Concerning Human Understanding, “Cogito Ergo Sum. ” The human mind is a very intricate instrument. There have been many people that have attempted, and failed, to illuminate how the human mind functions. The pursuit for the solution to this question has led to the development of two schools of philosophy, rationalism and empiricism, dealing specifically with epistemology, or, the origin of knowledge. Two of the most famous philosophers of epistemology are rationalist Rene Descartes and empiricist David Hume. Rationalism is the idea that reason and logic are the foundation of knowledge.
It states that awareness is instinctive, and that it cannot come from sources such as the senses. Rationalists theorize that people are all born with the foundations to acquire truth and knowledge. Empiricism says that all existent knowledge is constructed by experiences. It emphasizes that people are born with no inherent information, and that everything that ensues in the mind is a product of our perceptions. In the first meditation, Rene Descartes makes a conscious resolution to search for, “at least some reason for doubt” with in his consciousness (12).
Descartes discards anything and everything that can be distrusted and quests for something that is indisputably certain. The foundation of his doubt is that his opinions are mainly established by his senses yet, “from time to time I have found that the senses deceive, and it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once” (12). First, Descartes ascertains that inaccuracy of the senses is plausible by appealing to the example of a stick distorted in water as mentioned in the Sixth Replies (64-65).
It looks to be straight however, when it is partially submerged in water it gives the impression of becoming twisted. Secondly, he cultivates a notion that at any particular interval he could be misled by his own mind, such as is the circumstance of realistic dreams. Furthermore, Descartes goes so far as to doubt absolutely everything as he begins to suspect that knowledge could be manipulated by forces outside of one’s control. In Descartes’s mind it was even plausible that, “some malicious demon … has employed all his energies in order to deceive me” (15).
The malevolent demon hypotheses not only triggered Descartes to doubt God, but also propels him “unexpectedly into a deep whirlpool which tumbles me around so that I can neither stand on the bottom or swim on the top” (16). Unable to have confidence in in anything, Descartes had arrived at a juncture where he was required to commence a reconstruct by examining the mind for certainty. By his skeptical analysis of everything in his first meditation, Descartes consequently doubts his own existence. In the second meditation, Descartes is searching for an Archimedean point on which to objectively perceive concepts of certainty.
However, Descartes realized that by doubting his very own existence, he therefore must himself exist. He comes to the conclusion that in his uncertainty he is thoughtful, it is therefore by philosophizing, that Descartes come to identify that he does exist as a thinking thing. Thus, through Cartesian doubt, Descartes has determined that, “If | convinced myself of something then I certainly existed” (17). However, Descartes conclusion is drawn not from an instance of thought, but his existence is accredited as something manifest, by a simple instinct of the mind.
Descartes deduction is then, “I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind” (17). David Hume addressed the same philosophical questions that Descartes theorized about in his works, although Hume hypothesized that all existent knowledge is constructed by experiences. Hume, unlike Descartes, did not experience the requisite of Cartesian doubt. It would be counter intuitive for Hume an empiricist to doubt everything when according to The Origin of Ideas knowledge is built on perceptions.
The theory contends that an idea is a duplication of a mental impression. Hume highlights that when a lively perception of love, hate, or desire is experienced, felt, seen, or heard it constructs a resilient impression. Secondly, Hume highpoints that less lively perceptions, which he names as ideas, are a response to the sensations or actions inspired by the remembrance of the impression. Therefore, in Hume’s approximation, everything in the mind is an empirical generation deriving from a previous experience.
Hume elucidates then that the very nature of thought requires a grounding in those occurrences. Hume anticipated that you could doubt some things, but it was incredible to distrust everything. The following selection is taken from A Treatise of Human Nature where Hume implores various arguments that illustrate human knowledge and the processes of establishing new complex ideas of the external world, “when we analyze our thoughts or ideas, however complex or sublime, we always find they resolve themselves into such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or sentiment” (15).
Hume labels this the Copy Principle. He ascertains that an individual can create thoughts that are only constructed within the arsenal of available impressions, and therefore, there is no variation to the initial impression that originated with the simple ideas. Hume’s philosophical argument better promotes the quest to illuminate how the human mind functions.
Hume is an Empiricist, he argues that the only way we could come to know a causal relationship between independently existing objects and our ideas of them would be to have a sense experience of this relation. This notion is in disagreement with Descartes’s rationalist philosophy models that recognize reason to be the true source of ideas. Descartes ultimately concludes that the senses are not designed to give us knowledge at all, but are rather meant to help us move through the world in a very OF 4 practical way as the senses are capable of deceiving. Hume argues that it is not the faculty of reason that allows a person to understand the origin of knowledge, “what is the nature of that evidence which assures us any real existence and matter of fact, beyond the present testimony of our senses, or the record of our memory’ (16). Hume convincingly disputes that all beliefs about a thing we don’t observe, something beyond the senses or memory, is a source of inference.
Rendering to Hume’s principle all reasoning is incorrectly interpreted as having a connection between an existent fact and a relation that can be drawn from it. Therefore, a reason that is founded on a cause and effect relationship is entirely precarious. Causal inference must be based on experience. Hume refers to this as the “Principle of Uniformity of Nature,” the idea that the future will resemble the past. The rationalist alternative seems mediocre in comparison to Hume’s empiricist concepts of the Copy Principle as it subsequently under estimates Hume’s observational study of man.
Any knowledge, not dependent on the senses, concerning the causal complexes between the Copy Principle and reason having a causal element must take in to account that all causal inferences must be based first on an experience before an inductive argument can be constructed. Furthermore, appeals that are established on the basis of the Uniformity Principle are fallacious; as the premises of the argument cannot be utilized in the conclusion to support or prove the premise. This verifies that reasoning not dependent on experience cannot be the proven as the origin of ideas.