Lean heavily on our e-Resources and my Week 2 and 3 overviews. Don’t go too far afield outside. If you do use anything outside, be sure to give proper citations. Please respond to only one of the following. Compose your original posts carefully before posting, paying careful attention to grammar, organization and clarity of expression.
1. Using our e-Resources from this week and last, select one key difference between Descartes’ view and Hume’s and clearly explain it. Include a focus on each of the relevant parts of each view.
2. Descartes argues ultimately that skepticism can be defeated. Hume, on the other hand, is a classic skeptic. Whose view resonates with you more and why?
3. Berkeley is a wild guy! He’s an empiricist and an idealist, who holds that we can have knowledge from experience. It’s just that we have no experiential basis for knowing anything about material objects. All we ever experience are ideas and spirits and we have knowledge of these only. Choose and explain your choice:
(a) I’m more of a skeptic like Hume.
(b) I’m more of an idealist like Berkeley.
Week 6 Overview
This week we meet two of Descartes’ most illustrious and powerful rivals. Hume and Berkeley hold quite different views from Descartes and from one another. I’m going to throw in some jargon here, just to give a bit of a framework. Descartes, as we’ve seen, is known as a “dualist”. There are many ways to be a dualist. But for our purposes let’s focus just on the dualism represented by Descartes. He holds that there are two basic kinds of things in the world: minds and material objects (physical things). And he arrives at this metaphysical position by way of a long argument for the existence of God. So, his metaphysics includes, essentially, God. In the end Descartes defeats skepticism by arguing that since God exists and is not a deceiver, the world and other minds exist, in accordance with our beliefs that they do. Descartes’ metaphysics is a full one, with lots of things and his epistemology a robust one, since we do have knowledge about those things.
Recall, that his method of doubt is his ingenious way to attempt to establish a new foundation for beliefs and knowledge, one that has withstood the challenges of the dream argument and the evil genius argument. Once he establishes the Cogito as the cornerstone for his new foundation, he’s on his way. He produces a rather complicated and complex extended argument that, because we can know God exists, we know the external world does also. And so most of our beliefs get their epistemological credentials as true.
Enter David Hume. He is a classic skeptic who argues hard for the view that there is no way out of the position that we cannot have any knowledge of a physical world with matter and minds. He takes issue with many of Descartes foundational views, in a number of great treatises presenting his own alternative philosophy. For Hume, as the phrase goes, “to be is to be perceived”. All we really have are our impressions of the world, and ideas formed from those impressions. I have the impressions of roundness and of red, and from each of these the ideas of roundness and of red. Then compounding these ideas I have the idea of a red ball. All of the ideas we have are traceable to our impressions, which come directly to us through the senses. What lies outside of these impressions? We can never know this, since we cannot, as it were, get behind these impressions to see what the things are like. Consider the idea of a tree. It is formed from impressions of a tree. We think that there is a material tree out there causing our impressions and ideas. But we can never test this. We cannot know what the *real* tree is like. And so, regarding beliefs about everything outside of our sensations, those of the external world, those about God and even those about other minds, we cannot be certain. Hume does not buy Descartes attempt to defeat skepticism. He is a most brilliant skeptic!
And this brings us to Berkeley. In our short video, he is represented by the character “Philonus”. Berkeley is one far out dude! He is known as an idealist. But keep in mind that he is not a skeptic. Think of the tree example again. For Berkeley, the problem of whether our ideas square with what is outside, with external objects/matter isn’t really a problem. For him, there are no external objects. Berkeley says that they are merely convenient fictions. We have our ideas and our minds, and God and God’s intelligence, in Berkeley’s metaphysics. And that’s everything. He avoids skepticism by dissolving the problem. And, again, he does so brilliantly.
The real way to get to know these thinkers is to read their texts. If you want to continue your philosophical research on any of these thinkers, or on any others in our class, please let me know and I would be happy to provide suggestions for books to read. Meanwhile dig in and enjoy! Take some time with our e-Resources. Ask questions!! Have fun!!