Empiricist epistemology – Hume & Kant
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Empiricist epistemology – Hume & Kant

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    Empiricist epistemology – Hume & Kant Empiricist epistemology – Hume & Kant Presentation Transcript

    • Empiricist Epistemology – Hume & Kant Unit 4
    • David Hume
      • The most radical of the primary empiricists
      • Felt that Locke and Berkeley had not consistently applied Ockham’s Razor
      • He believed that a more rigorous application of Ockham’s Razor would bring empiricism to its logical conclusion
      • Asserted that there were only 2 possible kinds of meaning: analytic and synthetic propositions
    • Analytic Propositions
      • Analytic propositions have the following characteristics:
          • Their negation leads to a self-contradiction
          • They are a priori
          • They are true by definition
          • They are necessarily true
      • So even though there is a priori knowledge, it never proves anything other than itself
          • According to Hume, it can’t tell us anything about reality, but only provide us with definitions, mathematics, and logic
          • Analytic propositions are certainly true, but they only show that we can relate ideas to one another, not that all knowledge may be based on them
    • Synthetic Propositions
      • All synthetic propositions must be derived from sense data
          • They are not necessarily true
      • Example:
          • Joseph has 12 chicken patties on his plate
          • How do we find out if this is meaningful?
              • We look to sense data
      • What do we do with sentences that aren’t analytic or synthetic?
          • According to Hume, they’re nonsense!
    • Hume’s Discussion of God
      • And nonsense is just what David Hume appears to call the notion of God. Why?
          • The sentence “God exists” when negated does not produce a self-contradiction. Therefore, it is not an analytic proposition.
          • The idea of God cannot be traced back to sense data. Therefore it is not a synthetic proposition.
          • If it’s neither an analytic nor a synthetic proposition, then according to Hume, it is nonsensical.
      • So if there is no God, then how does the center hold? What keeps the world together in some sort of order?
    •  
    • Hume’s Causality
      • For Hume, CAUSALITY holds things together.
      • PROBLEM! There is no sense data to support the idea of a cause either. There’s no way to tell that one thing caused another, or if one thing simply occurred after another thing.
          • Example: I am walking down the street, and a pigeon crosses my path. When I begin to cross the road, I then get hit by a bus and end up in a coma. Did the pigeon cause me getting hit by a bus? Should I therefore conclude that pigeons cause bus accidents?
              • Superstition is the result of misunderstanding seriality vs. causality. It wrongfully assumes that because one thing occurs after another, the first event CAUSED the second event.
          • However, Hume is forced to concede that there is no sense data to confirm cause-and-effect
    • The Self
      • “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception…” David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
    • The Self
      • For Hume, the self is an empty idea
          • Why? Because there is no experiential continuity of selfhood. In fact, we cannot truly experience the self at all.
              • Every time we try to experience the self, we are faced with innumerable sensory experiences: temperature, hunger, pain, joy, light…
              • Hume concludes that we seem to merely be a bundle of experiences…our concept of “self” is an illusion!
      • According to Hume, this discovery is so frightening to us that we “feign its continued existence…and run into the notion of a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise the variation.”
    • Immanuel Kant
      • Wrote his Critique of Pure Reason in response to David Hume’s radical empiricism
      • Sought to salvage the best aspects of both rationalism and empiricism and eliminate many of the problems inherent in both philosophies
    • Immanuel Kant
      • Rejected the concept of a “tabula rasa” on the grounds that the mind is not merely a passive receptacle of sense data (empiricist perspective – stemming from John Locke)
      • However, he also rejected the concept of “innate ides” on the grounds that claiming babies are born with ideas is just too far-fetched (rationalist perspective – stemming from Plato and Descartes)
      • Well if we’re not a blank slate at birth, yet we’re not born with any innate ideas…what’s left?
    • Immanuel Kant
      • Kant replaced “innate ideas” with “innate structures,” which Kant calls “categories of the understanding”
          • “ Innate structures” are formal and active features of the mind that impose a kind of order on the raw data of the senses within space and time
      • He concluded there were twelve categories, including: unity, plurality, totality, relations, etc. that are actively brought by the mind to the world, and utilized to process sense data
          • Kant claimed that we cannot perceive raw data – only that which has already been processed by the innate structures
      • This conclusion allows the empiricists to hang on to their sense data (and its necessity for knowledge), but acquiesces to the rationalists that sense data alone is not significant for knowledge