Free «Hume's Enquiry» Essay Sample

Hume's Enquiry

David Hume is a famous philosopher and thinker, whose thoughts and works have made a great difference in the course of philosophy development. In one of his main works, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, he argues about primary philosophical concepts – induction, human perception and beliefs. In the parts IV-VII of The First Enquiry, Hume gives a detailed thought on these concepts. However, throughout paragraphs his thoughts are either too confusing or inconsistent. Therefore, this paper aims to clarify Hume’s perception of human beliefs.

Primarily, the difficulty arises from the assertion that there is no such thing as an impression of a causal relationship, and, therefore, people do not perceive history in terms of a cause – consequence relation. In particular, Hume says that people can perceive in the simple observation of A and B whereby A is located on or in the right of B hence A is causing B. Last causal relationship is more or less against the reason and logic in the investigation, but Hume rightly considers it wrong.

The idea of causal relation looks very complicated. To make it clearer, we can say that the concept of perception leads the reader to the notion of human beliefs and hopes. Here, the relationship of cause and effect is considered essential, necessary logical links. Hume challenges this view by claiming that the force with which one object creates another is not disclosed in the ideas of two objects and thus, we can learn the cause and effect only from the experience, not reasons. The main and clearest statement here is that everything existing in this world should have its origin and the cause of appearance according to Hume. However, this statement has intuitive certainty and is not very consistent with his logic. He expresses it in terms of beliefs in things. In particular, the belief that has no object is like a being of another object - unless we consider these objects as such without searching for their meaning. Thus, Hume has realized that by saying “A is causing B” we mean that A and B are virtually always connected, not that there is necessarily a connection between them. We have no other idea about causes and actions in addition to the assumption that some objects have always been associated together.

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Analyzing further, Hume supports his theoretical definition of a ‘belief’, which is a living idea, attitude, linked or associated impression. Here, the essence of Hume’s thought is rather consistent, but a bit unclear. Mainly according to the association, if A and B are continuously connected to past experience, impression of A gives rise to the idea of ​​living forming a belief. This explains why we believe that A and B are connected: A perception is linked to the idea and thus, we begin to think that A is related to B although this view is actually unfounded.

Another controversy arises in the next paragraphs, where Hume claims that there is no connection between our conclusions and observations about existing object, but only imagination. Here, in terms of a belief, he claims that people can see existing things only by imagining why they exist. Hume asserts several times that what seems a necessary communication between the objects in reality is only a link between the ideas of these objects: the habit makes the mind, and this is the impression or coercion, which gives us the idea of ​​a necessity. Repetitive examples that lead us to believe that A is the cause of B do not reveal anything new whereas mental association leads to ideas.

The concept of a belief can be simplified by taking a closer look at the doctrine of Hume, which consists of two parts: objective and subjective. In the objective part, if we believe that A is the cause of B, then what actually has taken place lies in the fact that they are often observed related to one another (i.e. directly or quickly followed by A) and thus, we have no right to say that one must be followed by A or A will follow in the future. We do not have any reason to believe the frequent passage of A for any connection except when the sequence is allowed. In fact, causality can be determined using the sequence, which is not an independent concept.

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According to Hume, our notion of causality is based on experience, but goes beyond it. This happens because every judgment of an individual situation of a general causality (applies to all similar situations) is based only on the induction, which is not a form of the true output. Although the concept of causality cannot be definitively grounded ontologically and logically, it considers the psychological justification of why certain causal judgments are considered true: the expectation of usual sequence of events is a natural property of the human mind. Hume says that general principles of describing a causal event cannot be justified precisely because of the imperfection of the induction. These are the principles of universality (every phenomenon has a cause) and uniformity (the same causes constantly produce the same effects). So far, there is no consensus on the admissibility of these principles. We can agree that this statement is true, but it hardly has the breadth according to the subjective part of Hume’s teaching. He repetitively says that the frequent overlap of A and B provides no reason to expect that they will be the same in the future, but there is a reason for this expectation. In other words, repetitive experience often coincides with the habit of association. However, considering an objective doctrine of Hume, namely, the fact that in the past these circumstances are often formed by associations, there is no reason to assume that they will continue to be formed or that the new association will be formed under similar conditions.

When it comes to psychology, Hume allows himself to believe in causality in the sense that he actually condemns. For instance, one sees an apple and expects that if he/she eats it, they will feel a certain taste. According to Hume, there is no reason why one should feel the taste, which is explained by the presence of expectations. However, the law itself is the habit of causal law. Therefore, if we take Hume seriously, we have to say that at last apple’s appearance coincided with the expectation of a taste, there is no reason for such a match to take place in the future; maybe next time one sees an apple he/she expects that it will taste like roast.

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Additionally, human knowledge of nature or history, Hume says, should be based on the testimony of the senses including the credible eyewitness testimony. Through learning of the nature of things we find regularity in our experience. Based on the permanent links of sensory perception, we conclude the existence of the natural law having a probabilistic base. Our explanation is based on the habits and customs, which suggest that regular, constantly observed in the past, will be observed in the future. Here, one can turn to Hume’s perception of miracles, which are by his definition a violation of the laws or regularities of nature. However, Hume says that no evidence is sufficient to confirm a miracle with the exception of such evidence, the falsity of which should be more miraculous than the fact it endeavors to prove.

To make even greater contradiction, Hume asks the question whether there is such strong evidence of historical miracles, for the sake of these exceptions, that we can reject the past and future sensory evidence of the permanence of nature. He answers this question in the negative. Resurrection of a dead person is a miracle. However, it has never been observed anywhere in the past according to Hume. If someone tells that he/she saw the resurrection of a dead person, we should immediately take into account that more than likely one is mistaken. Our constant observation of nature’s death forcing us to deny the miracle of the resurrection proves that the dead are not reborn to life. The contradiction lies in Hume’s claim that to expect a thing, people should experience it. Nevertheless, people are waiting for miracles, which serves the proof of some that affected people in the way they expect them now.

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Hume’s skepticism is based entirely on his refusal of induction as a philosophic principle. When applied to causation, it says that if B is often found accompanying A or followed by it, then it is likely that the next time A will be accompanied by B. If this principle is correct, then a sufficient number of examples should make the probability close to certainty. On the other hand, if this principle or any other, from which it can be deducted, is true, then the causal conclusions that Hume rejected provide an ample chance for practical goals. If this principle is not true, then any attempt to make observations from local to general scientific point is a mistake and inevitable skepticism of Hume can be applied to empirics. Therefore, induction should be an independent principle rather than based on experience or withdrawal from it.

Therefore, we must consider Hume’s objective theory more thoroughly. This doctrine has two parts. First, “A is causing B”. However, there is no single example from a past experience where A and B often appear together or in quick succession. Second, no matter how many examples of B overlaps we have seen, it does not give a reason to expect that they will be the same in the future. However, the reason for this expectation is often observed coinciding with the expectations. These two doctrines can be summarized as follows: 1) there is causality relationship except coincidence or sequence; 2) induction by enumeration is not an effective form of evidence.