Wednesday, 17 November 2010

HCJ - Semester One - Lecture Four


An enquiry concerning human understanding.

In lecture four of our HCJ module we were lectured on David Hume, and were asked to read 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' for the seminar that followed. In the first part of this post I will discuss my ideas and thoughts on the reading set, giving some direct quotes from it and making my own judgements.

Firstly the book begins to describe the term 'moral philosophy' and the ways in which different people treat it and how it can be perceived. Firstly it discusses moral philosophy in the terms of mankind in that the man is first and foremost 'born for action' and I think that it is trying to say that men are the most important beings, it believes that they are perfect and not to be discussed or questioned. On the other hand moral philosophy can be treated as a reasonable being, meaning that human nature can be speculated or questioned. It perhaps even asks us to study what makes mankind 'tick' - what makes us feel happiness, sorrow and excitement? This can be linked to the way in which some philosophers we have discussed believed in that they saw the human being as a 'ticking' object which was run like a mechanism, or a clock (such that can be seen on the cover of Russell's 'History of Western Philosophy' book).

The next part of the reading that stood out to me was the description it gave of a philosopher: 'a philosopher...little acceptable in the world...lives remote from communication with mankind, and wrapped up in principles and notions equally remote from their comprehension.' This is intriguing, as it seemed to describe the philosopher as someone who has no contact with the 'outside world', or anyone outside the four walls he sees everyday. His ideas also never leave the four walls as they are completely rejected by anyone that they are met by. I think this is a contradiction of what we have already studied so far this year, as it is clear that philosophers like Descartes, Newton and More all wanted their notions heard and had them published in some cases, and although they were stil rejected in some regions, they must be important ideas else we would not be studying them, up until the present day.

David Hume

Causation is the production of an effect by a cause, or something 'causing' something else. This was one of Hume's biggest ideas, in that he totally rejected it. Hume believed that nothing in the world caused anything else to happen, and that anything that seemed to be a cause is in fact 'all in our head' so to speak. I find this completely barbaric that Hume rejects causation and he thinks that it is just a coincidence that the red billiard ball with move upon the white billiard ball touching it. He says that there is not enough evidence for it to be true, to me the evidence is right there, clear as day, and I think science proves that. The force that the billiard que hits the whit ball with is passed on to the white ball, which then hits the red ball with a decreasing force, which then causes the red ball to move. I can see where he is coming from, but I think it is completely far-fetched to believe that somewhere in the world there is a sort of magnet that is causing the red ball to move at precisely the same time the white ball comes into contact with it. On the other hand, I do believe that Hume is correct in saying that just because I am hear typing this blog right now, does not mean I will be in 5 second. Well firstly I could punch in a 'secret code' into my laptop that results in all of my life's work being completed, but in fact that has not happend, but something more likely is that the world could be hit by an asteroid or one of the huge nuclear weapons on the planet could be set off.

Another aspect of David Hume that interested me somewhat was 'The Verification Principle' - so unless something can be verified or falsified it was 'un-important'. This again in my opinion is slightly barbaric, but it is his own opinion and not something he is stating as fact. In Hume's opinion God is not real as he could not be proven and therefore even discussing him was totally pointless (hence Hume being an extreme atheist). So because God can not be verified he is not real, therefore not important. On the other hand saying that a glass will break when thrown on the floor is important as it can be verified, or proven. Even though Hume has these ideas I personally feel he contradicts his atheism slightly in saying that God is not real because he can not be proven, but in the same breath it can't not be proven, so therefore can not be 'falsified', therefore there is no evidence to say that God is in fact a myth.

So that was my brief notes on Lecture/Seminar four. A bit of a tricky subject for me it has to be said, but I think my head is some of the way around it!

1 comment:

  1. ok - good work but stick closer to the actual reading and mainly the lecture. You will find it easier to understand if read the chapter because hume is a clear, simple writer.