. You must presented a view of our experience as made up of atomic elements of distinct separable impressions and ideas. Each a little atom as it were constituting our experience this atomistic view of experience began with the empiricist lock and dominated the beginning of psychology in the eighteenth and also in the nineteenth century.
Therefore the task for the psychologist was to discover how all these minute atoms of experience these sensations or impressions that we have are connected. What are the laws by which of these at Tonic sensations or impressions are connected with one another. How do they become associated as they said into complex ideas into the ideas of everyday experience and science. Theoretically we could associate any simple idea with any other simple idea what says Hume in the ordinary course of conversation or in scientific discussion. We find that our ideas do not follow one another by chance. They do not follow one another helter skelter or at our will we find instead that the same simple ideas lead regularly into the same complex ideas. And so Hume goes on. There
must be some universal principles in our thinking. We would say some psychological principles which operate in us not with necessity but nevertheless as a force or impulse to associate ideas in certain ways. HUME describes this impulse as a gentle force which commonly prevails the Association of our ideas he says is based upon three qualities which tend to lead the mind from one idea to another to connect or associate one idea with another. These three qualities are the basis of the three laws of the association of ideas. The first law is that ideas are associated or connected by their resemblance by the resemblance between ideas so our minds easily run from one idea to another that resembles a human gives us an example namely that a picture easily leads our thought to the original of which the
picture was taken. We could say that a picture of former President Nixon leads our thoughts to our ideas of him. The second law by which we associate or connect one idea with another is by contiguity one idea being close to or adjacent to another in space or in time. Our minds tend to associate one idea with another that is physically adjoining it contiguous with it. He gives as an example that mentioning one apartment in an apartment building naturally leads us to think about the others. The third law of the association of ideas is by cause and effect. Our minds he says seem in old to associate a cause with the effect that it brings alone. For example Hume says if we think a little. To the body we can scarcely keep ourselves from reflecting on the pain which follows it. The idea of the way leads us by this law of
association of ideas to the idea of the effect of the will namely the resulting pain. These three laws of association of ideas by which our thinking is naturally impelled from one idea to another which resembles it or which is next to it or which is its effect. These three laws characterize he says all our mental operations including all our reasoning and specifically they characterize our scientific reasoning of all the three laws of association of ideas the association or connection of ideas by cause and effect. So CNN is the most powerful connection between our ideas. Is this just an innocent set of laws. Merely a scholar's picky little distinctions. You know you better than to believe that he is wasting time on harmless academic niceties or picky distinctions. The laws of
association of ideas are part of his Wrecking Ball empiricist strategy and he is now going to use the third law of association of ideas by cause and effect in order in order to destroy the clane that we can have scientific knowledge that certain causes necessarily produce certain effects. Watch where his strategy has rocked you. So far he has just said that our atomic ideas which correspond to our impressions are connected or associated by three laws of association which are a gentle force leading us to associate one idea with another. These three laws pertain to all our thinking. Russ also and especially to our scientific thinking. He has also taken you on to another step in his strategy of the Three Laws of association the one that gives the most powerful impulse to connect one idea with another is by cause and effect.
Now for the next step. HUME KLEIN Is there anything we can say about objects about matters of fact beyond talking about our immediate impressions of what we see and touch must be based upon a cause effect relationship. How did this happen. What is the cause. All our reasoning about matter of fact as you know is causal and of course all the laws of science are causal laws of nature. But what has human made you agree to. Has he not made you agree that scientific knowledge is nothing but ideas from sense impressions which we associate by the laws of association of ideas is scientific knowledge is then nothing but idea that the laws of human psychology associates together as cause and effect all the causal laws of astronomy the laws of mechanics and of gravity and of the movement of gases. Are these laws merely expressions of our
psychology of associating ideas by cause and effect. Hume has led you to this outcome. But if this is so then we have no scientific knowledge whatsoever. We have in place of scientific knowledge only feelings of composed of a gentle force that makes us feel that our ideas are connected by cause of A. But in the case physics is nothing but our own psychology and is worthless as knowledge and the entire build up of knowledge of causal laws of nature. Since Copernicus the scientific laws which were the pride and hope of the Enlightenment are smashed by Hume's empiricist wrecking ball. These laws become nothing but psychological associations of ideas. Humans most original contribution to philosophy. And his greatest influence is in what he has to say on the cause effect relationship.
It is his major work of destruction. Return to this the next time. The studios at the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
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A Well-Meanin' Critter
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Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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Hume II: Limits of Human Understanding. Association of Ideas - Life of Hume. Impact of these empiricist currents of thought upon Hume at age 18. Treatise of Human Nature begun, finished after intense work and illness in eight years. The development of the arguments of empiricism to devastating conclusions. By making empiricism consistent, he makes it incredible. By demanding that knowledge come only from experience, he destroys the validity not only of rationalism, but of religion, moral principles and scientific laws. Hume drives home the empiricist claim that knowledge is only by sensory experience. He sets out to investigate the powers and capacities of the human understanding. Result: the mind is "confined within very narrow limits" of the materials given by the senses. Impressions and ideas are the only contents of the mind. Complex ideas. Without impressions, there can be no ideas. Use of the relations between impressions and ideas to attack any "suspicious" p
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"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #13; A Well-Meanin' Critter,” 1978-09-08, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #13; A Well-Meanin' Critter.” 1978-09-08. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #13; A Well-Meanin' Critter. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from