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In this paper, I am going to compare and contrast Hume's empiricism to Descartes' rationalism. Hume claims that a valid knowledge can be attained through the senses or what he calls 'impression'.

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Ikechukwu Ekedede Final Paper: Question #2 Date: May 27, 2003 In this paper, I am going to compare and contrast Hume's empiricism to Descartes' rationalism. Hume claims that a valid knowledge can be attained through the senses or what he calls 'impression'. However, Descartes affirms that a valid knowledge can be gained through the mind. Descartes says that ideas could be innate, adventitious or self-produced. On the other hand, Hume upholds that ideas are copies of impression or experience. Although Hume and Descartes have different opposing argument about the origin of ideas and how they could be obtained, both have some strengths and weaknesses. I prefer Hume's arguments to Descartes' because, there is no way we could know about an object without haven't encountered it before. Empiricism is the view that experience, especially that of the senses is the only source of knowledge. In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume divides philosophy into two groups. One considers man in the light of his manners. It cultivates the active nature of human beings. The other group considers human beings in the light of their reasonableness. This group endeavors to make humans understand more, rather than cultivate their manners. I think Hume considers the philosophy that cultivates human manners to the one that cultivates human thinking because, he believes that "man is sociable, no less than a reasonable being" (Hume,3). ...read more.


"The causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason, but experience ..." (Hume, 17). Any idea we have is a copy of impression. Hume argues that our idea of God is derived from impressions. Not the experiencing of God, but it is "derived from reflection on the "the operation of our own minds and be copied from any internal impression"(Hume,42). Here Hume would be opposed to Descartes argument that because our reason conceives God, He necessarily exists. Hume suggests that our idea of God comes from our ideas of love, justices, goodness, wisdom etc... These ideas are augmented without limit to form the idea of God. Rationalism is the theory that the use of reason, rather than experience or spiritual revelation provides the primary basis for knowledge. Descartes skepticism about the reliance of the senses as the means to a true knowledge stems from the fact that the senses sometimes deceive us. This poses to be a problem because; if the senses deceive us, it suggests that we don't have a clue as to whether we are sleeping or dreaming. As to this end, Descartes discards all knowledge he gains through the senses and endeavors to find true knowledge by exercising his mind. Our ideas of things could be innate, self -produced or it could be caused by external forces (God). Descartes discuses about how the idea of God could not be self-produced because a finite being cannot produce the idea of an infinite being (God) ...read more.


Animals acquire knowledge through habit and instincts. A sheep runs away from a lion, not because of its ability to exercise reason, but through experience or natural instinct which tells it that lion is a predator. I agree with Hume that we come to understand things by encountering and experiencing them. It is quite impossible for one to see an object and with the help of his or her mind be able to know what the object is made up of. As an empiricist, Hume does not understand how the mind on its own can be able to know things without having experienced or seen it previously. He believes that there are no connections that we know for certain between things in the world, which guarantees our conjecture about the future. Hume also says that human beings have no rational basis for believing in material things. As Hume puts it, "when we look about us towards external objects, and consider the operation of causes, we are never able, in a single instance, to discover any power or necessary connexion"(Hume, 41). He gives an example that "suppose a person, though endowed with the strongest faculties of reason and reflection, to be brought on a sudden into this world; he would, indeed, immediately observe a continual succession of objects, and one event following another; but he would not be able to discover any thing farther" (Hume, 18). One can not know for certain what is going to happen next or know some thing, just by exercising his mind on present object as Descartes proclaims. ...read more.

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