« Philosophize This!

Episode #051 ... David Hume pt. 1

2015-02-25 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we talk about David Hume! First, we learn about Hume’s ‘is’ versus ‘ought’ distinction and how not being mindful of this pitfall can lead us down a dangerous path. Next, we discuss the limitations of science and learn what Hume thought should fill in the gaps it leaves (spoiler alert: it’s not religion). Finally, we discuss Hume’s thoughts on causality and ensure that you’ll never think about playing pool the same way again. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
For more information about this, or any episode of the podcast check out the website at philosophize, this dot We have additional content further reading transfer so, every show all pre. Of course, but if you value this shows an educational resourcing, you wanna help keep it going. You can not more about how to do that at patriarch, dot com, slash philosophize this or alternatively you're buying think from Amazon this week anyway. Consider clicking our banner. It's at the bottom centre of the landing page philosophize, this dot. Org Small percentage goes back to the show. It may just be a click for you, but every little bit adds up he for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday, and I hope you have a show hello everyone. I apologize for the late episode this week have been really sick. I ve never been sick for this long before I really like this new direction, I'm heading I'm starting to feel better. I'd like to apologise for my voice not being is big and beautiful. This week's episode, but I did my guys- have to wait
any longer, and you already have- and I tried my best hope because of the shooting. So as you are all well aware, the last several episodes of the show of consistent me: rambling, on about some island, write something about a shipwreck. Somehow stranded on the island for some reason we can't get off the island need to play, make believe all day. Imagine all that. Different ways are island. Society would look if we just applied ideas present in various thinkers. During the age of enlightenment, we considered the good ideas, the bad ideas and and for six seasons of your life. I've been alluding to some clear, tell me about polar bears and smoke monster and telling you it's all gonna come together in the end, this way for the finale, that's all gonna make sense. Will now it's the finale and I'm giving you nothing look all kidding aside. I realized something this week, you guys there's no clear end to this extended island metal. For that we ve been using on the show. It's not like all you just talk about some Adam Smith, and you talk about a little John
Jacques Rousseau a sudden. You know everything there is to know about how to build a society from scratch. No answer probably well aware political and economic thought doesn't just abruptly end during the age of enlightenment keeps progressing, and unless this podcast He's gonna be one where we just ignore any philosophy that doesn't concern itself with nation building which we're not going to them run into a very real predicament here. He's gonna have to be a point in time when we decide to step away from the island temporarily, it's gonna have to be a time that we talk about all the boy through that were going on in other areas of philosophy. During this time, metaphysics, pissed, apology, philosophy of mine ethics, I mean I guess what I'm saying is this island is gonna have to be something that we keep referring back to it's. Gonna have to be a mainstay and philosophize this and, as is added listeners of the show, you all know about it. The people turning and for the first time will be completely confused, but it'll be great
we'll talk for awhile about our place as a member of the society on the island, and it will take a break from them. About ourselves. In terms of being say, an individual or in terms of being a thinking thing at all, then after we do that we can return back to the island and continue thinking of ourselves in terms being one cog in this tremendous machine that we call society so David Heel. I feel it necessary for me to say before we start, the David Hume is one of my favorite philosophers of all time does not cause. I agree with everything he has to say necessarily just because of how timeless his brilliance, it's like whenever philosopher
is that what you know an ambitious treaty slang on all sorts of new ideas. Once history gets done with it, it almost becomes like, like the carcass of a dead animal, lay on the ground, because every philosopher the comes after them. Every commentator comes up to it and they just take the little piece out of it right there like hyenas. They write their responses to the treaties. They oftentimes make good points of the original guy can't respond to because but he's dead and eventually gets pick that so much that it starts to resemble one of those dead animals at vultures. Picked clean in the middle of the desert, David Hume's work is surprisingly different, though you know, are
and talk favourably about movies that stand the test of time. What we're talking about when we refer to these movies is the idea that, even after twenty thirty forty years, this movie endures at something that holds people's interest. So as we continue for the next few episodes talking about the philosophy of David Hume, just remember that his ideas stand the test of time not for twenty or thirty years, but for two hundred and four, the years, this keep that in mind as we go along. So there are very few issues out there that are as interest to contemporary discussions of ethics and the one we're about to talk about, and it's funny costs in the context of David Humes work. It really was a small point, maybe even a throwaway point to him What are these things? That's going on around you all the time, but you never really notice it, and then what to hear David home say it. You start to see everywhere around you start to see, when people make weak arguments all the time and what I am referring to is David Hume's problem of is versus. Ought let me explain what I mean with an example
so if you ever walked into a seven eleven in will you get your gate arrayed in your funds, and you walk to the counter, and you start talking to the guy- that's workin there, maybe the guy behind the counters, particularly sociable. Maybe you bring up something from the news, maybe ask him: his opinion may be guys get talkin about the state of affairs in the world, maybe the guy behind that. Besides, that he's gonna tell you all about his own personal philosophy that he lives by day after day, for example, what if this guy said, look at the world field with violence and destruction? Just look at the perpetual state of war that were in just look at the the genocide, that's committed on a regular basis. Look at all the terrorist attacks that go on What does this guy? Behind the counter said? It's obvious to him that the reason people are doing all these terrible things is because they just didn't. Have parents are friends that love them enough when there were kit so because of that, his personal philosophy is to live each day spreading as much love as you can.
Giving as much love as it can to each person comes to his seven eleven. Getting there there d, readers and mountain. Do what would you say to that? What's dissect this a little bit one? Is this guy doing at the core of a state Well, I'm one hand by whichever question his statement at all I mean wow, what a great guy he just wants to spread as much love as possible that everybody he can until he kicks the bucket one day. How could you hate that? But on the perhaps what he's doing here, is taking some observation that he's made about the hey that the world is and then Only that observation as a basis he's making a blind inference about how he ought to be acting because of it. Now many of you are probably saying well, who cares I mean come on, give a guy a break. It's not hurting anybody. He just wants to love people That's true and in this example, there's probably no harm. That's ever gonna come from him making this sort of assertion, but data
he looked around him during his time period, and he noticed that people make these sorts of inferences all the time and is sweet and innocent, as is one example of it, is David, whom would say that when you honestly take a look at it honestly, it's really based on absolutely nothing and people use this sort of mistake all the time, the justified doing terrible things. For example, I look out into the field. I see that there are people out there working manual labour that were completely different from me. They are far more visit. We capable than I am, and when I go up to them and talk to them about math and science or any intellectual things, they can hold a conversation with me. Therefore, they ought to be He might channel slaves. Here's another example: women are born with the inherent ability to grow a human being and sight of them. They their great nurturers there very emotionally intelligent
therefore they ought to just spend their entire lives pumping out kids, because things like a business in politics, probably don't interest and that much DC how this can go downhill and people work just drawing ethical conclusions. From these observations during David Humes time. You know they worked just using this to justify loving people, were to justify the role someone to be playing in society because of it we're doing this all over the place that chemistry, medicine. This faulty argument had been used in practically every field of inquiry and David, whom saw this very clearly people, or even doing it, to make inferences about nature itself like they would point to some way that the universe currently is and make a judgement about how it ought to be from that observation? Same logic applies just because the world is some way right now, like does that mean that if the universe decide
send an asteroid our way and destroy the earth that we should be mad at the universe. Now, that's ridiculous. Does a famous line from David Hymns work of the will and the direct passions races quote? Tis, not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger, Not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin to prevent them least uneasiness of an indian or person wholly unknown. To me, end quote: now: let's keep him. I'm a David aims, get net he's not saying we shouldn't care at all about the destruction of the world, he's attacking a dishonest inference of people sometimes make by looking at the way that the world is and then pretending that the way things ought to be naturally follows from it. People do this all the time and, like a sudden
for just keep your eyes open around you'll, see just how often people talk about. You know how they ought to be behaving and they found it in a statement about what the world is now again like in the case of the guy from seven eleven. There may be good conclusions that come from this mistaken thick, nobody's disputing that, but David. He wants us to acknowledge that they are in no way true beyond any criticism and we owe it to ourselves to be mindful when we make this is ought judgment If you're still wondering why this matters to you, if you're still wondering how this is, a distinction is relevant to discussions that we have with each other in modern times, just consider for a second that in today's world right now at this very moment there is an entire community. People dedicated to the task of acquiring a progressively more and more accurate view of what the universe is. This community is very well funded, we're all very familiar with this community because it substantially improve the lives of people over the course of the last couple hundred,
yeah I mean children go to school for decades, dreaming of one day becoming a member of this community. You may I heard of this community before come sites through unbiased falsified will expire, attempting to arrive at empirical evidence. Science aims to understand what is so any further station. You could make their like no scientists about how things work or now, sciences about causes and relationships in the net the world, although these distinctions are ultimately just science fully her standing, what the universe is now, if you look at that fact, through the lens of humor, is, ought distinction that leaves sites with certain limitations that we just have to accept But when you say that word limitations, typically as humans, we have a negative connotations that comes with it right to talk about the limitations of something is to put the thing on blast as the kid say right, but just think about ridiculous. That is everything as limitations.
Something didn't have limitations. You wouldn't be able to distinguish it from anything else. It's the limitation. Of something that give it meaning at all. So what are these limitations and I'm talkin about well there's tons of philosophy dedicate this we're gonna be talking about it in time on the show, but how about this first start no matter how extensive science gets, even if science understood nearly everything was to know about what the universe is. It can never tell us what we ought to do with all of this, highly valuable information that has given us. Now. Whenever you talk about the limitations of science, I've, I've noticed that oftentimes your met, but this bizarre hostility from people who are proponents of science and they're nice people with good intentions book. Ask yourself something: where does that hostility really come from? Personally, I think it comes because of the time period we live,
I think it's a defence mechanism because of the culture that we live, and I have said on the show multiple times before, but I think people are born into the world today and they think that they have a choice between two things you can believe in monotheistic religions. You know that the answer to any question you can ever possibly raises written down in this book. The codified word of the creator of the universe, or you can believe in science, but the problem with that is it science never clean to do everything that religion claim to do. In fact, I think that one of the biggest flaws religion it was so ambitious and what questions it claimed to have answers to. Why is it fair to project that expectation on the cites? Look if science was a person if you could walk up to science, their hand and say hey. I really like the work you're doing. I love these experiments at your conducting their given me a much more accurate, rich in full sense of this increase.
Annabelle place that I live in called the universe. But if I had one criticism for you, if I had one bound to pick, I give you four out of five stars on Itunes, because although you're doing such a great job when it comes to telling me about what the universe is. Well, you never tell me what I ought to do once I have all this information. What's that all about, if you told this to science, she would look at you and say I know, look man. I never claimed to be the moral arbiter of the cosmos, I'm good at giving you the information. What you do with that information is not what I'm concerned with in fact to be concerned with it might affect my a bit to perform unbiased science, wouldn't it science is fantastic at doing certain things. It's fantastic at telling us about what the universe is. It's the best thing we got so far. But any inference you make about how we should act in light of that information or how the universe ought to be. Because of that information is exactly that a human inference. We should understand it as that and know that.
Check the flaws. This is actually an argument in favour of sight, Understood- indeed the limitations of science helps us do better science. This is why all over the years have taken their scrutiny of science so seriously, science is like the baby of truth seekers. You know it's wrapped up been a pink blanket, and sometimes you gotta change the diaper that baby or it starts to cry. Oh man, I'm terrible alright. So this begs the question: if the limitations of science precludes it from ever telling us about ethics, what should fill in that gap? I mean we still need to make ethical considerations right. Well, it seems very clear that David Hume thought it was philosophy's job to fill that void and he has, in my opinion, a highly highly underrated work on, I think we'll probably be spending an entire episode on it. But I guess the important point here is that David Hume didn't think that this responsibility fell onto the shoulders of religion. He was a huge critic of the religion of his time. Primarily, Christianity
is a very famous and illuminating quote. He says, generally speaking, the errors and religion are dangerous. Those in philosophy are only ridiculous end quote what it means when he says this. Is that because of the nature of religion, because of the way that it set up instruction, when you have fifteen hundred pages of of critically worded sentences, that claim to be the inherent moral doctrine for humans to follow it, it comes with certain consequences. Right, like people can take two sentences here and arrive at a beautiful conclusion about high, should treat your fellow people with of compassion and love, they neighbour, as you love thyself, but then the other side of that coin is that people can take these two sentences over here and use them to justify the spanish inquisition. What he's talking
But is it when theologians or religions make a mistake in the realm of ethics? It can get very dangerous very quickly, but when a philosopher arrives at around conclusion, while he just gets proven wrong, the next generation of people laugh at him a couple centuries later much less at stake there, so there's not much congruity with this episode. I apologise for that, but I want to spend the rest of this episode talking about one of these criticisms that Hume had of the religion of his time. That was so one settling the echoes are still ringing to this day in the canyon, metaphorically speaking, no theologians, no philosopher, has ever adequately addressed his criticisms that he was about to lay out and now a hope. Some bread philosophy exists because of it. So we ve all heard someone be asked whether they believe in God right if their answers, yes, there commonly asked why they believe in God. One common answer to this question is some very into the statement, and I look around me. I see what
this and I just can't imagine all this spring into existence out of nothing I think about before the universe existed. These people say that nothing was there and then Pope magically something was how do you explain that he will count for that? Something can come from nothing: zero, plus zero, doesn't equal one and equal Ciera, Something must have brought all of this into existence. Initially, my whenever someone makes this argument there doing it from a place where there making several assumptions most notably very easy assumption to make about causality. We know exactly where they come from. We ve talked about it on the show. Before I needed a cause to come into existence, you needed a cost to come into existence. My parents and your parents needed a cause to come into existence. Every rock tree squirrel, most every blade of grass even Oprah, needed a cost, into existence in you can follow this causal chain that we talked about all the way. Back to the very beginning, you can say that well
everything inside the universe needs a cause. Why should the universe itself, not, by the same rules shouldn't it need a cause as well, while both parties, Acquaintance and Aristotle had a similar line of reasoning, Aristotle talking about a prime mover behind it all Why is everything in the universe movement if nothing ever moved it too? again with the matter, would just be standing still right to who moved it. It must be the initial unmoved move. Its using the same argument that people say while it must have been some unclosed cause at the oars the universe that started it all off his name. Is God and boy? Do you have a lot of explaining to do before us understand what David Humus even arguing about here. We have to understand the way philosophers have largely been thinking about the cause of the universe for two thousand years before he lived. We find this and Aristotle right. So, as we know when Aristotle too,
about the cause of something he wasn't using. That word in the same way that we use it in today's world whenever he talked about the cause of something he was talking about, four different causes that explain any one thing: the material cause or what the things made of the formal cause or the form or internal makeup other thing: the efficient cause or the initiator of the thing and the the final cost, the goal or the function of that thing, but when Aristotle arrived at, this method need went out the nature and looked at the things around him. He realized something whenever something comes from nature. Three of those four causes are ways pretty much the same thing all of them, but the material cost. The formal, efficient and final causes are always the same. For example, take one of those white whispered seeds, seeds of a dandelion floating through the air on a summer's day day right, dandy line it's from nature, so it should abide by this rule right. Let's check it out, what is the official,
cause or the initiator of the dandy line seed. Oh, it was a dandelion okay. What is the formal cause or the internal makeup of that seed? Well, within that seed lies the potentiality to eventually become the form of a dandelion all right. What is the final cause or the function of that s to become a dandelion people over the years, looked around them in nature and they tried this further examples in they eventually believed in the rules so much that they started using it to work backwards. You know, maybe it was built for a long time that if something came from nature, if you knew the formal cause of that thing, you could assume that the efficient and the final causes were the same to know. Something in this line of reasoning is to know the formal cause of something because by knowing the formal cause, we can infer the efficient costs, in other words, by knowing the effect of something in the natural world we can in
The cause of that effect. What this was fine when it came to most things, but as we enter the age of enlightenment, we're heading into an entirely different world. This is the age of newtonian physics. Right times are changing, two Aristotle's argument about the unmoved mover. That's only as this area of the primary state of matter is to be stationary, but an Newton's physics, it was to be in motion Aristotle's idea of things having for causes. The only cause in this new Tonia world is comparable to the efficient causes. Aristotle, though not identical, much closer to the way we use the word cause in modern times, so David he's living in this world makes it abundantly clear through his work that he's looking at the universe in terms of Newton's worldview, as opposed to Aristotle. He said Pope all causes are of the same kind, that in particular, there
no foundation for that distinction, which we sometimes make betwixt efficient, causes informal and material and final causes and quote so. This whole period is just not a hotbed for advancement in philosophy, advancements in the natural sciences, and it's only fitting that David would apply the same sort of skeptical eye to this common assumption that people were making that we can look at the effect that we see in the natural world. And assume certain things about the causes that affect this assumption, that they were making rent deep, even when comes to the most seemingly obvious cause, as you can imagine David, whom uses billiard balls as an example. Let's say you had pool ball, one sitting on one side of a pool table and a second ball. Let's call it pool ball two on the other side of the pool table you hit, pool ball one across the table. It hits the second one and pool ball too was launched forward. Will David Hymns, as it seems really obvious to us that pool ball? one caused pool ball due to be launched forward, and it's very human offices.
Were born into a world with all kinds of different stuck to swirling around us all the time. How can we ever make sense of it all, while the way we make sense of it? The way we make? What otherwise would be a chaotic me of unrelated phenomena happening all around us? The way we make it into an ordered universe? It we can comprehend is by looking for causal connections between things. We see the pool hit the other pool ball, and we assume that the first pause, the other one move right. We we see. A squirrel, jump out of the tree latch onto our face and start ravaging our forehead and our eyes and We assume that the squirrel cause that damage to our face, not scratch outlets, stick with the poor boss,
but he would say is that when you really think really think about the relationship between the poor balls, honestly, you realize you realize that causality is not something you can see. Sure you may say that the movement of Poor, while one causes the movement of poor ball to, but in reality all you know for certain is that the movement of poor ball to followed the movement of poor by one big difference. When you can't look in between the two balls when they hate each other and see the causal connection between of me, how could you know there's not some spark of white that goes off between them is something, and you can say right now. What who cares? One obviously followed the other, let's just assume that they cost each other right. Whom would say? Well, if you do that, you can never know for certain, for example, day always follows night night always follows day, but do the to cause each other now so following each other, isn't enough right, so we end up with a problem on one hand, we have this idea.
Cause, it's an extremely important thing to us, and we want to hang onto it, because it's truly one of the only ways we can make sense of the world around us, but then, on the other hand, it cannot really be. Our data beyond a shadow of a doubt by experience a reason, in other words it, probably not the most solid idea to look at in effect in the world and say that we can assume any number things about the cause of that effect, but nevertheless, when people argue for the existence of God is a creator of the universe using the causal are argue. This is exactly what they're doing David, who makes a lot of arguments against this way of thinking, the first and most obvious of which is that there's no reason to assume that the universe had a beginning at all and that just because it doesn't make sense to you that something can come from nothing.
How arrogant and lazy view the project, your own humanity, onto the universe as a whole, not demented most of the people making. This argument have no problem conceiving of an uncommon being that exists eternally right. It seems just as difficult to fathom the idea of it being never die, but anyway, there are more interesting arguments by David Hum when he's arguing against the cosmological argument quickly. Let's just go over what that is again, the basis for the cause of a logical argument is that something must have created. The universe will call that creative mechanism- God and this God must have certain qualities. It needs to be a nonphysical because it if it was physical, will give this break it in half right. If it possessed the quality of extension, you could break it into reliant parts, and you could just ask well what created those parts be? God needs to be eternal again. This God needs to be outside the bounds of time and space
just ass. Well, what happened one day before God was created, God can't be confined by time. Right see, God needs to be on cost or necessary because to be caused raises the question who cause got so again operating from the premise of the universe had do have been created. Philosophers through the middle ages were deducing. What qualities this thing that created the universe must have needs to be non physical, eternal, necessary on cost and then from here they started tack and on all sorts of other things to God. My God is infinite, got his wise, then, from their it's that short jump to applying human characteristics. Two guiding, oh god, is good. God is just and from there it's not too far from saying that this is the God of the old testament, which is what they were going for the whole time. What are people doing when they make these assumptions about what the cause of the universe must be, and they found it in an observation about what the universe is, what they're doing
they're looking at an effect in the natural world, the universe and they are assuming things about the cause of that effects that this God must exist and that he has these qualities. But when people are thinking like this back and David Hume's time, it was grounded in Aristotle's for causes by knowing the formal cause of the universe. We can assume certain things about the efficient cause of the universe, so, in other words like causes produce like effects but David, whom argues that, even if we grant that we can make inferences about the cause of an effect by only looking at the and even if we realize how incredibly tumultuous that whole process is, we got to be really certain that we don't overstay are welcome. Here I mean, after all, if light causes produce like effects, then aren't we still assuming a lot about what God has to be? In that example, for example, he would say you know: a basketball hoop is a finite creation. It was created by a finite creator
after all, like causes produce like affects right, both the God of the Cosmos argument exists, then the universe is finite. There has to be a place where guy? the ends and the universe begins so shouldn't. We assume that the cause of that effect is finite as well shouldn't. We assume that God is finite. You could do this with most qualities people assigned to the creator of the universe, The point is: there's a big difference between saying that something created the universe and saying that that thing is also infinite, wise good. Any adjective you want to tack on to it that it loves you that it knows you by your first name, that it wrote a book of rules for you to follow that it wants you to get that job that you just applied for yeah Listen to the shave heard this before, but David. He once again brilliantly shows in another area of human thought that if you're, not careful just how many assumptions you can make that are completely uncle
about an issue this important. He gives an example like this. Let's say that I went to Mcdonald's right and I sat down and I hamburger? I can assume certain things about the creator of that hamburger right. I can assume certain things about the cause of that effect I can assume that they are really good at making hamburgers. I can assume that their being paid to make that hamburger, but I can't assume some things right. I can't assume
Things like this person made this hamburger with me in mind, or this person has red hair, or this person is a fan of disco music that made this hamburger. All those things would be completely unqualified assumptions that it's my job to validate the problem here, obviously, is that in the case of the Mcdonald's work, I can just go back and shake the guy's hand get to know in the case of the creator of the universe, while he's kind of plan hard to get a good place to in the show. Today is this: in David Humes Eyes, we were making a myriad of assumptions about the origins of the universe. Maybe the universe is eternal, maybe it it spontaneously arose by chance. Maybe it didn't need a cost, but either way. His larger point here is that we owe it to ourselves to think critically about this and not protect our own humanity under the universe,
whether you're, religious or not. You believed that a lot of people throughout human history have gotten the answer to this question wrong because they were willing to hastily assumed things right. It may seem intuitive that something can come from nothing because we look around us and we see evidence of that and everything that exists in this macro level of existence we operate in, but then again our flawed human minds. Your mind that one day just arrived at this confident opinion about how it doesn't make sense that something can come from nothing case closed. Our imperfect human minds may not be the most qualified things to mix suppositions about the causality of the universe. We may need to be willing to accept that. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.