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Christian Torres


Descartes V. Hume part two: Hume’s Empiricism

David Hume and Renee Descartes were two great philosophers were who changed the
way we look at our word. They however had very opposing views on the study of epistemology.
As stated previously Epistemology otherwise known as the study of knowledge was dissected in
depth by both Hume and Descartes in order to make discoveries on our existence in this world.
Descartes used his own brand of rationalism to begin questioning the world around him,
specifically in his essays meditations. Hume used empiricism to come his own conclusions about
human knowledge and existence.
To begin to understand Hume’s approach on epistemology we must first ask a question.
This question of course is what is empiricism? Well, this has been the question on the minds of
many philosophy students like me. This term is defined as being knowledge derived from purely
the senses. This word has come to encompass the foundations of which Hume’s arguments are
founded. This is very interesting to me considering that the philosopher George Berkeley also
relied on his senses for to form his arguments. Where these two thinkers may not have seen eye
to eye was in there beliefs in God. As Berkeley was an avid believer while Hume in his writing
used his theory on senses to deny the existence of the divine.
Hume built much of his own work on the ideas of thinkers such as Isaac Newton and
John Locke. Specifically he made use of John Locke’s theories on the origins of ideas. Locke
argued that the senses provide the building blocks of knowledge. He further argues that these

He also speaks of how a person he is born deaf would not be able to know of sound unless the sense of hearing was . In order to begin his quest into the truth lying within empiricism Hume took the human mind and broke it down into segments. This is especially true of one who is born blind. This perceptual idea also included one’s own imagination with regard to senses. He elaborates on these ideas in his work.building blocks had always existed in order to be rearranged and molded to new and bigger ideas. As Locke created the beginnings of these principles. Hume would go further and form more complex arguments. The thought of impressions being stronger than ideas further reinforces Hume’s empirical views. Hume then goes on to theorize that impressions are more powerful than mere recollection. This is also shown in how the accomplishment of a goal can leave a much fulfilling feeling then just simply recalling said goal. He further breaks these perceptions down into two smaller parts. Interestingly enough both of these halves of perception included desires and emotions. The first part knows as impressions are sensory inputs that are felt by a person within the present. Hume then organized these mental compartments. An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. one of which was human perceptions. In this work Hume writes of without a sense of sight a blind person would not be able to conceive of what colors are. While with regards to the other half of the equation known as ideas Hume theorized that these encompassed a person’s memory of a feeling or event. With this in mind Hume came up with his “copy principle” which demonstrates the view that ideas are just copies of the profound impressions left on a person. This is demonstrated in how a punch to the face will cause a feeling of pain far more noticeable than the memory of getting punched.

. Unlike Descartes who used his rationalism to prove his certainty in God. In his writings Hume proposed that facts that we believe to be true may very well not be. thus cause and effect may not necessarily play a role in anticipating the future as things constantly change. As with people who lost the senses would be able to remember how they felt when they had the impressions of such feelings. Hume and his skeptical analyses demonstrated that nothing is actually certain in this world. He uses the example of a sun rising and our attempts to find a pattern that would justify the sun always rising.suddenly repaired. A distinction must further be made between people who are not born with certain senses and people who lost senses over time. However. According to Hume the belief that events will occur based on previous events is irrational in nature. people who are born with these afflictions would not even be able to form these ideas in their mind as the impression for these were never made in the first place. He specifically focuses on what is known as casual reasoning and how it may not be justified. With the example of causal reasoning Hume shows that what we believe may not necessarily hold true based on assumptions.