David Hume is an important figure from the 18th century’s Scottish Enlightenment. He is especially known for his sceptic and causation theory. Hume rejects metaphysics and like Locke he is in favour of the empirical method, that we gain knowledge through experience and observation. Hume developed Locke’s cautious empiricism, by applying observation of human nature. He rejects philosophers such as Descartes, that the mind contains innate ideas.
Ideas and Impressions
His first philosophical work was ‘The Treatise of Human Nature’ published around 1739. The text is divided into three books. The first book deals with ‘impressions’ and ‘ideas’. Impressions are the direct products of immediate experience and ideas are faint images and copies of these impressions. From experience we know that a pen would fall to the ground if we let go of it. The cause and effect relationship is founded on absoluteness of natural laws that we have experienced. In book one there is also a section called ‘Of Abstract Ideas,’ Hume agrees with Berkley’s doctrine that abstract ideas are individual and that they may become general in their representation. This is known as a modern form of nominalism.
The logical objection is when we find resemblance among several objects, and apply the same name to all of them. The psychological objection is the theory that ideas are copies of impressions. For example if you have seen a man who is 6 feet tall, your image of him may not be exact and we might create an image of him where he is a few inches smaller, this is the issue of vagueness. Hume says that what is actually represented isn’t what is psychologically true. Hume banished the conception of substance from philosophy like Berkeley had. We have no impression of self and therefore no idea of self.
The most important part of the Treatise is the section called ‘Of Knowledge and Probability.’ Hume was concerned about uncertain knowledge; this includes knowledge about the future.
Hume distinguished seven kinds of philosophical relation:
Relations of time and space
Proportion in quality and number
Degrees in any quality
These philosophical relations are divided into two kinds, ones that depend only on ideas and those that can be changed without any change of ideas. There are three relations that depend not only on idea, these are identity, relations of space and time and causation.
Hume observes the link between two objects, the power that one object produces another is not discoverable from the idea. Therefore we only gain this knowledge through experience not from reasoning. The purpose of science is that we find patterns of apparent causality. Hume explains that humans do not know the necessary connection between objects and do not know the relationship between cause and effect. This quite simply is the ‘Problem of Causation’ that until we know 'what exists' and the 'necessary connections' between these things that exist, then it is impossible for humanity to have certainty of knowledge. This is known as Hume’s law which is summed up in the phrase, you cannot derive an ‘ought from an ‘is’.
Hume’s scepticism rests entirely on his rejection of the principle of induction. You cannot be certain that ‘a’ causes ‘b’. Hume’s arguments prove that induction is an independent logical principle, incapable of being indirect from experience, without this principle science is impossible.
In Hume’s Enquiry he looks at the idea of miracles. According to Hume a miracle is a violation to the laws of nature. When a pen drops to the ground we can assume this will happen again because of past experiences and the laws of nature. The evidence for a miracle is known to Hume as a testimony. 'No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood be more miraculous,’ we base our beliefs on evidence therefore Hume argues we cannot believe in miracles if we haven’t experienced them.
Joseph Addison 1672 –1719
Addison was an English essay writer, poet and politician. He is one of the first known Journalists. Before Addison, published writings usually had a religious or scientific motif behind them, whereas Addison purely wrote for entertainment. He founded and edited The Spectator with Richard Steel in 1711. The Spectator focused on political changes of the country. He wrote the creative piece of journalism ‘The Adventures of a Shilling.’ He writes about a shilling that is passed on through time between different people. It is an example of how the country experiences political changes.
Addison also created the character Sir Andrew Freeport, he links to empiricism. The people that he describes in the book are motivated by pleasure and pain, the senses. Addison’s work introduced humor into writing; this had not yet been allowed in the Puritan regime.