Didn't Hume already suggest a priori?

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Reply Sun 6 Sep, 2009 06:34 pm
I'm more familiar with him than Kant but it is to my knowledge that Hume pretty much suggested (albeit briefly) notions of a priori faculties before Kant did. For him, "custom" (or "instinct", "the passions", etc.) is the only connecting principle of the human mind. Ideas and the necessary connections that bring them together is a result of custom. For him, the constancy of observing B following A causes us to customarily observe their necessity.

A criticism of the above proposition is that custom in and of itself assumes necessity; that is, if we attribute the idea of causality with the impressions of custom, we are also assuming causality's existence in other matters. But, as Bertrand Russell once said, "Hume shrank from nothing in pursuit of theoretical consistency." Hume recognized this. In an almost Wittgensteinian fashion, and pretty much denouncing the very reasoning upon which he wrote his doctrine, he conclude that a) all reason was based on the temporary suspension of disbelief, allowing our minds to focus on a single axiom while assuming all others preceding it to have been proven, and b) all reason was unreasonable.

Custom is his a priori faculty for how we tackle and thereafter organize perception. Not only did he say what Kant said, he rejected Kant's conclusions before they were even made. Kant's a priori faculties are too austere and assume too much about the minds outside of his little bubble in the Western hemisphere. While Hume knowingly assumed causality in his reasoning, Kant ignorantly assumed the constancy of the human mind in all cases. It wasn't until Wittgenstein that the rigidity of Kant's faculties shattered forever.

But Witty wasn't the first to do this. 200 hundred years earlier, Hume essentially professed the same ideas that Wittgenstein did. He understood and explicated the temporal nature of the mind to follow the "rules" of "custom" and transfix itself upon the analysis of one object while deluding itself of the nature of surrounding objects. I'm of the opinion that had he the gift of an extended lifespan to observe the findings of Darwin and dabble in the field of linguistics, he would've made the same assertions as Witty.

I ask: Didn't Hume already say what Kant said but ten times better? I'm willing to go so far as suggest that everything between Hume and Wittgenstein was a sort of mini-dark age in philosophy, full of obnoxious German idealists and pedantic logical positivists.
 
Justin
 
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 11:45 am
@Baron Munch,
This post was moved to the correct forum.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 04:55 pm
@Baron Munch,
I like Hume quite a bit, but he had some blind spots.

Kant was proud of his Catergories. He went at the "a priori" systematically. Except for the gist of it, I find it pretty boring. But once one gets the gist of Hume, he's pretty boring himself. Still, an invaluable contributor to the tradition...

I don't think that certainty is possible, and agree that reason is founded upon a certain faith in the possibility of reason.

What then? Philosophy is bigger than the quest for certainty. It's rich with what one can enjoy sophisticated myth, conceptual art, etc.

Hegel is great. He's a sublime modification of Spinoza. I don't believe in the possibility of absolute knowledge but his presentation of the concept is a piece of art. Poetry worth my time. And his concept of dialectic I find to still be relevant. He offers a dynamic description of truth. He offers a phenomenology, and this is acknowledgment that he is describing reality as it appears to man, in the various phases of his intellectual development. And he thinks there's a certain pattern to this development, the dialectic. Hegel assimilates Hume and Kant both, as well as others. Hegel is the Borg. He has his limits but do not miss out. I waited too long to study him myself, because of all the mud on his name.

I recommend Kojeve's book on Hegel. I also recommend for a Hume and Wittgenstein lover a look at Richard Rorty.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 05:41 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106466 wrote:
I like Hume quite a bit, but he had some blind spots.

Kant was proud of his Catergories. He went at the "a priori" systematically. Except for the gist of it, I find it pretty boring. But once one gets the gist of Hume, he's pretty boring himself. Still, an invaluable contributor to the tradition...

I don't think that certainty is possible, and agree that reason is founded upon a certain faith in the possibility of reason.

What then? Philosophy is bigger than the quest for certainty. It's rich with what one can enjoy sophisticated myth, conceptual art, etc.

Hegel is great. He's a sublime modification of Spinoza. I don't believe in the possibility of absolute knowledge but his presentation of the concept is a piece of art. Poetry worth my time. And his concept of dialectic I find to still be relevant. He offers a dynamic description of truth. He offers a phenomenology, and this is acknowledgment that he is describing reality as it appears to man, in the various phases of his intellectual development. And he thinks there's a certain pattern to this development, the dialectic. Hegel assimilates Hume and Kant both, as well as others. Hegel is the Borg. He has his limits but do not miss out. I waited too long to study him myself, because of all the mud on his name.

I recommend Kojeve's book on Hegel. I also recommend for a Hume and Wittgenstein lover a look at Richard Rorty.



Could you explain what "the quest for certainty" has to do with this? I don't see it. Do you think that Hume quested for certainty? If anyone did, it was Kant.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 09:27 pm
@kennethamy,
"When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Why all the book burning? Perhaps in the name of something that is the opposite of sophistry and illusion?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 10:11 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106767 wrote:
"When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

Why all the book burning? Perhaps in the name of something that is the opposite of sophistry and illusion?


And what is that? Logic and fact, I suppose.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 10:41 pm
@Baron Munch,
Exactly, and I associate both with certainty. I'm criticizing Hume for his implication (in this particular statement) that logic and fact are all that philosophy is about. The word philosophy means love of wisdom. Facts and logic are good for our survival, no doubt, but philosophy is also poetic, creative, prejudice-smashing. And obsolete notions of fact and logic are some of the prejudices worth smashing. Still, I don't want to burn any books.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 10:58 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106786 wrote:
Exactly, and I associate both with certainty. I'm criticizing Hume for his implication (in this particular statement) that logic and fact are all that philosophy is about. The word philosophy means love of wisdom. Facts and logic are good for our survival, no doubt, but philosophy is also poetic, creative, prejudice-smashing. And obsolete notions of fact and logic are some of the prejudices worth smashing. Still, I don't want to burn any books.


I don't know why you associate both with certainty.

The etymology of "philosophy" is love of wisdom. But that is no reason to think that "philosophy" still means love of wisdom any more than just because the etymology of "lunatic" means influenced by the Moon, that when a person is called a "lunatic" that means the person who called him a lunatic thinks he was influenced by the Moon. Words change meaning through time.

In fact, what Hume was saying was that traditional philosophy, the deductive metaphysics of the Rationalists (Spinoza in particular) was "sophistry and illusion". And was suggesting that metaphysics had had its day. It was on that account that Kant made his great attempt to rescue metaphysics from Hume's attack by proposing his "Critical Philosophy". He admitted that Hume was right (and had awakened Kant from his "dogmatic slumber") But that deductive metaphysics could be replaced with something new and different. He certainly did not think that the replacement should be myth and poetry. As for Hume, he proposed that philosophers simply drop metaphysics and turn their attention to the "moral sciences". What we now call, the social sciences, like history, and psychology, or economics, a place them on a firm footing.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 12:13 am
@Baron Munch,
Ah, but Spinoza is great. I agree with Hume that much of metaphysics is sophistry and illusion, but sophistry and illusion have their value -- as poetry and myth. I view Spinoza as a conceptual poet, a sophisticated theologian. His vision can be appreciated without one's having to adopt it as belied. I suggest an extension of the usual concept of poetry. Would Hume burn Heraclitus as well? Would Hume burn Plato? Hence my reference to the origin of the word philosophy. As a matter of taste I don't want it reduced to the problem of knowledge. Nor do I want it to become arrogantly dismissive of all that it cannot include within its method. I'm suspicious of anyone who talks of burning books, and also of those who refuse to consider that their own beliefs may be something they regret one day as sophistry and illusion.

The social sciences are great, but that's not a reason to miss out on a Nicholas of Cusa or a Hegel. Yes, I know Kant is a response to Hume. One of the things I love about the history of philosophy is its dialectical progression. But perhaps for a Hume, such an appreciation isn't earthbound enough. Hume, for me, is less exciting to contemplate than Hegel, for instance.

I'm sure Hume loved poetry in my broad sense of the word (creative writing), because the man was explicitly ambitious for literary fame. He was, self-consciously, a prose stylist.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 12:33 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106802 wrote:
Ah, but Spinoza is great. I agree with Hume that much of metaphysics is sophistry and illusion, but sophistry and illusion have their value -- as poetry and myth. I view Spinoza as a conceptual poet, a sophisticated theologian. His vision can be appreciated without one's having to adopt it as belied. I suggest an extension of the usual concept of poetry. Would Hume burn Heraclitus as well? Would Hume burn Plato? Hence my reference to the origin of the word philosophy. As a matter of taste I don't want it reduced to the problem of knowledge. Nor do I want it to become arrogantly dismissive of all that it cannot include within its method. I'm suspicious of anyone who talks of burning books, and also of those who refuse to consider that their own beliefs may be something they regret one day as sophistry and illusion.

The social sciences are great, but that's not a reason to miss out on a Nicholas of Cusa or a Hegel. Yes, I know Kant is a response to Hume. One of the things I love about the history of philosophy is its dialectical progression. But perhaps for a Hume, such an appreciation isn't earthbound enough. Hume, for me, is less exciting to contemplate than Hegel, for instance.

I'm sure Hume loved poetry in my broad sense of the word (creative writing), because the man was explicitly ambitious for literary fame. He was, self-consciously, a prose stylist.


Hume just was exaggerating his point. What he meant by "sophistry and illusion" was that metaphysics was non-cognitive. It no more constituted knowledge than poetry. Like poetry it was what Neo-Humeans later on called, emotive or expressive language. Like poetry or drama which Hume did know about and liked. But he thought that that the discourse of logic and science had a very different function. It was informative and descriptive language. Metaphysics, like poetry, like myth, was not, but expressed the poet's feelings, and attempted to evoke counterpart feelings in the listener. (The same, of course, goes for myth, drama, and so on). What Hume was doing was to try to draw this important distinction, and argue that Spinoza (for example) had confused expressive with descriptive discourse, and believed (mistakenly) that he was engaged in some kind of super-science. Like science, but only about more ethereal matter than science. Hume was trying to expose this confusion. In a way, I suppose, he agreed with you, that traditional philosophy is like poetry rather than science. But he would have insisted that it was rather bad poetry. No meter, and no rhyme.

By the way, I want to emphasize my argument that the view that "philosophy" means "the love of wisdom" (which you expressed) supposes that because that is the etymology of the the term, that is its current meaning. And, of course, that argument is simply invalid. ("The etymological fallacy") For we all know that the meanings of words change over time. I emphasize this because lots of people make this argument as if it were self-evidently the correct, and it seems to me that a little thought would show that if anything, it is self-evidently incorrect.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 01:09 am
@Baron Munch,
Poetry is not just feeling. Much of it is metaphorical. But philosophy too is metaphorical, though too often unconsciously. For abstract words are all born as tropes (turns), figures of speech, metaphors. After long use they acquire a literal (letter) meaning, via context. All abstract (drawn-away) language is inherently (adhere, stick) metaphorical. How else can an abstract word be born, if not by reference to another abstract word or to something concrete. Abstract language is nothing but a stack of metaphors.

The word myth meant speech, story.

The more a metaphor is used, the less metaphorical it seems. We forget (lose grip on) the origins of words like metaphor (carry - over) and origin (to rise). Philosophy is poetry that denies its metaphoricity.

Anatole France writes brilliantly on this. Derrida quotes him in The White Mythology. I like to call philosophy the transparent mythology. It's polished until its metaphors are mostly invisible.

Then there was Nietzsche who said that truth was "a mobile army of metaphors." And this was one more metaphor.

I understand that the word poetry is usually associated with meter and rhyme, but it wasn't always that way, and I love old Lit. And "prose" (et. = about face) is such an awkward word.

Just so you know where I'm coming from.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 01:19 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106813 wrote:
Poetry is not just feeling. Much of it is metaphorical. But philosophy too is metaphorical, though too often unconsciously..


But that, according to Hume, was exactly the problem with traditional deductive metaphysics of the Spinozistic-brand. It was metaphorical, poetic, and therefore, not cognitive as it was advertised. It was expressive languages pretending to be cognitive language. It should be read as poetry, but it was advanced as super-science, the science of the "really real" behind the superficial reality of commonsense and physics. That it is unconsciously so makes it even worse, since that meant that Spinoza did not even know what he was doing. He was a kind of sleepwalker. And besides, as I already said, the poetry was awful.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 01:40 am
@Baron Munch,
Well, I also dislike deductive metaphysics. But when Spinoza's assertions are expounded by a writer like Will Durant, he's easy to like. Like Spock, but better. Descartes is a bore. Hell, I like my Hegel filtered thru Kojeve.

But I don't think there is a cognitive ("know together") language("tongue") that is not metaphorical. If it is more consciously metaphorical, it will pass with me as more cognitive.

Philosophy is conceptual poetry. Rather than sonnets, it concerns itself with the careful construction of mental models. Just as this sentence is a construction of a mental model.

Any epistemology seems bound to offer a mental model of the human psyche, and this mental model of the psyche must include its (the "psyche's") (to blow)tendency to make a mental model of itself. And so on, the game never ending. The dialogue is endless.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 01:47 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106820 wrote:
Well, I also dislike deductive metaphysics. But when Spinoza's assertions are expounded by a writer like Will Durant, he's easy to like. Like Spock, but better. Descartes is a bore. Hell, I like my Hegel filtered thru Kojeve.

But I don't think there is a cognitive ("know together") language("tongue") that is not metaphorical. If it is more consciously metaphorical, it will pass with me as more cognitive.

Philosophy is conceptual poetry. Rather than sonnets, it concerns itself with the careful construction of mental models. Just as this sentence is a construction of a mental model.

Any epistemology seems bound to offer a mental model of the human psyche, and this mental model of the psyche must include its (the "psyche's") (to blow)tendency to make a mental model of itself. And so on, the game never ending. The dialogue is endless.


Do you really think that when I say that Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, that is metaphorical? If that is metaphorical, what, on Earth, would be literal? The philosophy that I practice, and that you find in academic journals, is, I assure you, poetry of no kind (whatever "conceptual poetry" is supposed to be). Not unless you are using poetry to cover the statement that, for instance, knowledge does not imply certainty. It that is poetry of any kind, I will be happy to eat my hat. (And that is metaphorical).
 
Emil
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 02:06 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106786 wrote:
Exactly, and I associate both with certainty. I'm criticizing Hume for his implication (in this particular statement) that logic and fact are all that philosophy is about. The word philosophy means love of wisdom. Facts and logic are good for our survival, no doubt, but philosophy is also poetic, creative, prejudice-smashing. And obsolete notions of fact and logic are some of the prejudices worth smashing. Still, I don't want to burn any books.


No, the word "philosophy" meant (past tense) love of wisdom. To think it must still mean what it originally meant is to commit the etymological fallacy.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 02:06 am
@kennethamy,
Do you really think when you say that Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, that is philosophical?

The word planet means wandering star. Portishead found that poetic enough to write a song about it.

"Conceptual poetry" is etymologically equivalent to "abstract composition." Look it up. And why be rude? Surely it's not such an intimidating phrase, especially in the context of our conversation, rife with the themes of metaphor and etymology.

I don't think the word knowledge by itself implies certainty. The meaning of words is context dependent. I think we live on the back of a pile of metaphors -- as soon as we speak abstractly. Therefore my questioning of the arrogance of seekers after a non-metaphorical sort of abstract truth.

And why so proud to dissociate yourself from poetry? Your cognitive language seems fairly emotional. Maybe I'm wrong on this. But the tone does seem more passionate.

Remember this: I don't believe in proof. Only in persuasion. I don't believe in logic (not in the realm of metaphor) but rather in rhetoric. I say this with a bit of irony. Surely you get my point.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 02:35 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;106827 wrote:
Do you really think when you say that Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun, that is philosophical?

The word planet means wandering star. Portishead found that poetic enough to write a song about it.

"Conceptual poetry" is etymologically equivalent to "abstract composition." Look it up. And why be rude? Surely it's not such an intimidating phrase, especially in the context of our conversation, rife with the themes of metaphor and etymology.

I don't think the word knowledge by itself implies certainty. The meaning of words is context dependent. I think we live on the back of a pile of metaphors -- as soon as we speak abstractly. Therefore my questioning of the arrogance of seekers after a non-metaphorical sort of abstract truth.

And why so proud to dissociate yourself from poetry? Your cognitive language seems fairly emotional. Maybe I'm wrong on this. But the tone does seem more passionate.

Remember this: I don't believe in proof. Only in persuasion. I don't believe in logic (not in the realm of metaphor) but rather in rhetoric. I say this with a bit of irony. Surely you get my point.


No, I think that the statement that Mars is the fourth planet is astronomical (scientific). What would make you think I thought it philosophical. "Planet" used to mean "wanderer". It doesn't now. Etymological fallacy again. I am not intimidated by the phrase, "conceptual poetry". I don't think it applies to anything I know of. Certainly not the kind of philosophy I know about. The question of whether knowledge implies certainty is equivalent to the question, whether when we claim to know, we are claiming that it is impossible for us to be mistaken about what we are claiming to know. I think that we are not claiming that at all. I think, rather, that we are claiming that we are not mistaken about what we are claiming to know. And I think that the confusion between the claim that it is impossible that we are mistaken, and that we are not mistaken, is what leads people who think about these matters, to think that knowledge implies certainty. And, incidentally, I think that pointing this out, and analyzing the confusion just pointed out, is the kind of think philosophy is all about. And although it is certainly conceptual, it is not conceptual poetry, or poetry of any sort whatsoever.

Whether you believe in proof is not nearly as important as whether there is such a thing as proof. And, of course, for that, ask any logician or mathematician. I don't think either would take your belief about the matter terribly seriously, do you? I guess I really don't get your point.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 09:45 pm
@kennethamy,
No, you just don't get my point. You have a narrow view of poetry. Every read Shelley's "Defence of Poetry?" Or is that something Hume should burn?

I never said etymology was proof of anything, as proof is the idol of logic-choppers, the altar boys of Truth. I was making a point about the nature of the very language we argue with. So much for fallacy (deception). Word meanings shift, yes, and language is slippery, and philosophy is made out this slippery metaphorical brew. And etymology can be eye-opening. Abstractions are born as metaphors. I think it's significant. How does formal logic deal with metaphors?

But philosophy hates its mother, and wants to go live with Dad (who doesn't bleed and bloat). Dad is geometry, algebra, formal logic. Logos can dress up in a Euclid costume and fool those who want to be fooled. Religion can dress up as logic.

Math is one of man's best inventions. But number is not like word. And those who model philosophy on the exactness of mathematics are (in my view) deceiving themselves.

I don't think much of logicians. Logic is the mummy of priest-craft. Same old motive. A big hard certainty to cling to in the storm of life.
 
 

 
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