David Hume

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Reply Wed 11 Apr, 2007 10:49 am
(1711-1776) Hume was best known for his crticisms against God's existace as an omnipotent, oniscent, and benevolant being. He also criticized against the existance of universals. Some of his works are A Treatise of Human Nature, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Dialouges Concerning Natural Religion, and The History of England.
 
shindig284
 
Reply Wed 11 Apr, 2007 10:58 am
@shindig284,
One of the reasons why I came to love philosophy so much is because of David Hume. His arguement against God's existance, in the traditional sense, due to the existance of evil was very fascinating to me. I grew up in a Catholic family, where the existance of God was taken as a brute fact, and we were not to question it. And while Hume has not convnced me to not believe in God, the arguement he posseses cannot be ignored.

The arguement, breifly stated, is as follows: We cannot deny the existance of evil in the world. Yet God allows this evil to exist. He either cannot do anything to stop it, which would make him impotent, or he will not do anything to stop it, which would make him evil.

According to this arguement, an omnipotent, omniscent, benevolant God cannot, and therefore does not exist.

Although, it should be noted, that Hume did believe in God as a creator, who was very powerful, very wise, and even had the best of intentions. However, he also believes that this creator failed in his creation.
 
boagie
 
Reply Sat 14 Apr, 2007 12:56 pm
@shindig284,
Shindig,

It has been a very long time since I read anything of David Hume.What you have stated however disturbs me for I did not believe that Hume believed in god in the traditional sense--certainly not the human personification.

The most interesting things I remember about Hume is the way he delt with the claims of miracles and the fact the we really do not know that force we attribute between cause and effect, but simply assume out of a force of habit.At anyrate I wanted to thank you for posting this,Hume is indeed a worthwhile focus. Much thanks!
 
shindig284
 
Reply Mon 16 Apr, 2007 03:37 pm
@boagie,
no, hume did not believe in God in the traditional sense, however, he did believe that we had a creator who had qualities similar to the traditional idea of God, however finite in all of those qualities.

he also said that a creator does not nessesarily have to exist in a single diety as well. possible alternatives that he offers range from and infant diety, to a comittee of dieties, to a giant vegetable that left a seed on earth and all life sprung from that.
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 10:08 am
@shindig284,
Smile In other words the source is a matter wide open to the imagination!!
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 25 Nov, 2007 08:58 am
@shindig284,
shindig284 wrote:
no, hume did not believe in God in the traditional sense, however, he did believe that we had a creator who had qualities similar to the traditional idea of God, however finite in all of those qualities.

he also said that a creator does not nessesarily have to exist in a single diety as well. possible alternatives that he offers range from and infant diety, to a comittee of dieties, to a giant vegetable that left a seed on earth and all life sprung from that.


It is true that Hume wrote all that (Dialogues on Natural Religion) and so it is difficult to think that Hume believed in God in any sense at all. Hume did concede that he still thought there was some explanation of the world, and that until he thought some satisfactory one had been given, he could not actually disbelieve in God. Had Hume lived nowadays, and had he known about the the Big Bang theory now favored by cosmology, I am not sure what his attitude would have been.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Tue 25 Dec, 2007 11:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
It is true that Hume wrote all that (Dialogues on Natural Religion) and so it is difficult to think that Hume believed in God in any sense at all. Hume did concede that he still thought there was some explanation of the world, and that until he thought some satisfactory one had been given, he could not actually disbelieve in God. Had Hume lived nowadays, and had he known about the the Big Bang theory now favored by cosmology, I am not sure what his attitude would have been.


I think that if Hume were alive today, and was to stay true to his philosophy, he would maintain his position on God, and say that we cannot put to much stock in the big bang theory either. Since, I think, the big bang theory can be undercut by his philosophy. The big ban theory may be a better explanation than God, but it is still not solid enough to withstand Hume's skepticism.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 10:53 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I think that if Hume were alive today, and was to stay true to his philosophy, he would maintain his position on God, and say that we cannot put to much stock in the big bang theory either. Since, I think, the big bang theory can be undercut by his philosophy. The big ban theory may be a better explanation than God, but it is still not solid enough to withstand Hume's skepticism.


It does not follow from the fact that something can be doubted that it is doubtful. Nothing can be known with certainty, but that does not mean that nothing can be known. Hume recommended that all of us imbibe what he called "a tincture of skepticism" which he considered healthful. But he also remind us that although a tincture (a dilute) of something may be healthful, that same substance when drunk undiluted may be poisonous and first paralyze us, and even kill us. So with skepticism. A little skepticism is fine. But in pure form, it would prevent us from believing anything, and, therefore, paralyze us into inaction.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 06:52 pm
@shindig284,
I must preface this by stating that I am by no means an expert, and haven't studied Hume for a few years.

From what I remember of the Treatise on Human Nature, Hume was pretty skeptical, down to doubting whether the table in front of him is in fact the same table that he saw before he blinked his eyes.

However, I do think that there was a point to skepticism, and that was showing that we cannot know per se, but we should believe none the less.

One of the points of his philosophy that he champions is his proof that we cannot know of causation (cause and effect). It seems to me that the big bang theory is based on causation, but I am no expert.

Furthermore, I think that Hume would find problems with the big bang theory because of the fact that physics cannot explain the big bang theory. From what I remember, our 'laws' of physics break down between the big bang and the Planck Second after the big bang, and thus we really cannot infer any empirical knowledge to support a theory on the big bang.

However, I have never read his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, so I really do not know his stance on God, and thus I should not infer what he would think of us having faith that the big bang theory is correct.

{this was from the hip, so it may not be sound}
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 07:03 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I must preface this by stating that I am by no means an expert, and haven't studied Hume for a few years.

From what I remember of the Treatise on Human Nature, Hume was pretty skeptical, down to doubting whether the table in front of him is in fact the same table that he saw before he blinked his eyes.

However, I do think that there was a point to skepticism, and that was showing that we cannot know per se, but we should believe none the less.

One of the points of his philosophy that he champions is his proof that we cannot know of causation (cause and effect). It seems to me that the big bang theory is based on causation, but I am no expert.

Furthermore, I think that Hume would find problems with the big bang theory because of the fact that physics cannot explain the big bang theory. From what I remember, our 'laws' of physics break down between the big bang and the Planck Second after the big bang, and thus we really cannot infer any empirical knowledge to support a theory on the big bang.

However, I have never read his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, so I really do not know his stance on God, and thus I should not infer what he would think of us having faith that the big bang theory is correct.

{this was from the hip, so it may not be sound}


Hume distinguishes between Greek skepticism and what he calls, "mitigated skepticism" which is what he adopts. Greek skepticism is the view that doubt is the the opposite of belief. So, to doubt (say) the Big Bang, is not to believe it. But, Hume's mitigated skepticism is different. What he seems to hold is that although he does not, of course, know that (for instance) that there are "external objects", he, nevertheless, cannot help believing there are such objects (external to the mind). Another case is the proposition that every event has a cause. Hume tells us that no one can know that is true, but that he cannot help believing it is true. So, in fact, his doubt is that he knows that there are external objects, or that he knows that every event has a cause. But not that he believes these things. And, I ought to add, by "knowledge", Hume seems to mean, absolute certainty.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 11:05 pm
@shindig284,
I think we are more or less in agreement on Hume, but your insight into his doubt is helpful. I do have a question though:

According to Hume, how do we know what to believe. Is it the most plausible? Or can we only believe what we can experience? Or is it something I am missing all together?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 05:46 am
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I think we are more or less in agreement on Hume, but your insight into his doubt is helpful. I do have a question though:

According to Hume, how do we know what to believe. Is it the most plausible? Or can we only believe what we can experience? Or is it something I am missing all together?


I think that Hume thought it really is not up to us what to believe. We cannot help believing, for instance, in an external world, or that every event has a cause. It a just a part of human nature that we believe in these things. Hume held that in the end, we can ask only why we believe what we believe, not whether we ought to believe what we believe. On the other hand, Hume did write that the wise man proportions his belief to the evidence for that belief. So, there is a kind of tension here.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 05:14 pm
@shindig284,
I think by asking ourselves why we believe as we do, we self correct what we 'ought' to believe.

If we ask ourselves why we believe as we do, and make serious endeavor of the matter, our beliefs will change accordingly.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 07:09 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
I think by asking ourselves why we believe as we do, we self correct what we 'ought' to believe.

If we ask ourselves why we believe as we do, and make serious endeavor of the matter, our beliefs will change accordingly.


Hume thinks that when it comes to certain beliefs we all hold, that it is, in the nature of things, impossible for us to justify holding them. Two of those beliefs are: in inductive inference, in an external world independent of our perceptions, and (perhaps) interaction between mind and body. Of them he said that it was futile to ask whether they were true, or how we could know that they were true, since we would have to "take them for granted in all of our reasonings". In other words, they were just foundational assumptions and we have no choice but to make these assumptions.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2009 10:03 am
@shindig284,
shindig284;2748 wrote:
One of the reasons why I came to love philosophy so much is because of David Hume. His arguement against God's existance, in the traditional sense, due to the existance of evil was very fascinating to me. I grew up in a Catholic family, where the existance of God was taken as a brute fact, and we were not to question it. And while Hume has not convnced me to not believe in God, the arguement he posseses cannot be ignored.

The arguement, breifly stated, is as follows: We cannot deny the existance of evil in the world. Yet God allows this evil to exist. He either cannot do anything to stop it, which would make him impotent, or he will not do anything to stop it, which would make him evil.

According to this arguement, an omnipotent, omniscent, benevolant God cannot, and therefore does not exist.

Although, it should be noted, that Hume did believe in God as a creator, who was very powerful, very wise, and even had the best of intentions. However, he also believes that this creator failed in his creation.


Your characterization of the problem of evil (alternatively argument from evil) is wrong. Here the correct argument is, though posed in a question form:

David Hume - Wikiquote
Quote:
God's power is infinite. Whatever he wills is executed. But neither man, nor any other animal, is happy. Therefore he does not will their happiness. Epicurus' old questions are yet unanswered. Is God willing to prevent evil, but unable? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?
Your characterization includes additional alethic operators and is actually invalid. The problem of evil does not conclude that God is impossible, only that God does not exist. (At least unless one accepts modal realism or something like that.)

I don't agree that Hume believed in God. Do you have citation? The best citation I've heard for that claim is this, as my friend wrote to me in an email:

Quote:
I have no idea if the story involving d'Holbach is online or not. I have read a couple of biographies of Hume, and the story most likely comes from one of them. According to the story, while dining with d'Holbach and his other guests, Hume supposedly remarked that probably there was no one who was really an atheist, to which d'Holbach replied, that several of those seated at dinner there were, including himself. I do not remember the details of the story, nor do I have any clear recollection of how reliable the story appeared to be. It is difficult to know which stories to believe and which ones to disbelieve, about people from the past. Hume stated explicitly that he believed in God in his public remarks, but he had to say that in order to avoid trouble, so such things mean nothing. As for the story, even if true, it could well be that Hume was simply trying to keep out of trouble with his public remarks, and may have been a total atheist while pretending to disbelieve in the existence of atheists.


After doing a brief search online, I found the reference:

Siris: Hume at a Dinner Party

It is on page 483 of Mossner's biography of Hume, who attributes the story to a letter written by Diderot. So, if Diderot was there and if he told the truth in his correspondence, then the story is true. If not, then it is just a story. Of course, it also does not tell us what Hume believed later on in life; just what he said at that point in his life at a dinner party.

According to Hume, he was raised to believe and did believe when he was a child. His views later in life appear to have moved away from that, and the only questions are, how far away, and when? From his philosophical writings, he should have been an atheist, whether he was or not. I think by the time he died, he was a complete atheist, judging from what I have read, though it is difficult enough to know the inner workings of the minds of the living, so there is always room for doubt.

As an aside, Mossner's biography was in the past considered to be the best biography of Hume; I do not know if that is the current general opinion.


Also see Wikipedia:
Quote:
Hume wrote a great deal on religion. However, the question of what were Hume's personal views on religion is a difficult one (see Russell, 2008, O'Connor, 2001, and Norton, 1993). He was writing at a time when being an atheist or a blasphemer could result in very unfortunate events. Less than 15 years before Hume's birth, an 18-year-old University student named Thomas Aikenhead was tried, convicted, and hanged in Edinburgh for blasphemy for saying Christianity was nonsense. Hume was often thought of as an atheist, and his career suffered because of this (Russell, 2008); but no official charges were ever brought against him. However, the Church of Scotland seriously considered bringing charges of infidelity against him. [19] He never declared himself to be an atheist, but if he had been hostile to religion, Hume's writings would have had to be constrained to being ambiguous about his own views. He did not acknowledge his authorship of many of his works in this area until close to his death, and some were not even published until afterwards.
There are several places in his works where he specifically seems to support the standard religious views of his time and place. This still meant that he could be very critical of the Roman Church, referring to it as superstition and idolatry, as well as dismissing what his compatriots would see as more uncivilised beliefs. He also considered extreme Protestant sects to be corrupters of religion. Yet he also put forward arguments that suggested that polytheism had much to commend it in preference to monotheism. In his works, he attacked many of the basic assumptions of religion and Christian belief, and his arguments have become the foundation of much of the succeeding secular thinking about religion. In his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, one of his protagonists demolished what was the main intellectual argument for the belief in God or one god (especially in the Age of Enlightenment): the Argument from Design. Also, in his Of Miracles, he carried out a thoroughgoing condemnation of the idea that religion (specifically Christianity) is supported by revelation.
Nevertheless, he was capable of writing in the introduction to his The Natural History of Religion "The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author". In spite of that, he writes at the end of the essay: "Examine the religious principles, which have, in fact, prevailed in the world. You will scarcely be persuaded, that they are anything but sick men's dreams", and "Doubt, uncertainty, suspence of judgement appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject."
It is likely that Hume was sceptical both about religious belief (at least as demanded by the religious organisations of his time) and of the complete atheism promoted by such contemporaries as Baron d'Holbach. Russell (2008) suggests that perhaps Hume's position is best characterised by the term "irreligion". O'Connor (2001, p19) writes that Hume "did not believe in the God of standard theism. ... but he did not rule out all concepts of deity." Also, "ambiguity suited his purposes, and this creates difficulty in definitively pinning down his final position on religion."
 
 

 
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