|Reading for Philosophical Inquiry: A Brief Introduction to Philosophical Thinking ver. 0.21; An Open Source Reader|
David Hume, Thoemmes
About the author…
Often considered a skeptic, David Hume (1711-1776) is perhaps the most influential philosopher to write in English. Although he sought acclaim as a historian, his empirical thought places "Logic, Morals, Criticism, and Politics" as a "science of man." As part of his radical empiricism, Hume rejected the existence of causation, scientific law, material substance, spiritual substance, and the individual self. For him, only relationships among ideas can be known.
About the work…
Hume, in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion published several years after his death, argued that God's existence can neither be proved by á priori nor á posteriori means. Hume's skepticism, however, left some room for empirical inquiry into the nature of the world. Nevertheless, consider his famous conclusion in his An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:
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 flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
Explain the meaning of the phrase, "as the cause ought only be proportioned to the effect…" Aren't the effects of causes often surprising? How do you think the notion of cause is related to scientific law?
List the analogical respects, pointed out by Philo, between the characteristics of the world and the inferred characteristics of the Deity.
David Hume. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. 1779.