Ideas of David Hume, by Theme

[British, 1711 - 1776, Born in Edinburgh. Worked for a while in Paris. Author of famous history of Britain. Died in Edinburgh.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
The observation of human blindness and weakness is the result of all philosophy
     Full Idea: The observation of human blindness and weakness is the result of all philosophy.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.26)
     A reaction: No wonder some people dislike philosophy. There is no question that the human race is often ludicrously over-confident about its attempts to understand, and a careful examination of the situation tends to undermine such confidence.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 4. Conceptual Analysis
If we suspect that a philosophical term is meaningless, we should ask what impression it derives from
     Full Idea: When we entertain any suspicion that a philosophical term is without any meaning or idea, we need but enquire "from what impression is that supposed idea derived?"
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.17)
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 1. Aims of Science
All experimental conclusions assume that the future will be like the past
     Full Idea: All our experimental conclusions proceed upon the supposition that the future will be conformable to the past.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.30)
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 7. Status of Reason
Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions
     Full Idea: Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], II.III.3)
2. Reason / E. Argument / 3. Analogy
All reasoning concerning matters of fact is based on analogy (with similar results of similar causes)
     Full Idea: All our reasonings concerning matters of fact are founded on a species of analogy, which leads us to expect from any cause the same events, which we have observed to result from similar causes.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], §82)
     A reaction: Interesting. Analogy notoriously becomes problematical when you have only one case (or a few) to go on, as when inferring other minds, or God's existence from natural design.
An analogy begins to break down as soon as the two cases differ
     Full Idea: But wherever you depart, in the least, from the similarity of the cases, you diminish proportionably the evidence; and may at last bring it to a very weak analogy.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 2)
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 5. Definitions of Number / d. Hume's Principle
Two numbers are equal if all of their units correspond to one another
     Full Idea: When two numbers are so combin'd, as that the one has always a unit answering to every unit of the other, we pronounce them equal.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.3.1)
     A reaction: This became known as Hume's Principle after Frege made use of it for logicism (Foundations §63). It reduces equality to something fairly simple and visual (one-to-one correspondence). But we also say that two logicians or musicians are 'equal' in ability.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / a. Mathematical empiricism
Reason assists experience in discovering laws, and in measuring their application
     Full Idea: Abstract reasonings are employed, either to assist experience in the discovery of natural laws, or to determine their influence in particular instances, where it depends upon any precise degree of distance or quantity.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.27)
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 2. Types of Existence
There is no medium state between existence and non-existence
     Full Idea: Betwixt unity and number there can be no medium; no more than betwixt existence and non-existence.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
     A reaction: Just to confirm that, as you would expect, the great empiricist has no time for 'subsistence', or shadows and holes having lower grade existece.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 5. Abstract Existence
We can't think about the abstract idea of triangles, but only of particular triangles
     Full Idea: Let any man try to conceive a triangle in general, which is neither Isoceles nor Scalenum, nor has any particular length or proportion of sides; and he will perceive the absurdity of all the scholastic notions with regard to abstraction and general ideas.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.II.122)
     A reaction: I think there is a basic error in this. I admit that I can only imagine a particular triangle, but it doesn't follow that I am thinking about one triangle. Ontology/epistemology confusion. I picture a shape while believing the shape to be irrelevant.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 1. Powers
There may well be powers in things, with which we are quite unacquainted
     Full Idea: I am, indeed, ready to allow, that there may be several qualities both in material and immaterial objects, with which we are utterly unacquainted; and if we please to call these powers and efficiency, 'twill be be of little consequence to the world.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], p.168), quoted by George Molnar - Powers 7.2.1
     A reaction: A delightful air of casual indifference. What the classic empiricists needed was a notion of 'best explanation', which would allow them to leap beyond immediate experience. They made plenty of other leaps beyond experience, though Hume hated them.
Power is the possibility of action, as discovered by experience
     Full Idea: Power consists in the possibility or probability of any action, as discovered by experience and the practice of the world.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], p.313), quoted by George Molnar - Powers 5
     A reaction: [page in OUP edn] This strikes me as blatantly false, and typical of those who confuse epistemology with ontology. It implies that a power that takes everyone by surprise is impossible, by definition.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 7. Against Powers
We have no idea of powers, because we have no impressions of them
     Full Idea: We never have any impression that contains any power or efficacy. We never therefore have any idea of power.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], p.161), quoted by George Molnar - Powers 7.2.1
     A reaction: [page in Selby-Bigges edn] It seems to me plausible that Hume is utterly wrong, because our own mental lives are a direct and constant experience of the physical powers and efficacies of material objects.
The distinction between a power and its exercise is entirely frivolous
     Full Idea: The distinction which we sometimes make betwixt a power and the exercise of it is entirely frivolous, and ... neither man nor any other being ought ever to be thought possesst of any ability, unless it be exerted and put into action.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], p.311), quoted by George Molnar - Powers 5
     A reaction: [page in OUP] Molnar says this strong intuition is shared by most of us, but I take the world to be full of people who can play the piano or speak Spanish, but never actually do it. [but see Idea 11942] Most wasps never sting anything.
We cannot form an idea of a 'power', and the word is without meaning
     Full Idea: We can have no idea of connexion or power at all, and these words are absolutely without any meaning.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], 7.2.58)
     A reaction: I would say that this ignores a phenomenon of which Hume is well aware, which is the power of our own minds to generate thoughts and actions. Hume seems to be employing a verificationist theory of meaning
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 2. Resemblance Nominalism
Momentary impressions are wrongly identified with one another on the basis of resemblance
     Full Idea: Momentary impressions, according to Hume, are wrongly identified with one another on the basis of resemblance.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Willard Quine - Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis 3
     A reaction: I don't have a Hume quotation for this yet, but Quine is plausibly claiming Hume as a resemblance nominalist, equipped with an error theory about universals.
If we see a resemblance among objects, we apply the same name to them, despite their differences
     Full Idea: When we have found a resemblance among several objects, that often occur to us, we apply the same name to all of them, whatever differences we may observe in the degrees of their quantity and quality, and whatever other differences may appear among them.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.i.7)
     A reaction: This must to some extent by right, whatever objections can be found. Russell's objection (Idea 4441) wouldn't alter the truth of Hume's observation, thought Hume is attacking universals and Russell defending them.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / a. Individuation
Indiivduation is only seeing that a thing is stable and continuous over time
     Full Idea: The principle of individuation is nothing but the invariableness and uninterruptedness of any object through a supposed variation of time, by which the mind can trace it in the different periods of its existence.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
     A reaction: Not convinced by this. I can individuate something by an almost instantaneous glimpse. I don't increasingly individuate it as time passes. Instant viewing of type and structure may be enough.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / e. Substance critique
The only meaning we have for substance is a collection of qualities
     Full Idea: We have no idea of substance, distinct from that of a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.1.6)
     A reaction: This is the standard empiricist view of such things, firmly stated. It is tempting to say that Hume has simply misunderstood the word, since it is precisely intended to mean not the qualities, but what underlies them, and persists.
Aristotelians propose accidents supported by substance, but they don't understand either of them
     Full Idea: The peripatetic philosophers carry their fictions still further, and both suppose a substance supporting, which they do not understand, and an accident supported, of which they have as imperfect an idea. The whole system is entirely incomprehensible.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.4.3)
     A reaction: It seems to me that if you put it to Aristotle that he didn't understand 'substantial form', he would concede the point, but nevertheless say that it was ideal at which knowledge aimed. Locke is much more astute than Hume on this.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 1. Objects over Time
Changing a part can change the whole, not absolutely, but by its proportion of the whole
     Full Idea: Though the change of any considerable part of a mass of matter destroys the identity of the whole, yet we must measure the greatness of the part, not absolutely, but by its proportion to the whole.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: This seems to nicely demonstrate that the wholeness is in the mind of the perceiver, and does not simply depend on objective facts. Compare the proportion needed to change my pile of mud and my pile of gold.
A change more obviously destroys an identity if is quick and observed
     Full Idea: A change in any considerable part of a body destroys its identity; but 'tis remarkable that where the change is produced gradually and insensibly we are less apt to ascribe to it the same effect.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Broad spotted that landscapes change too, but so slowly that we barely admit any change at all. The type of change also matters. If my car slowly changes to chocolate the speed of change is a minor factor.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 2. Objects that Change
If identity survives change or interruption, then resemblance, contiguity or causation must unite the parts of it
     Full Idea: The objects which are variable or interrupted, and yet are supposed to continue the same, are such only as consist of a succession of parts, connected together by resemblance, contiguity, or causation.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
If a republic can retain identity through many changes, so can an individual
     Full Idea: As the same individual republic may not only change its members, but also its laws and constitutions; in like manner the same person may vary his character and disposition, as well as his impressions and ideas, without losing his identity.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 7. Intermittent Objects
If a ruined church is rebuilt, its relation to its parish makes it the same church
     Full Idea: If a church which was formerly of brick fell to ruin, the parish can build the same church of free-stone, with modern architecture. Neither the form nor materials are the same, but their relation to the parishioners is sufficient to say they are the same.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: The clearly invites the question of whether this is type-identity or token-identity. If the parish decided they wanted two churches they obviously wouldn't be the same (even if they then demolished the first one).
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 8. Continuity of Rivers
We accept the identity of a river through change, because it is the river's nature
     Full Idea: Where the objects are in their nature changeable and inconstant, we admit of a more sudden transition. The nature of a river consists in the motion and change of parts. What is expected appears of less moment than what is unusual and extraordinary.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Aha! Little does Hume realise how Aristotelian he is! Aristotle may have a more objective view of the 'nature' of a thing, but making inferences about identity over time from a thing's essential nature is pure Aristotle.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 9. Ship of Theseus
The purpose of the ship makes it the same one through all variations
     Full Idea: The common end [of a ship], in which the parts conspire, is the same under all variations, and affords an easy transition of the imagination from one situation of the body to another.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: It is not true that a ship remains the same under ALL variations. Consider gradually changing a yacht into a racing powerboat. You might say the purpose is then changed, but the slight variations in a yacht can slightly change its purpose.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 1. Concept of Identity
Both number and unity are incompatible with the relation of identity
     Full Idea: Both number and unity are incompatible with the relation of identity.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
Multiple objects cannot convey identity, because we see them as different
     Full Idea: A mutiplicity of objects can never convey the idea of identity. The mind always pronounces the one not to be the other.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
     A reaction: However, if we are talking on the phone about two objects we are viewing, such as two buildings, our descriptions might lead us to conclude that our objects are identical. Thus experience might imply identity.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 5. Self-Identity
'An object is the same with itself' is meaningless; it expresses unity, not identity
     Full Idea: In that proposition 'an object is the same with itself', if the idea expressed by the word 'object' were no way distinguished from that meant by 'itself', we should really mean nothing. ...One single object conveys the idea of unity, not that of identity.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
     A reaction: As far as I can see it is mathematicians who like self-identity, to justify x=x, which they need. To say 'this vase is identical with itself' is an empty locution. It expresses either unity or stability over time. See Idea 21292.
Saying an object is the same with itself is only meaningful over a period of time
     Full Idea: We cannot, in any propriety of speech, say that an object is the same with itself, unless we mean that the object existent at one time is the same with itself at another time.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.2)
     A reaction: This seems correct, but the strict language of identity is superfluous when identifying stolen goods. 'This is my watch', not 'this watch is identical with my watch'.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 10. Impossibility
Nothing we clearly imagine is absolutely impossible
     Full Idea: 'Tis an established maxim in metaphysics, that whatever the mind clearly conceives includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words, that nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.2.2)
     A reaction: It is important to note that this empiricist approach to what is impossible requires that we 'clearly' conceive the possibility - but how do we evaluate whether we are being clear or not?
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
Necessity only exists in the mind, and not in objects
     Full Idea: Necessity …is nothing but an internal impression of the mind, or a determination to carry our thoughts from one object to another.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.03.16)
     A reaction: The classic statement of the empiricist position. Personally I don't believe it. Non-mental necessities are likely to be natural, or to be features of 'Platonic' objects. A big issue…
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 6. Probability
We transfer the frequency of past observations to our future predictions
     Full Idea: Where different effects have been found to follow from causes, which are to appearance exactly similar, all these various effects must occur to the mind in the same proportion in transferring the past to the future.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VI.47)
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 7. Chance
There is no such thing as chance
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as chance in the world.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VI.46)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
Belief is stronger, clearer and steadier than imagination
     Full Idea: Belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady conception of an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able to attain.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.40)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / b. Elements of beliefs
Belief is just a particular feeling attached to ideas of objects
     Full Idea: When an object is present to memory or senses, custom carries the imagination to that object which is usually conjoined with it. This carries a feeling different from the loose reveries of fantasy, and in this consists the whole nature of belief.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.39)
Belief can't be a concept plus an idea, or we could add the idea to fictions
     Full Idea: What is the difference between fiction and belief? It can't be a peculiar idea annexed to a conception which commands our assent, and is wanting to fiction, for then the mind could voluntarily annex this idea to any fiction, and believe what it pleases.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.39)
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / d. Cause of beliefs
Belief is a feeling, independent of the will, which arises from uncontrolled and unknown causes
     Full Idea: Belief consists merely in a certain feeling or sentiment; in something, that depends not on the will, but must arise from certain determinate causes and principles, of which we are not master.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appen p.2)
     A reaction: This is the opposite of Descartes' 'doxastic voluntarism' (i.e. we choose what to believe). If you want to become a Christian, steep yourself in religious literature, and the company of religious people. It will probably work.
'Natural beliefs' are unavoidable, whatever our judgements
     Full Idea: Hume has a doctrine of "natural belief", about the sorts of things we can't help believing, in 'common' or everyday life, irrespective of our philosophical conclusions.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by Galen Strawson - The Secret Connexion App C
Beliefs are built up by resemblance, contiguity and causation
     Full Idea: Belief, where it reaches beyond the memory or senses, arises from resemblance, contiguity or causation, with the same transition of thought and vivacity of conception.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.44)
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / c. Representative realism
Hume says objects are not a construction, but an imaginative leap
     Full Idea: Hume's idea is that we move from private impressions to the physical world, not by an unconscious analytical construction but by a spontaneous imaginative leap.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Howard Robinson - Perception IX.6
     A reaction: The idea that objects are 'constructions' seems to have originated with Russell. Hume seems closer to the actual process, which is virtually instantaneous. They both forget that you can follow up the construction or leap with a cool evaluation.
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 9. A Priori from Concepts
Relations of ideas are known by thought, independently from the world
     Full Idea: Relations of Ideas are discoverable by the mere operation of thought, without dependence on what is anywhere existent in the universe.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.20)
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / e. Primary/secondary critique
If secondary qualities (e.g. hardness) are in the mind, so are primary qualities like extension
     Full Idea: It is agreed that all sensible qualities of objects, such as hard or hot, are secondary, and exist in the mind and not in objects; but then this also follows for the primary qualities of extension and solidity.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.I.122)
     A reaction: he mentions Berkeley
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 3. Representation
It never occurs to people that they only experience representations, not the real objects
     Full Idea: Men instinctively suppose the very images presented by the senses to be the external objects, and never entertain any suspicion that the one is nothing but representations of the other.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.I.117)
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
A proposition cannot be intelligible or consistent, if the perceptions are not so
     Full Idea: No proposition can be intelligible or consistent with regard to objects, which is not so with regard to perceptions.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appendix)
     A reaction: An interesting variant on expressions of the empiricist principle. Presumably one can say intelligible things about Escher drawings.
All ideas are copies of impressions
     Full Idea: All our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.13)
All reasoning about facts is causal; nothing else goes beyond memory and senses
     Full Idea: All reasonings concerning matters of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond of our memory and senses.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.22)
If books don't relate ideas or explain facts, commit them to the flames
     Full Idea: If we take in hand any volume of divinity or metaphysics, ask 'Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?' No. 'Or experimental reason on matters of fact and existence?' No. Commit it then to the flames.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.III.132)
All objects of enquiry are Relations of Ideas, or Matters of Fact
     Full Idea: All objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds, to wit, Relations of Ideas, and Matters of Fact.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.20)
Impressions are our livelier perceptions, Ideas the less lively ones
     Full Idea: 'Impressions' are our more lively perceptions, when we hear, see, feel, love, hate, desire or will. 'Ideas' are less lively perceptions, when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.12)
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 2. Associationism
Associationism results from having to explain intentionality just with sense-data
     Full Idea: The limited theories of Berkeley and Hume have to be reductive, because they have to explain intentionality in terms of some kind of relation between sense-data; this predicament gives rise to the associationist accounts of psychology and meaning.
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Howard Robinson - Perception 1.4
     A reaction: An illuminating explanation. Robinson seems to be implying that we should accept something like Searle's 'intrinsic' intentionality as basic, rather than intentionality built up from smaller components as Hume and Dennett suggest.
All ideas are connected by Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause and Effect
     Full Idea: To me, there appear to be only three principles of connection between ideas, namely, Resemblance, Contiguity in time or place, and Cause or Effect.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], III.19)
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 4. Pro-Empiricism
Only madmen dispute the authority of experience
     Full Idea: None but a fool or a madman will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.31)
You couldn't reason at all if you lacked experience
     Full Idea: An unexperienced reasoner could be no reasoner at all, were he absolutely unexperienced.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.I.36 n.1)
We cannot form the idea of something we haven't experienced
     Full Idea: A blind man can form no notion of colours; a deaf man of sounds. ….A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. ….A man of mild manners can form no idea of inveterate revenge or cruelty.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.15)
We can only invent a golden mountain by combining experiences
     Full Idea: The creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing, augmenting or diminishing the materials afforded us by the sense or experience. For example, a golden mountain or a virtuous horse come from joining ideas.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.13)
How could Adam predict he would drown in water or burn in fire?
     Full Idea: Adam, though his rational faculties be supposed, at the very first, entirely perfect, could not have inferred from the fluidity and transparency of water, that it would suffocate him, or from the light and warmth of fire that it would consume him.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.23)
When definitions are pushed to the limit, only experience can make them precise
     Full Idea: When we have pushed up definitions to the most simple ideas and still find some ambiguity and obscurity, how can we render them altogether precise and determinate? Produce the impressions or original sentiments from which the ideas were copied.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.I.49)
Events are baffling before experience, and obvious after experience
     Full Idea: Every event, before experience, is equally difficult and incomprehensible; and every event, after experience, is equally easy and intelligible.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 8)
     A reaction: If you don't believe this, spend some time watching documentaries about life in the deep oceans. Things beyond imagination swim around in front of you. But we can extrapolate, once the possibilities are revealed by experience.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
Even Hume didn't include mathematics in his empiricism
     Full Idea: Even Hume did not make empiricism so universal as to include mathematics in it.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Immanuel Kant - Critique of Practical Reason Pref
     A reaction: Hume didn't actually exclude mathematics, and the notion of 'relations of ideas' is a pointer. Subsequent empiricist have offered promising accounts. Personally I like the idea that patterns are the key idea.
Hume mistakenly lumps sensations and perceptions together as 'impressions'
     Full Idea: The greatest weakness in Hume's philosophy is his use of the term 'impression' to refer to both sensations and perceptions.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by Roger Scruton - Modern Philosophy:introduction and survey 24
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / c. Empirical foundations
Reasons for belief must eventually terminate in experience, or they are without foundation
     Full Idea: If I ask why you believe some fact, you must tell me a reason, which will be some other fact, connected with it. But this process must terminate in a fact which is present to your memory or senses; or you must allow that the belief is without foundation.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.I.37)
     A reaction: A classic quotation of empirical foundationalism. The rival view would be that the process does not terminate at all, but nevertheless builds up a persuasive picture which is foundational.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / f. Foundationalism critique
There is no certain supreme principle, or infallible rule of inference
     Full Idea: There is no original supreme principle that is self-evident and convincing; nor, if there were, could we advance a step beyond it, but by those very faculties of which sceptics are supposed to be already diffident.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.I.116)
     A reaction: This I take to be the chief exponent of empirical foundationalism attacking rational foundationalism. The problem of 'advancing beyond' basic beliefs is also a problem for Hume's position.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 7. Testimony
We think testimony matches reality because of experience, not some a priori connection
     Full Idea: The reason why we place any credit in witnesses and historians, is not derived from any connexion, which we perceive a priori, between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed to find a conformity between them.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], X.i.89)
     A reaction: Well he would say that, wouldn't he? If there is no connection in testimony, presumably there can be no a priori connection with private experience, but there is a danger of never getting started, and ending in anti-realism.
Good testimony needs education, integrity, motive and agreement
     Full Idea: Reliable testimony needs a good number of educated people, all of undoubted integrity, who have a lot to lose if they are caught lying, reporting very public events.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], X.II.92) by PG - Db (ideas)
     A reaction: A nice checklist for flying saucer sightings etc: education, integrity, lying risky, very public. If any of those fail, it comes down to likelihood (apply Bayes?) and character assessment.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 8. Social Justification
Mathematicians only accept their own proofs when everyone confims them
     Full Idea: There is no Mathematician so expert as to place entire confidence in any truth upon his discovery of it. ..Every time he runs over his proofs his confidence encreases, ..and is rais'd to perfection by the applause of the learned world.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], IV.1.4)
     A reaction: [compressed] Quoted by Kitcher, and a nice example of the social nature of 'warrants', even in mathematics. It was illustrated well in the 1990s by the story of the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles.
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 1. Scepticism
Mitigated scepticism draws attention to the limitations of human reason, and encourages modesty
     Full Idea: A mitigated scepticism … can make dogmatical reasoners become sensible of the strange infirmities of human understanding, and inspire them with more modesty and reserve.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.III.129)
Reason can never show that experiences are connected to external objects
     Full Idea: Reason can never find any convincing argument from experience to prove that perceptions are connected with any external objects.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.I.121)
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 2. Types of Scepticism
Hume became a total sceptic, because he believed that reason was a deception
     Full Idea: David Hume gave way entirely to scepticism, since he believed himself to have discovered in what is generally held to be reason a deception of our faculty of cognition.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Immanuel Kant - Critique of Pure Reason B128
     A reaction: Unfair to Hume, who was very opposed to global scepticism (see Ideas 2240 and 2241), and voted only for 'mitigated scepticism' (see Idea 2242). On the other hand, there is no greater opposition in philosophy than Kant and Hume on 'pure reason'.
Mitigated scepticism sensibly confines our enquiries to the narrow capacity of human understanding
     Full Idea: Mitigated scepticism is an advantage to mankind, as it limits our enquiries to such subjects as are best adapted to the narrow capacity of human understanding.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.III.130)
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 3. Illusion Scepticism
Examples of illusion only show that sense experience needs correction by reason
     Full Idea: Trite sceptical examples, such as the oar bent in water, or double images when the eye is pressed, are only sufficient to prove that senses alone are not dependable, but we must correct their evidence with reason.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.I.117)
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 6. Scepticism Critique
It is a very extravagant aim of the sceptics to destroy reason and argument by means of reason and argument
     Full Idea: It may seem a very extravagant attempt of the sceptics to destroy reason by argument and ratiocination; yet is this the grand scope of all their enquiries and disputes.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.II.124)
The main objection to scepticism is that no good can come of it
     Full Idea: The chief and most confounding objection to excessive scepticism is that no durable good can ever result from it.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.II.128)
14. Science / C. Induction / 1. Induction
The idea of inductive evidence, around 1660, made Hume's problem possible
     Full Idea: Hume's sceptical problem of induction could not have arisen much before 1660, for there was no concept of inductive evidence in terms of which to raise it.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Ian Hacking - The Emergence of Probability Cont 19
     A reaction: Hacking is the expert, but Ideas 1683 and 1886 suggest there was some thinking on the problem in the ancient world. The worry about whether the future would be like the past must occasionally have bothered someone.
14. Science / C. Induction / 2. Aims of Induction
We assume similar secret powers behind similar experiences, such as the nourishment of bread
     Full Idea: We always presume, when we see like sensible qualities, that they have like secret powers, and expect that effects, similar to those which we have experienced, will follow from them. …Thus, we expect bread to nourish us, from previous experience.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.29)
14. Science / C. Induction / 3. Limits of Induction
Reason cannot show why reliable past experience should extend to future times and remote places
     Full Idea: The main question on which I would insist is why reliable past experience should be extended to future times, and to other objects, which for ought we know, may be only in appearance similar. …No reasoning can show this.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.30)
Induction can't prove that the future will be like the past, since induction assumes this
     Full Idea: It is impossible that any arguments from experience can prove the resemblance of the past to the future, since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of this resemblance.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.32)
All inferences from experience are effects of custom, not reasoning
     Full Idea: All inferences from experience are effects of custom, not reasoning.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.I.36)
If we infer causes from repetition, this explains why we infer from a thousand objects what we couldn't infer from one
     Full Idea: If after the constant conjunction of two objects (e.g. heat and flame) we are determined by custom alone to expect the one from the appearance of the other,this explains why we can draw an inference from a thousand objects which we couldn't draw from one.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.I.36)
     A reaction: This is Hume's best statement of the problem of the difficulty of demonstration the logic of induction.
Fools, children and animals all learn from experience
     Full Idea: It is certain that the most ignorant and stupid peasants - nay infants, nay even brute beasts - improve by experience.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.33)
14. Science / C. Induction / 4. Reason in Induction
Hume just shows induction isn't deduction
     Full Idea: All that Hume has really shown with his argument is that induction is not deduction.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.II.29) by Michael Williams - Problems of Knowledge Ch.18
Premises can support an argument without entailing it
     Full Idea: Contrary to what Hume supposed, it must be possible for the premises of an argument to support a conclusion without logically entailing it.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by J Pollock / J Cruz - Contemporary theories of Knowledge (2nd) §1.2
     A reaction: This seems to me an extremely important point, made with nice clarity. It is why people who are good at logic are not necessarily good at philosophy. The latter is about thinking rationally, not following the laws of deduction.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 7. Seeing Resemblance
Hume does not distinguish real resemblances among degrees of resemblance
     Full Idea: Hume regarded the notion of resemblance as unproblematic, ..but any two objects share infinitely many Cambridge (whimsical relational) properties, and resemble in infinite ways. He needs real resemblance, which needs degrees of resemblance.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.41) by Sydney Shoemaker - Causality and Properties §2
     A reaction: [compressed] See Idea 191. We forgive Hume, because he is a pioneer, but this is obviously right. Draw a line between 'real' resemblances and rest will be tricky, and bad news for regularity accounts of laws and causation.
General ideas are the connection by resemblance to some particular
     Full Idea: All general ideas are nothing but particular ones, annexed to a certain term, which gives them a more extensive signification, and makes them recall upon occasion other individuals, which are similar to them.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], I.VII.17), quoted by Edwin D. Mares - A Priori 08.2
     A reaction: This is close to Berkeley's idea that we can only grasp particulars. Personally I think the idea of (psychological) abstraction is unavoidable. Irrelevant features of particulars need to ignored.
A picture of a friend strengthens our idea of him, by resemblance
     Full Idea: Upon the appearance of the picture of an absent friend, our idea of him is evidently enlivened by the resemblance.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.41)
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 8. Remembering Contiguity
When I am close to (contiguous with) home, I feel its presence more nearly
     Full Idea: When I am a few miles from home, whatever relates to it touches me more nearly than when I am two hundred leagues distance.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.42)
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 9. Perceiving Causation
Our awareness of patterns of causation is too important to be left to slow and uncertain reasoning
     Full Idea: Our inference of like effects from like causes is so essential to the subsistence of human creatures that it is unlikely to be trusted to the fallacious deductions of reasoning, which are slow, develop late, and are liable to error.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.45)
An object made by a saint is the best way to produce thoughts of him
     Full Idea: One of the best reliques which a devotee could procure would be the handiwork of a saint, because they were once at his disposal, and were moved and affected by him.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], V.II.43)
16. Persons / B. Nature of the Self / 5. Self as Associations
Hume's 'bundle' won't distinguish one mind with ten experiences from ten minds
     Full Idea: Hume's thought that each perception is separate and distinct cannot be right, because then we can't distinguish between one consciousness with ten experiences and ten different consciousnesses.
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by John Searle - Rationality in Action Ch.3.VI
     A reaction: Why can't the only connection between them be that they all occur to the speaker who reports to them? How would I know if one of 'my' mental events actually belonged to a neighbour and had strayed. If it was coherent, I would accept it.
A person is just a fast-moving bundle of perceptions
     Full Idea: I affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in perpetual flux and movement.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Note that Hume is not just saying what we can know of ourselves, but is asserting a view of what we actually are. The minimal objection to this is to ask how we know that a perception is a member of one big bundle rather than several small ones.
The parts of a person are always linked together by causation
     Full Idea: Whatever changes a person endures, his several parts are still connected by the relation of causation.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: However, the opposite ends of the universe are linked together by causation, so that will not suffice for a theory of personal identity. One might try to specify a complex and tight network of causation (like a brain!) instead of just 'connection'.
Hume gives us an interesting sketchy causal theory of personal identity
     Full Idea: I believe Hume offers an interesting if sketchy theory of personal identity, a causal theory, disguised as the revolutionary discovery that there is no such thing as personal identity
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6) by John Perry - Introduction to 'Personal Identity' Intro
     A reaction: There is certainly a theory there, even though Hume ceased to believe in it, which is nowadays covered by the idea that personal identity is a 'fiction', an arbitrary idea that reifies the focus and direction of a bundle of mental events.
A person is simply a bundle of continually fluctuating perceptions
     Full Idea: [People] are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a continual flux and movement.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Nowadays we must say that this misses the huge non-conscious aspect of what a person is. He seems to see all mental events as equal. Isn't the experience of deciding to focus on this sentence more 'central' than awareness of your feet?
Experiences are logically separate, but factually linked by simultaneity or a feeling of continuousness
     Full Idea: Our experiences are logically independent, but they may be factually connected. What unites them is that either they are experienced together, or (if at separate times) they are separated by a stream of experience which is felt to be continuous.
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Bk 3 App.) by A.J. Ayer - The Central Questions of Philosophy §VI.A
     A reaction: A strict empiricist cannot deny that the feeling of continuity could be false, though that invites the Cartesian question of what exactly is experiencing the delusion. Hume denies that we experience any link between simultaneous experiences.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Limits of Introspection
Introspection always discovers perceptions, and never a Self without perceptions
     Full Idea: I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: The first half can hardly be denied, but I think the second half is just false. What you observe is not just a raw neutral sense-datum, floating in nothing, but a sense-datum that is deeply coloured by MY interests, interpretations and values.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 2. Mental Continuity / a. Memory is Self
We use memory to infer personal actions we have since forgotten
     Full Idea: We can extend the chain of causes acquired from memory, and consequently the identity of our persons beyond our memory, and can comprehend times, and circumstances, and actions, which we have entirely forgot.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: If the principle is just that 'I am my consciousness' (including of my past), then why should not my consciousness of other people's pasts by included in my identity. How do I know that images in my consciousness are MY memories?
Memory only reveals personal identity, by showing cause and effect
     Full Idea: Memory does not so much produce as discover personal identity, by showing us the relation of cause and effect among our different perceptions.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: This is a rather strained proposal, as the revelation of a network of cause and effect seems to have no implications for personal identity (unless only 'I' could be the cause).
Memory not only reveals identity, but creates it, by producing resemblances
     Full Idea: The memory not only discovers the identity [of the mind], but also contributes to its production, by producing the relation of resemblance among the perceptions
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: This is Hume battling to explain personal identity by his principles of association. He discount 'contiguity'. He doesn't explain how memory creates resemblances. Is not resemblance of idea to fact required in order to remember?
Who thinks that because you have forgotten an incident you are no longer that person?
     Full Idea: Who will affirm, because he has entirely forgot the incidents of past days, that the present self is not the same person with the self of that time? And by that means overturn all the most established notions of personal identity?
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: This is a swipe at one of Locke's most controversial claims (especially when applied to incidents of criminal behaviour). Hume says memory constitutes this identity, but Locke's view says it merely reveals identity.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 2. Mental Continuity / b. Self as mental continuity
Causation unites our perceptions, by producing, destroying and modifying each other
     Full Idea: As to causation, the true idea of the human mind is to consider it as a system of different perceptions, which are linked together by the relation of cause and effect, and mutually produce, destroy, influence and modify each other.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: He suggests that the associations of memory and causation might be sufficient to produce identity of the mind, and he gives the priority to memory. Eventually the good empiricist despairs because you cannot experience the links.
Are self and substance the same? Then how can self remain if substance changes?
     Full Idea: Is the self the same with substance? If it be, how can that question have place concerning the subsistence of self, under a change of substance? If they be distinct, what is the difference between them?
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appendix)
     A reaction: Locke seems to think there is a characterless substance which supports momories, and the latter constitute the self. So if my substance acquires Nestor's memories, I become Nestor. Hume, the stricter empiricist, cares nothing for characterless things.
16. Persons / D. Continuity of the Self / 2. Mental Continuity / c. Inadequacy of mental continuity
Perceptions are distinct, so no connection between them can ever be discovered
     Full Idea: If perceptions are distinct existences, they form a whole only by being connected together. But no connexions among distinct existences are ever discoverable. We only feel a connexion ...to pass from one object to another.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appendix)
     A reaction: This first part of this is a problem for any 'bundle' theory of objects or self. This is why Hume abandons all hope for his theory of personal identity based on association. You infer the associations, but don't perceive them.
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 4. Denial of the Self
A continuous lifelong self must be justified by a single sustained impression, which we don't have
     Full Idea: If any impression gives rise to the idea of self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through the whole course of our lives; since self is supposed to exist after that manner. But there is no impression constant and invariable.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: This is a rather dogmatic application of the requirement that all knowledge must be founded in experience. It fails to recognise that knowledge of the thing having the experiences is a rather special case. We must ask for the best explanation.
When I introspect I can only observe my perceptions, and never a self which has them
     Full Idea: When I enter most intimately into myself I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never observe any thing but the perception.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: It isn't like looking for your car in the car park. The prior question should be: assuming you do have a persisting self, what would you expect introspection to reveal about it?
We pretend our perceptions are continuous, and imagine a self to fill the gaps
     Full Idea: We feign the continued existence of the perceptions of our senses, to remove their interruption; and run into the notion of a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise the variation.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Modern neuroscience (according to Dennett) endorses this, because the brain continually fills in gaps in experience (as it fills in the blindspot during normal vision).
Identity in the mind is a fiction, like that fiction that plants and animals stay the same
     Full Idea: The identity we ascribe to the mind is only a fictitious one, and of a like kind with that we ascribe to vegetable and animal bodies. It cannot therefore have a different origin, but must proceed from a like operation of the imagination upon like objects.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: Sustained purpose is Hume's common factor. Is the identity over time ascribed to the body of a single animal nothing more than a fiction? It is a wise ascription, compared to stupid ascriptions to gerrymandered objects.
We have no impression of the self, and we therefore have no idea of it
     Full Idea: Every idea is derived from preceding impressions; and we have no impression of self or substance, as something simple and individual. We have, therefore, no idea of them in that sense.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appendix)
     A reaction: This spells out with beautiful simplicity how his empiricist assumptions lead him to this sceptical view. No logical positivist could reject this thought. Personally I favour empiricism with added inference to the best explanation.
Does an oyster with one perception have a self? Would lots of perceptions change that?
     Full Idea: Suppose an oyster to have only one perception, as of thirst or hunger. Do you consider any thing but merely that perception? Have you any notion of self or substance? If not, the addition of other perceptions can never give you that notion.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature, + Appendix [1740], Appendix)
     A reaction: A splendid addition to his earlier sceptical thinking. We could form a different conclusion. Suppose I do have a self. If my multitudinous perceptions were reduced to a single perception of agonising pain, would that remove the self?
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
The doctrine of free will arises from a false sensation we have of freedom in many actions
     Full Idea: The prevalence of the doctrine of liberty may be accounted for from a false sensation or seeming experience which we have, or may have, of liberty or indifference, in many of our actions.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.I.72)
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 7. Compatibilism
Liberty is merely acting according to the will, which anyone can do if they are not in chains
     Full Idea: By liberty we can only mean a power of acting or not acting according to the determinations of the will, …which is universally allowed to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.I.73)
Hume makes determinism less rigid by removing the necessity from causation
     Full Idea: Hume's account of the causal relation makes determinism less rigid because there is no longer a logical necessity in the succession of events.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.II.75) by Jennifer Trusted - Free Will and Responsibility Ch.4
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 2. Duration of an Action
If one event cause another, the two events must be wholly distinct
     Full Idea: Hume's maxim is that if one event cause another, then the two events must be wholly distinct.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Wilson,G/Schpall,S - Action 3
     A reaction: [Anyone know the original reference?] So we are not allowed to say that one part of an event caused another. The charged caused the victory, so they are two events, but in another context the whole battle is one event.
20. Action / B. Preliminaries of Action / 2. Willed Action / a. Will to Act
Only experience teaches us about our wills
     Full Idea: We learn the influence of our will from experience alone.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.I.52)
     A reaction: I can, of course, produce inductive generalisations about what my will can achieve, based on some limited experiences. "I know I can master that". Hobbes (and others) say we have no experience of a 'will'. Hume should be more sceptical!
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
For Hume, practical reason has little force, because we can always modify our desires
     Full Idea: In Hume's account of action, practical reason is not a very forceful guide to conduct, since we can escape its demands by abandoning or modifying our desires.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Gordon Graham - Eight Theories of Ethics Ch.6
     A reaction: Presumably a desire can be a good reason, and we can passionately desire to be rational, etc., so this is a rather complex issue. 'Pure reason' is not 'all-or-nothing', and neither is pure desire.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / b. Intellectualism
Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will
     Full Idea: Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], II.III.3)
     A reaction: This is Hume's notorious total rejection of Socratic intellectualism, a stilleto in the back of the 'age of reason'. Hume thinks desire is the motivator. He's probably right. Why should truth motivate? See Idea 4421.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 4. Responsibility for Actions
Praise and blame can only be given if an action proceeds from a person's character and disposition
     Full Idea: Where actions proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good, nor his infamy, if evil.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.I.76)
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
Forget about beauty; just concentrate on the virtues of delicacy and discernment admired in critics
     Full Idea: Hume suggest we get away from the fruitless discussion of beauty, and simply concentrate on the qualities we admire, and ought to admire, in a critic - qualities such as delicacy and discernment.
     From: report of David Hume (Of the standard of taste [1757]) by Roger Scruton - Beauty: a very short introduction 6
     A reaction: We might wonder how you can admire 'discernment' without some view of the thing being discern, which is in danger of being beauty. How do you judge delicacy and discernment without judging the objects of the critic's taste? Mere authority?
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 3. Taste
Strong sense, delicate sentiment, practice, comparisons, and lack of prejudice, are all needed for good taste
     Full Idea: Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics to the valuable character of having 'taste'.
     From: David Hume (Of the standard of taste [1757]), quoted by Robert Fogelin - Walking the Tightrope of Reason Ch.6
     A reaction: I agree entirely with this, but then I am a very politically incorrect elitist when it comes to taste. It just seems screamingly obvious that professional wine-tasters have a better appreciation of wine than me, and so on for the rest of the arts.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / b. Fact and value
Modern science has destroyed the Platonic synthesis of scientific explanation and morality
     Full Idea: From our modern perspective, the Platonic synthesis of scientific explanation and moral insight lies irrecoverably shattered by the rise of natural science.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Charles Taylor - Sources of the Self §3.2
     A reaction: Modern attempts to challenge Hume's separation of fact from value have failed, but a return to the Greek perspective presents a plausible alternative.
The problem of getting to 'ought' from 'is' would also apply in getting to 'owes' or 'needs'
     Full Idea: Hume's objection to passing from 'is' to 'ought' would equally apply to passing from 'is' to 'owes' or from 'is' to 'needs'.
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by G.E.M. Anscombe - Modern Moral Philosophy p.176
     A reaction: Profound and important. The empirical and emotivist (nay, nihilist) clinging to the total independence of duties from facts crumbles when looking at facts of human nature or of social groups. Creatures ought to feed; societies ought to flourish.
You can't move from 'is' to 'ought' without giving some explanation or reason for the deduction
     Full Idea: In many writers I find that instead of the usual propositions 'is' and 'is not', I then find no proposition that is not connected with an 'ought' or an 'ought not'. It is necessary that a reason be given for how one can be a deduction from the other.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], III.1.1)
     A reaction: A huge claim, the basis of the value-free modern scientific world view. Possible escapes are Greek virtue theory, or Kantian principles, or some sort of a priori values (as in Charles Taylor).
Virtues and vices are like secondary qualities in perception, found in observers, not objects
     Full Idea: Vice and virtue may be compared to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects but perceptions in the mind.
     From: David Hume (Letters [1739], to Hutcheson 1740)
     A reaction: Very revealing about the origin of the is/ought idea, but this is an assertion rather than an argument. Most Greeks treat value as a primary quality of things (e.g. life, harmony, beauty, health).
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / c. Altruism
The human heart has a natural concern for public good
     Full Idea: While the human heart is compounded of the same elements as at present, it will never be wholly indifferent to public good.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], IX.I.222)
     A reaction: Even criminals can be patriotic. Why do people dump rubbish in beauty spots?
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / f. Self interest
Total selfishness is not irrational
     Full Idea: It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], II.III.ii)
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / g. Moral responsibility
If you deny all necessity and causation, then our character is not responsible for our crime
     Full Idea: According to the principle which denies necessity, and consequently causes, a man is pure and unattainted after having committed the most horrid of crimes, since his actions are not derived from his character.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.I.76)
Repentance gets rid of guilt, which shows that responsibility arose from the criminal principles in the mind
     Full Idea: Repentance and reformation can wipe off every crime, but that is because criminal acts prove criminal principles in the mind, so alteration of these principles removes that proof, and the acts cease to be criminal.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VIII.I.76)
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
No moral theory is of any use if it doesn't serve the interests of the individual concerned
     Full Idea: What theory of morals can ever serve any useful purpose, unless it can show, by a particular detail, that all the duties which it recommends, are also the true interest of each individual?
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], IX.II.228)
     A reaction: It is hard to disagree, even if occasional cases of extreme altruism can occur.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 1. Virtue Theory / a. Nature of virtue
Personal Merit is the possession of useful or agreeable mental qualities
     Full Idea: Personal Merit consists altogether in the possession of mental qualities, useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], IX.I.217)
     A reaction: If pleasure and utility can be intrinsically valuable, why can't virtue be as well?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
All virtues benefit either the public, or the individual who possesses them
     Full Idea: I desire you to consider if there be any quality that is virtuous, without having a tendency either to the public good or to the good of the person who possesses it.
     From: David Hume (Letters [1739], to Hutcheson 1739)
     A reaction: Obviously this is generally true. How, though, does it benefit the individual to secretly preserve their integrity? I go round to visit a friend to repay a debt; I am told they have died; I quietly leave some money on the table and leave. Why?
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Justice only exists to support society
     Full Idea: The necessity of justice to the support of society is the sole foundation of that virtue.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], III.II.163)
     A reaction: A sense of fairness precedes the building of a society, rather than arising out of it.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
Friendship without community spirit misses out on the main part of virtue
     Full Idea: A man who is only susceptible of friendship, without public spirit or a regard to the community, is deficient in the most material part of virtue.
     From: David Hume (That Politics may be reduced to a Science [1750], p.21)
     A reaction: I think this is aimed at the epicureans. If the highest virtues are focused on one's friends that can easily lead to injustice, because it can tolerate prejudice against people who are very unlike one's friends.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
Moral philosophy aims to show us our duty
     Full Idea: The end of all moral speculations is to teach us our duty.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], I.136)
     A reaction: A surprising view from someone who thinks morals are basically sentiment.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 6. Motivation for Duty
Conclusions of reason do not affect our emotions or decisions to act
     Full Idea: Inference and conclusions of the understanding have no hold of the affections nor set in motion the active powers of man.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], I.136)
     A reaction: I disagree. This is a typical empiricist separation of ideas from experience, of inner from outer, of analytic from synthetic.
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 1. Utilitarianism
Virtue just requires careful calculation and a preference for the greater happiness
     Full Idea: The sole trouble which virtue demands is that of just calculation, and a steady preference for the greater happiness.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], IX.II.228)
     A reaction: Hume was the parent of utilitarianism. Can one person exhibit virtue on a desert island?
23. Ethics / E. Utilitarianism / 3. Motivation for Altruism
No one would cause pain to a complete stranger who happened to be passing
     Full Idea: Would any man, who is walking along, tread as willingly on another's gouty toes, whom he has no quarrel with, as on the hard flint and pavement?
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], V.II.183)
     A reaction: He is right that we empathise with the pain of others, and this is presumably one of the bases of morality. Animals lack sympathy for other animals.
Nature makes private affections come first, because public concerns are spread too thinly
     Full Idea: It is wisely ordained by nature, that private connexions should commonly prevail over universal views and considerations; otherwise our affections and actions would be dissipated and lost, for want of a proper limited object.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], V.II.186n)
     A reaction: A very good objection to the excessively altruistic demands of utilitarianism.
24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 2. Dilemmas
Moral questions can only be decided by common opinion
     Full Idea: Though an appeal to general opinion may justly, in the speculative sciences of metaphysics, natural philosophy or astronomy, be deemed unfair, yet in all questions with regard to morals there is really no other standard for deciding controversies.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.291)
     A reaction: Surely this is too pessimistic. Common opinion decided to burn people to death for being witches. Common opinion may usually win, but there must sometimes be good grounds for resisting it.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
If suicide is wrong because only God disposes of our lives, it must also be wrong to save lives
     Full Idea: Were the disposal of human life so much the peculiar province of the Almighty that it were an encroachment on His right, for men to dispose of their own lives; it would be equally criminal to act for the preservation of life as for its destruction.
     From: David Hume (On suicide [1775]), quoted by Jonathan Glover - Causing Death and Saving Lives §13
     A reaction: A characteristically wicked and neat point. Maybe we can intervene in the environment (diverting a falling stone), but not directly in a life? Life is sacred, but stones are not?
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 2. Natural Values / b. Natural equality
People must have agreed to authority, because they are naturally equal, prior to education
     Full Idea: When we consider how nearly equal all men are in their bodily force, and even in their mental powers and faculties, till cultivated by education, ...then nothing but their own consent could at first associate them together, and subject them to authority.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.276)
     A reaction: This doesn't sound very convincing. Some people are much better suited than others to training and education. Men vary enormously in size.
25. Society / B. The State / 1. Purpose of a State
The only purpose of government is to administer justice, which brings security
     Full Idea: Man is engaged to establish political society in order to administer justice, without which there could be no peace among them, nor safety, nor mutual intercourse. ...Government has no other purpose but the distribution of justice.
     From: David Hume (Of the Origin of Government [1750], p.28)
     A reaction: The need for a society in order to ensure mutual intercourse sounds like Hobbes, and a pessimism about trust. By 'justice' he means the administration of law.
The safety of the people is the supreme law
     Full Idea: The safety of the people is the supreme law.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], III.II.157)
     A reaction: No political system ever seems able to disagree with this.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / d. Social contract
The idea that society rests on consent or promises undermines obedience
     Full Idea: Were you to preach in most parts of the world that political connections are founded altogether on voluntary consent or a mutual promise, the magistrate would soon imprison you as seditious for loosening the ties of obedience.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.278)
     A reaction: He cites obedience as the prime civic virtue, because the law can't operate without it. He doesn't seem to consider the limiting cases of obedience, which makes him essentially a conservative.
We no more give 'tacit assent' to the state than a passenger carried on board a ship while asleep
     Full Idea: [If we give 'tacit' assent to the state] ...we may as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, freely consents to the dominion of the master, though he was carried aboard while asleep.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.283)
     A reaction: We should probably drop the whole idea that we give assent to the state. We are stuck with a state, and a few of us can escape, if it seems important enough, but most of us have no choice. He hope to assent to the controllers of the state.
The people would be amazed to learn that government arises from their consent
     Full Idea: When we assert that all lawful government arises from the consent of the people, we certainly do them a great deal more honour than they deserve, or even expect or desire from us.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.285)
     A reaction: Hume has no interest in the purely abstract idea of a contract, and scorns Locke's idea of tacit consent to government. I assume he would dismiss Rawls as unrealistic theorising. Hume loves peace, and is alarmed by change.
25. Society / B. The State / 3. Constitutions
It would be absurd if even a free constitution did not impose restraints, for the public good
     Full Idea: A republican and free form of government would be an obvious absurdity, if the particular checks and controls, provided by the constitution, had really no influence, and made it not the interest, even of bad men, to act for the public good.
     From: David Hume (That Politics may be reduced to a Science [1750], p.14)
     A reaction: Presumably if you attain absolute power you can write any old constitution you like (Clause 1: the presidency is for life). But there does seem much point in doing it - unless it is to facilitate the use of the law for persecutions.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / b. Monarchy
Modern monarchies are (like republics) rule by law, rather than by men
     Full Idea: In modern times monarchical government seems to have made the greatest advances towards perfection. It may now be affirmed of civilized monarchies, what was formerly said in praise of republics alone, that they are a government of laws, not of men.
     From: David Hume (Of Civil Liberty [1750], p.54)
     A reaction: Dreams of simple 'government by law' disappeared with the rise of modern media, which can be controlled by wealth.
25. Society / B. The State / 5. Leaders / d. Elites
Nobility either share in the power of the whole, or they compose the power of the whole
     Full Idea: A nobility may possess power in two different ways. Either every nobleman shares the power as part of the whole body, or the whole body enjoys the power as composed of parts, which each have a distinct power and authority.
     From: David Hume (That Politics may be reduced to a Science [1750], p.15)
     A reaction: He says the first type is found in Venice, and is preferable to the second type, which is found in Poland. Presumably in the shared version there is some restraint on depraved nobles. The danger is each noble being an autocrat.
25. Society / B. The State / 6. Government / a. Government
Society prefers helpful lies to harmful truth
     Full Idea: Truths which are pernicious to society, if any such there be, will yield to errors which are salutary and advantageous.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], IX.II.228)
     A reaction: Hume probably meant religion. Two centuries later we have a greater appetite for uncomfortable truth.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 2. Social Freedom / c. Free speech
No government has ever suffered by being too tolerant of philosophy
     Full Idea: A state ought to tolerate every principle of philosophy, nor is there any instance that a government has suffered in its political interests by such indulgence.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XI.114)
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 3. Social Equality / d. Economic equality
If you equalise possessions, people's talents will make them unequal again
     Full Idea: Render possessions ever so equal, men's different degrees of art, care, and industry will immediately break that equality.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry concerning Principles of Morals [1751], III.II.155)
     A reaction: This might not be so if there is a totalitarian restriction of economic freedom.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / a. Basis of rights
There are two kinds of right - to power, and to property
     Full Idea: Right is of two kinds: right to power and right to property.
     From: David Hume (Of the First Principles of Government [1750], p.25)
     A reaction: These seem to be positive rights. No mention of the right not be to unjustly abused. It is hard to find any sort of radical political thinking in Hume. His empirical scepticism extends to his politics. He approves of modern consitutional monarchy.
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 4. Legal Rights / c. Property rights
Hume thought (unlike Locke) that property is a merely conventional relationship
     Full Idea: Hume thought (in contrast to Locke) that property reflects a conventional (rather than natural) relationship determined by the laws that protect people from having things taken from them.
     From: report of David Hume (Nine political essays [1741]) by Robert Fogelin - Walking the Tightrope of Reason Ch.3
     A reaction: It seems pretty obvious that the idea of property was invented by the powerful, to protect their gains against the weak. I suspect that you might till a piece of land simply in order to assert ownership of it, just as you might bring in colonists.
We all know that the history of property is founded on injustices
     Full Idea: Reason tells us that there is no property in durable objects, such as land or houses, when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud and injustice.
     From: David Hume (Of the original contract [1741], p.288)
     A reaction: A prime objection to Nozick, who fantasises about an initial position of just ownership, which can then be the subject of just contracts. In 1866 thousands of white people were granted land in the USA, but not a single black freed slave got anything.
It is an exaggeration to say that property is the foundation of all government
     Full Idea: A noted author has made property the foundation of all government; and most of our political writers seem inclined to follow him in that particular. This is carrying the matter too far.
     From: David Hume (Of the First Principles of Government [1750], p.25)
     A reaction: This obviously refers to John Locke. Locke's idea strikes me as hideous. It says the foundation of government is the right of property owners to protect what they have against non-owners. It implies social exclusion in the constitution.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 2. Natural Purpose / b. Limited purposes
We can discover some laws of nature, but never its ultimate principles and causes
     Full Idea: The ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human enquiry. Elasticity, gravity, cohesion of parts, communication of motion by impulse; these are probably the ultimate causes and principles which we shall ever discover in nature.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.26)
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 7. Later Matter Theories / a. Early Modern matter
We have no good concept of solidity or matter, because accounts of them are all circular
     Full Idea: In order to form an idea of solidity, we must conceive two bodies pressing on each other without penetration. ..The ideas of secondary qualities are excluded, and the idea of motion depends on extension. This leaves us no just idea of solidity or matter.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], 1.4.4), quoted by Stephen Mumford - Dispositions 02.3
     A reaction: [compressed] For me these kind of strict empiricist arguments always recede when you accept the notion of an inference to be best explanation. We have some sort of notion of 'matter', but here the physicist seems to take over.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation
A priori it looks as if a cause could have absolutely any effect
     Full Idea: If we just reason a priori, anything may appear able to produce anything. The falling of a pebble may, for aught we know, extinguish the sun.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.III.132)
If a singular effect is studied, its cause can only be inferred from the types of events involved
     Full Idea: Only when two species of objects are constantly conjoined can we infer one from the other; were an entirely singular effect presented, which could not be comprehended under a species, I do not see that we could form any conjecture concerning its cause.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XI.115)
     A reaction: A key issue in causation. Note that Hume is willing to discuss causation in a freakishly unique happening, but only if he can spot a 'type' in the each of the events. I don't like it, but the man has a good point…
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. Final causes
The idea of a final cause is very uncertain and unphilosophical
     Full Idea: Your sense of 'natural' is founded on final causes, which is a consideration that appears to me pretty uncertain and unphilosophical.
     From: David Hume (Letters [1739], to Hutcheson 1739)
     A reaction: This is the rejection of Aristotelian teleology by modern science. I agree that the notion of utterly ultimate final cause is worse than 'uncertain' - it is an impossible concept. Nevertheless, I prefer Aristotle to Hume. Nature can teach us lessons.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 7. Eliminating causation
Hume never even suggests that there is no such thing as causation
     Full Idea: At no point (in Sect VII of 'Enquiries') does Hume even hint at the thesis that there is (or even might be) no such thing as causation.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII) by Galen Strawson - The Secret Connexion 21.3
     A reaction: If, as some people think, Hume is a phenomenalist, then we wouldn't expect him to actually deny the existence of such things. The standard position (cf. Ayer on religion) is that such things are not even worth mentioning.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
At first Hume said qualities are the causal entities, but later he said events
     Full Idea: In the Enquiries Hume clearly suggests that causes and effects are entities that can be named or described by singular terms; probably events, since one can follow another; but in the Treatise it seems to be the quality or circumstance which is the cause.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by Donald Davidson - Causal Relations §1
     A reaction: A quality would have to have an associated power if it was going to trigger an effect. But then so would an event (unless inertia carried across?). Qualities are more distinct. Events can last for years.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
For Hume a constant conjunction is both necessary and sufficient for causation
     Full Idea: Hume held that constant conjunction between As and Bs is both necessary and sufficient for a causal relation. If As and Bs are conjoined that is sufficient for a causal relation; if A and B are causally related, necessarily they are constantly conjoined.
     From: report of David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Tim Crane - Causation 1.2.2
     A reaction: A helpful connection between Hume and the modern debate about conditions for causation (e.g. Mackie). It sounds as if, to spot the necessary condition, you need to independently see that A and B are causally related, which regularity does not allow.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
A cause is either similar events following one another, or an experience always suggesting a second experience
     Full Idea: A cause is an object, followed by another, and where all the objects similar to the first are followed by objects similar to the second, or, an object followed by another, and whose appearance always conveys the thought to that other.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.II.60)
It is only when two species of thing are constantly conjoined that we can infer one from the other
     Full Idea: It is only when two species of object are found to be constantly conjoined, that we can infer the one from the other.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XI.115)
     A reaction: what is a species?
No causes can be known a priori, but only from experience of constant conjunctions
     Full Idea: Without exception, knowledge of cause and effect is not attained by reasonings a priori, but arises entirely from experience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with each other.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I.23)
In both of Hume's definitions, causation is extrinsic to the sequence of events
     Full Idea: What needs to be stressed is that in both of Hume's definitions of cause, an individual sequence of events is deemed causal only because something extrinsic to the sequence occurs (be it conjunctions, or a mental link).
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.II.60) by Stathis Psillos - Causation and Explanation §1.9
     A reaction: Simple but important. Hume's basic claim is that there is no 'causation' in events, apart from the events themselves. Hence no necessity, on top of the apparent contingency.
Hume's definition of cause as constantly joined thoughts can't cover undiscovered laws
     Full Idea: Hume's second definition of cause (one object always 'conveys the thought' of another) implies that it is inconceivable that there should be causal laws which have never yet been thought of, and this is not so.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.II.60) by A.J. Ayer - Language,Truth and Logic Ch.2
     A reaction: This appears to be a good criticism of Hume, but also a bit of a problem for a strong empiricist like Ayer. There may also be causal laws which we cannot discover, but logical positivism will not allow me to speculate about that.
Hume says we can only know constant conjunctions, not that that's what causation IS
     Full Idea: Hume's regularity theory of causation is only a theory about causation so far as we can know about it or contentfully conceive of it in the objects, not about causation as it is in the objects.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], IV.I) by Galen Strawson - The Secret Connexion App C
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / c. Counterfactual causation
Cause is where if the first object had not been, the second had not existed
     Full Idea: We may define a cause to be where .....if the first object had not been, the second never had existed.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], 7.2.60)
     A reaction: This is Hume's second definition, cited by Lewis as the ancestor of his counterfactual theory. It feels all wrong to me. 'If there had been no window, there would have been no window-breakage'?
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
Hume seems to presuppose necessary connections between mental events
     Full Idea: A well-known objection to Hume's analysis of causation is that he presupposes necessary connections between mental events in the theory.
     From: comment on David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739]) by Saul A. Kripke - Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language n 87
     A reaction: Are these the associations that occur within the mind? I'm not clear about the objection, but record it for interest.
That events could be uncaused is absurd; I only say intuition and demonstration don't show this
     Full Idea: I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintained that our certainty of the falsehood of that proposition proceeded neither from intuition nor from demonstration, but from another source.
     From: David Hume (Letters [1739], 1754), quoted by Brian Davies - Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion 5 'God'
     A reaction: Since the other source is habit, he is being a bit disingenuous. While rational intuition and demonstration give a fairly secure basis for the universality of causation, mere human habits of expectation give very feeble grounds.
Hume never shows how a strong habit could generate the concept of necessity
     Full Idea: Hume's contemporary critics are correct. He never really shows how it is possible for a habit, however strong it may be, to generate the concept of necessity.
     From: comment on David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by Harré,R./Madden,E.H. - Causal Powers 3.II
     A reaction: This is a powerful objection which hadn't occurred to me. Presumably eighteenth century critics are referred to? I suppose if a necessity is what 'cannot be otherwise', a very deeply ingrained habit might seem that way - but in me, not in the world.
Hume's regularity theory of causation is epistemological; he believed in some sort of natural necessity
     Full Idea: Hume's Regularity theory of causation is about causation as we know about it or contentfully conceive of it in the objects. As far as causation as it is in the objects is concerned, Hume firmly believed in some sort of natural necessity or causal power.
     From: report of David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748]) by Galen Strawson - The Secret Connexion App C
     A reaction: Strawson's controversial reinterpretation of Hume. We are confusing his epistemology with his ontology. Hume is simply being sceptical about our ability to bridge the gap to achieve understanding of natural necessity. A very different view of Hume.
In observing causes we can never observe any necessary connections or binding qualities
     Full Idea: When we look towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able to discover any power or necessary connexion, any quality which binds the effect to the cause.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], VII.I.50)
28. God / A. Divine Nature / 3. Divine Perfections
We can't assume God's perfections are like our ideas or like human attributes
     Full Idea: But let us beware, lest we think, that our ideas anywise correspond to his perfections, or that his attributes have any resemblance to these qualities among men.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 2)
28. God / B. Proving God / 1. Proof of God
The objects of theological reasoning are too big for our minds
     Full Idea: But in theological reasonings … we are employed upon objects, which, we must be sensible, are too large for our grasp.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 1)
28. God / B. Proving God / 2. Proofs of Reason / b. Ontological Proof critique
It can never be a logical contradiction to assert the non-existence of something thought to exist
     Full Idea: Whatever 'is' may 'not be'. No negation of a fact can involve a contradiction. The non-existence of any being, without exception, is as clear and distinct an idea as its existence.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XII.III.132)
No being's non-existence can imply a contradiction, so its existence cannot be proved a priori
     Full Idea: Nothing that is distinctly conceivable implies a contradiction. Whatever we conceive of as existent we can also conceive as non-existent. So there is no being whose non-existence implies a contradiction. So no being's existence is demonstrable.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 9)
     A reaction: I totally subscribe to this idea, and take claims that nature actually contains contradictions (based on the inevitable quantum mechanics) to be ridiculous. Nature is the embodiment, chief exemplar and prime test of consistency.
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / a. Cosmological Proof
A chain of events requires a cause for the whole as well as the parts, yet the chain is just a sum of parts
     Full Idea: The whole chain or succession [of causes and effects], taken together, is not caused by anything, and yet it is evident that it requires a cause or reason, as much as any particular object which begins to exist in time.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 9)
     A reaction: This is such a major and significant idea. With blinkers on we think our questions are answered. Then someone (a philosopher, inevitably) makes you pull back and ask a much wider and more difficult question.
If something must be necessary so that something exists rather than nothing, why can't the universe be necessary?
     Full Idea: What was it that determined something to exist rather than nothing? ...This implies a necessary being… But why may not the material universe be the necessarily existent being?
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 9)
     A reaction: There certainly seems no need for whatever the necessary thing is that it qualify as a 'god'. If could be a necessary subatomic particle that suddenly triggers reactions.
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / b. Teleological Proof
The thing which contains order must be God, so see God where you see order
     Full Idea: By supposing something to contain the principle of its order within itself, we really assert it to be God; and the sooner we arrive at that divine being, so much the better.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 4)
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / c. Teleological Proof critique
You can't infer the cause to be any greater than its effect
     Full Idea: If we infer a cause from an effect, we must proportion the one to the other. …a body of ten ounces raised in a scale proves the counterbalance exceeds ten ounces, but not that it exceeds a hundred.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], XI.105)
From our limited view, we cannot tell if the universe is faulty
     Full Idea: It is impossible for us to tell, from our limited views, whether this system contains any great faults.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
Analogy suggests that God has a very great human mind
     Full Idea: Since the effects resemble, we must infer by 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 his work.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 2)
How can we pronounce on a whole after a brief look at a very small part?
     Full Idea: A very small part of this great system, during a very short time, is very imperfectly discovered to us: and do we thence pronounce decisively concerning the origin of the whole?
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 2)
If the divine cause is proportional to its effects, the effects are finite, so the Deity cannot be infinite
     Full Idea: By this method of reasoning you renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of the Deity. The cause ought to be proportional to the effect, and the effect, so far as it falls under our cognizance, is not infinite.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: You cannot deny that the Deity MAY be infinite, be only accept that your evidence is not enough to prove it. But if nothing infinite has been observed, it is a reasonable provisional inference that nothing infinite exists.
This excellent world may be the result of a huge sequence of trial-and-error
     Full Idea: Many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out; many fruitless trials made, and a slow but continued improvement carried on during infinite ages in the art of world-making.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: Lee Smolin, a modern cosmographer, suggests that this evolution may have led to the current universe, after a long train of selective creations. The idea of natural selection was waiting to happen in 1760.
From a ship you would judge its creator a genius, not a mere humble workman
     Full Idea: It is uncertain whether all the excellences of the work can justly be ascribed to the workman. If we survey a ship, what an exalted idea must we form of the ingenuity of the carpenter ...and what surprise must we feel when we find him a stupid mechanic.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: You can at least infer that the ship was not made entirely by makers who are ignorant of carpentry. Somewhere in the divine team there must exist the skills that produce whatever we observe?
Design cannot prove a unified Deity. Many men make a city, so why not many gods for a world?
     Full Idea: How can you prove the unity of a Deity? A great number of men join in building a house or ship, in rearing a city; why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing a world?
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: You might look at the Cistine Chapel ceiling and conclude that only a team could have achieve such a thing. Since there is no way to infer how many gods might be involved, then one god is a possible theory.
Humans renew their species sexually. If there are many gods, would they not do the same?
     Full Idea: Men are mortal and renew their species by generation. Why must this circumstance, so universal, so essential, be excluded from those numerous and limited deities?
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: Hume observes that this would be like the Greek gods. Hume makes mincemeat of attempts to prove the existence of God merely by analogy with human affairs.
This Creator god might be an infant or incompetent or senile
     Full Idea: [Maybe] this world ...was only the first essay of some infant deity ...or it is the work only of some dependent, inferior deity, the object of derision to his superiors ...or it is the product of the dotage of some superannuated deity...
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
     A reaction: His opponent in the dialogue rejoices that, in the face of these sacreligious fantasies, Hume still accepts the likelihood of some sort of design. Hume is right that it is not much of a theory if nothing can be said about the Designer.
Creation is more like vegetation than human art, so it won't come from reason
     Full Idea: If the universe is more like animal bodies and vegetables than works of human art, it is more probable that its cause resembles the cause of the former than of the latter, and its cause should be ascribed to generation rather than to reason of design.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 7)
Motion often begins in matter, with no sign of a controlling agent
     Full Idea: Motion in many instances begins in matter, without any known voluntary agent; to suppose always, in these cases, an unknown voluntary agent is mere hypothesis, attended with no advantages.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 8)
     A reaction: This is the modern 'powers' view of science, and a direct contradiction of Plato's claims in The Laws. It seems a bit primitive to assume that magnetism must be the work of some god.
The universe could settle into superficial order, without a designer
     Full Idea: The universe goes on in a succession of chaos and disorder. But is it not possible that it may settle at last, so as not to lose its inherent motion and active force, yet so as to produce a uniformity of appearance, amidst the continual fluctuation.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 8)
     A reaction: From what I know of the constant fluctuation of virtual particles (e.g. inside protons) this is exactly what actually is happening. There is an 'appearance' of order, but at the lowest level this is not the case.
Ideas arise from objects, not vice versa; ideas only influence matter if they are linked
     Full Idea: In all known instances, ideas are copied from real objects. You reverse this order and give thought the precedence. ...Thought has no influence upon matter except where that matter is so conjoined with it as to have an equal reciprocal influence upon it.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 8)
     A reaction: He allows something like mental causation, provided mind and brain are closely linked. Hume brings out the close relationship between divine design theories, and the mind-body problem.
A surprise feature of all products of 9 looks like design, but is actually a necessity
     Full Idea: The products of 9 always compose either 9 or some lesser product of 9, if you add the characters of the product. To a superficial observer this regularity appears as chance or design, but a skilful algebraist sees it as necessity.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 9)
     A reaction: An example of this universal generality is that 369 is a product of 9 (9x41), and if you add 3, 6 and 9 you get 18, which is 2x9. Similar examples occur in nature, such as crystals, which are necessary once the atomic structure is known.
The universe may be the result of trial-and-error
     Full Idea: Many worlds might have been botched and bungled, throughout an eternity, ere this system was struck out.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
Why would we infer an infinite creator from a finite creation?
     Full Idea: By this method of reasoning, you renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of the deity. For … the cause ought only to be proportioned to the effect, and the effect, so far as it falls under our cognizance, is not infinite.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 5)
Order may come from an irrational source as well as a rational one
     Full Idea: Why an orderly system may not be spun from the belly as well as from the brain, it will be difficult … to give a satisfactory reason.
     From: David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [1751], Part 7)
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / e. Miracles
All experience must be against a supposed miracle, or it wouldn't be called 'a miracle'
     Full Idea: There must be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], X.I.90)
To establish a miracle the falseness of the evidence must be a greater miracle than the claimed miraculous event
     Full Idea: No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], X.I.91)
It can't be more rational to believe in natural laws than miracles if the laws are not rational
     Full Idea: In Hume's argument against miracles, how can it be more rational to believe the laws than the miracles, if the laws themselves are not based on reason?
     From: comment on David Hume (Of Miracles [1748]) by Atif Ishaq - talk
     A reaction: A very nice question. Hume never presents his argument with such an overt reliance on reason. But if the argument says you are in the 'habit' of expecting no anomalies in the laws, what is to prevent you changing the habit of a lifetime?
A miracle violates laws which have been established by continuous unchanging experience, so should be ignored
     Full Idea: A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle is as entire as any argument from experience can possible be imagined.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], X.I.90)
28. God / C. Attitudes to God / 4. God Reflects Humanity
The idea of an infinite, intelligent, wise and good God arises from augmenting the best qualities of our own minds
     Full Idea: The idea of God, as meaning an 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.
     From: David Hume (Enquiry Conc Human Understanding [1748], II.14)
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
If all of my perceptions were removed by death, nothing more is needed for total annihilation
     Full Idea: Were all my perceptions removed by death, and I could I neither think nor feel nor see nor love nor hate, after the dissolution of my body, I should be enitrely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.
     From: David Hume (Treatise of Human Nature [1739], I.IV.6)
     A reaction: 'A perfect non-entity'. How about that for an eighteenth century rejection of immortality of the soul? In the context, his point is that the has no enduring self, apart from this range of experiences.