Discussion Between Rene Descartes and David Hume

Categories: Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes and David Hume discussed epistemology on the exact same concern, "where does human knowledge originated from?" They both pertained to very different conclusions. Descartes claimed that our understanding originated from human reasoning alone and this is an outright certainty concept. This professors of reasoning is natural tool that came with human types. He called this tool, "mind," which is separated from our body. Hume on the other hand, declared that human gained from observing the empirical world, and connecting concepts utilizing, "cause and effect.

Rene Descartes realized that numerous of the things that he have accepted as the truth was false viewpoints, and consequentially the concepts that were built on them. He wanted to begin once again by look for out "the reality", and then construct upon that, because the structure of science requires outright certainty. In his effort to discover "the truth," he began to criticize all of the things he had formally thought: using the approach of doubts, and after that get rid of from the foundation what he found to be doubtable or deducible.

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He did this as he believed as his doubt increase, certainty decline and vice versa. By the end of Meditation I, he was in a state called "Void," where he was hesitant of all things and decided that the empirical world existed to him by a wicked demon He then reasoned that for him to be tricked by the devil, he should exist as something, a mind or a thinking thing After specifying that his mind is the sole particular thing, he used wax to highlight that human can not accomplish knowledge through sense, or imagination alone.

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He stated that simply from observing a piece of already melted wax, he would not have the ability to recognize it as the very same piece of wax he had seen previously in its former form, if he had actually not been witnessing the melting procedure. So, sense alone is not the source of knowledge. If he then got rid of every qualities that a piece of wax can be without, what stay is "something extended, versatile and movable." From this description, a piece of wax could take any shapes and volume, which would not assist him at all in identifying the nature of this piece of wax.

Thus, imagination alone also could not be the source of human knowledge. He concluded that the nature of a piece wax can only be perceived through the inspection of the mind (pure reason) as the other two, sense and imagination, were ruled out. Thus, knowledge is a priori, and Descartes was a Rationalist. However, how could Descartes deny sense data completely, if he had to acquire the appearance of a piece of wax or the knowledge of its nature through sense data in the first instance (before it was melted).

So he started the wax argument by contradicting himself by explaining to us what he sensed of a piece of wax. His reply was that an ordinary language almost as well led him to an error that he saw the wax (from sense data), but in the reality his faculty of mind interpreted the appearance in front of him to be a wax. Another of my objection to his argument is why creating a new thing, a faculty of mind, instate of combining what he already mentioned and known, which are sense and imagination.

In later Meditation, He also use a circular argument to prove the certainty of his reasoning and mind, as he prove God to assure that his reasoning is not fooled by the demon, but we cannot forget that he used his reason to prove God in the first place. His desperation to prove God, and separation of mind and body might be due to the fact that he wanted to serve both of his passions; science and religion. He might be bias in this sense as he doubted until he found want he wanted to seek. David Hume attempted to prove that human knowledge comes from the empirical data and experience.

He started by clearly distinguished between “impression” and “thought and idea” to illustrate that human applies our creative abilities, such as combine, transpose, enlarge and shrink, on our impression to generate thoughts and ideas. He gave two arguments for this position. The first one is human’s ideas and concepts are always complex mixture of simple ideas which are copies of the human’s sensation of the empirical world. The second argument is if a man hasn’t had any experience with a certain object, he would not have any ideas associate with that object.

He challenged oppositionists to prove him otherwise, by giving him an example of thought and idea that is built upon something that had not been seen or heard of before. However, Hume, himself, gave one example that answered to his challenge which was “a missing shade of blue. ” A man would be able to indentify that a shade of missing color from a color scale, even though he hasn’t seen that shade before. Hume stated this example is so singular, it is not worth considering.

Hume then distinguished between two object of human knowledge; relations of idea, which are thing which if were denied would be a contradiction to itself, and matter of fact which its contradiction would still be possible. Hume’s interest was on the later one as he thought the first one was merely a definition or a logical statement. He claimed that the connection between our ideas is cause and effect. For someone to believe that a person can drown in water (effect), he must had before witnessed a drowning incident or had firsthand experience (cause).

For Hume this connection cannot be known by a priori reasoning but always come from experience. Thus, this is a posteriori. However, he was convinced that cause and effect is merely a product of custom and habit. We experience it so many times that we generalize our future on our past, with no certain ground that it will continue to be like the past. This suggests that human knowledge is contingent. Hume could not come up with more certain explanation or step between cause and effect, but he convinced that it was there. Most Descartes was a rationalist.

His work shows that knowledge can only be derived from pure reasoning through innate ability or the faculty of mind, which is certain and proven in Meditation II. He separated this from the body. This leads to a belief that human is more special, as our mind has an ability to provide superior reasoning with give us knowledge. This was in line with Christian belief that men are created in God’s image, which makes us special. By adopting his view, we as a species can rest assures that we are rational being who separated from the rest.

Hume argued that our knowledge which comprised of matter of fact is based on experience, which human connect it using cause and effect. Cause and effect is merely human’s custom and habit. This makes human no more special than any other species in acquiring knowledge. He also implied that human knowledge apart from the relation of idea is contingent. If one has adopted Hume so strictly, one would abandon any knowledge that is not base on mathematic or experience such as metaphysic. Why believe or study it, if it base on something that is contingent, and cannot be proven in any sense.

Updated: Mar 11, 2022
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Discussion Between Rene Descartes and David Hume. (2016, Nov 15). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/discussion-between-rene-descartes-and-david-hume-essay

Discussion Between Rene Descartes and David Hume essay
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