CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of
1.2 Statement of
1.3 Purpose of study
1.4 Significance of study
1.5 Scope and methodology
1.7 Literature Review
CHAPTER TWO: HUME’S LIFE AND THE INTELLECTUAL
INFLUENCES ON HIM
2.1 Hume’s life and works
2.2 Intellectual influences on David Hume
2.3 General overview of empiricist philosophy
CHAPTER THREE: HUME’S EMPIRICISM
3.1 Hume’s theory of empiricism
3.2 Contents of the mind and Association of ideas
3.3 Hume’s concept of causality
3.4 Hume’s attack on metaphysics
CHAPTER FOUR: PROBLEMS
AND CRITIQUE OF HUME’S EMPIRICISM
4.2 The limitations of the senses as a source of
4.2 Wrong conception of reality
4.3 A systematic empiricism leads to idealism
5.1 End notes
One of the never
ending processes in life is the process of knowledge acquisition which to the
lay man may not constitute any problem as regards how it is acquired. But to
philosophers, from time past this has constituted serious debacles. However, in
philosophy, it has become the special concern of epistemology one of it’s
branches to analyze how knowledge is acquired.
rationalism and empiricism as its most outstanding schools. These two schools
in analyzing how knowledge is acquired have come to be the opposite of each
other, because while rationalism hold that knowledge comes through
reason,empiricism on the other hand holds that it comes through
sense-experience. In this long history of philosophy, however, David Hume has
remained the most consistent empiricist and for some reasons, we deemed it
necessary to make the aim of this work be the critical analysis of David Hume’s
theory of empiricism so that in the end we would have demonstrated whether it
exhausts all possible knowledge of reality or not.
Now our problem
is what must have led to Hume’s radical position that sense-experience is the
only possible guide to the acquisition of knowledge that is certain? We
however, discover that it is not unconnected to the fact that the search for
knowledge that is certain, which Aristotle shifted to concrete objects through
experimentation and which also cut through the time of John Locke and George
Berkeley who laid emphasis on perception, influenced Hume to a great extent.
Therefore by building on the philosophy of Locke and Berkeley which emphasized
sense perception, Hume came to develop his radical position about sense
experience as the limit of human knowledge.
In this, Hume
categorized the objects of human reason into relations of ideas and matters of
facts and he concentrated on the latter which he argued can only be ascertained
through sense-experience. He went further to hold that these sense-experiences
are acquired as impressions that is at the time of direct contact with an
object, and later as ideas when the mind reflects on the impressions.
discovers that impressions are however Humes only guarantee for measuring
reality, even the ideas in the mind he argued must conform to these impressions
so as to be considered as guaranteeing knowledge as real. In short, for
something to be considered as real, it must generate impression.
causality can not be real because in reality, only what we experience are the
proceeding and succeeding events separately and not any causal relation between
the two events. All other metaphysical concepts are not real because they do
not generate impressions and therefore cannot be experienced. To demonstrate
his utter rejection of metaphysics, Hume campaigned for the burning of every
book that contains metaphysics.
In spite of all
these, Hume’s rejection of metaphysics was an unsuccessful exercise because
Hume used the method of knowledge acquisition through sensation which does not
apply to metaphysics.
Then come our
wonder, why should sense-experience be the only standard of the measurement of
reality for Hume? Are the senses not fallible? Of course, they are. Hardly do
two people perceive on thing the same way, what of illusions and
hallucinations, all these demonstrates that the senses furnish us most times
with appearances and not reality. It therefore amounts to wrong conception of
reality as guaranteeing reality.
What the sense
furnish us with has to be moderated by human reason before they are considered,
qualified as certain knowledge.