Philosophy Lesson Twelve: Problems With Empiricism

Let’s criticize Empiricists! (it’s not very hard to do)


- The issue of simple and complex ideas
- The issue of skepticism
- The issue of ideas coming from personal experience

Simple and Complex Ideas

Simple ideas are ideas that supposedly can’t be broken down any further… such as crunchy. Crunchy is a description which has no further way to break it down. This theory was developed by a philosopher I’ve mentioned before, named Locke. Hume, another philosopher I’ve mentioned before argues that in order for there to be any conceptual thought, we must first have the sense impression for all of the aspects of our idea.

For example...


In order to understand/think up this photo we need to have a variety of sense impressions. Such as…

1. Color - blue, white, brown, grey, pink, black, red etc.

2. Human beings - We need to know what human beings are.

3. Elderly and youth - We need the sense impression of both elderly humans, and young ones, in order to place things in perspective.

4. Expression - In order to understand the facial expressions being made, we need to understand key concepts such as happiness, sadness etc. and how they relate to our faces.

5. Dimension - In order to understand distance, and relation, we need an understanding of dimension.

6. Texture - In order to be able to understand the feeling of things, we need to understand texture, the texture of the woman’s skirt, the babes skin, the necklace, the glass behind them.


Philosophy Lesson Ten: Humes Mitigated Skeptism

Flashback: Skepticism is a philosophical theory which states knowledge of the world is impossible.


Hume had a different idea, and this is called ‘Hume’s Mitigated Skepticism’. This theory he created stated that knowledge was attainable, but only through the senses. He also admitted to understanding that your senses can make mistakes… Such as mirages, hallucinations, illusions etc. but he intended to highlight the fact that we can count on our senses to provide us with a lot of accountable information.

#Mitigated Sceptic - A moderate Sceptic. He doesn’t take the same stand as global skeptics, but believes that knowledge is attainable from what we, ourselves experience.

Hume also argued that a priori knowledge is a ‘tautology’ because it’s based on analytic proposition and relations of ideas. Something I tend to agree with.

Tautology - A phrase to refer to needless repetition of the same idea, teaching us nothing new about the world.

Hume argued that rules of logic and mathematical equation are a tautology because real knowledge, can only be experienced. This is why Hume refers only to a posteriori ideas. Basically, he’ll believe it when he see’s it. This is why his argument focuses on fact.

Hume give’s three ways in which our senses can betray us. These three arguments are why Hume is an empiricist, and his arguments are defended by the idea that knowledge can only come from our senses.

These arguments are…

- The problem of abstract concept
- The problem of casualty
- The problem of induction

The Problem of Abstract Concept
If everything we know is based off of experience, then how can we create otherworldly beings in our minds? Hume says we create ‘God’ in our minds, drawing from other human beings, he also states that all abstract thoughts are ‘useless’. Hume goes on to say we create god from…

A. Cause and effect…

Who/What --> Us

B. We give ‘the creator’ a mask as ‘God’, and humanize them by giving them a consciousness.

C. Ideas of self/morality create a world where we create an ideal from what we believe about good or bad. This creates not only a self image, but a moral compass. We have an idea of ‘God’ the divine light, and what some choose to call, ‘the Devil’ the darkness of the world.

The Problem of Causality
The problem of causality is the idea that every event has a cause.

For example...

A. You pull the trigger --> the gun shoots --> the bullet hits the pin --> you win the stuffed bear

The chain of events can be anywhere from a simple cause and effect… to a long chain of cause and effect… The chain above can be added onto…

You win the stuffed bear --> You impress the girl --> You get a kiss --> You start a romance --> You end up married

Although this is a grand leap from simply aiming a gun, you ended up married. Chain reactions are going on around you everywhere, even your own existence is simply the result of a chain reaction, dating back to the beginning of time.

Empiricists problem with cause and effect is, not all causes and effects can be witnessed with the eye, this is why it’s part of Hume’s three magic exceptions.

The Problem of Induction
An argument that is true, if all the premises of the statement is true.

For example…

All men are mortal
Socrates was a man
Therefore Socrates is mortal

Most knowledge claims are created from inductive arguments.

Inductive reasoning agrees that the past can be used as a guide for the future, but as long as you can conceive something, there’s no certainty it won’t come true.


Philosophy Lesson Eight: Humes Fork

Hume argues that there are two forms of idea...

This is called Hume’s fork, because it’s the point in idea, where they fork out into two distinct categories…

Matters of Fact Relations of ideas

Matters of Fact
Matters of fact are things you, yourself have directly experienced, and therefore are true. Matters of fact are built from original truth, which becomes a concept that can be mentally conjured at any moment.

Like many aspects of philosophy, matters of fact can be broken down into sub categories…

Contingent: If a fact is contingent, it a general fact, which can be proven wrong under ‘unusual’ circumstance…

Such as…
a. Humans have ten fingers
--> not all humans have ten fingers

#Philosophers refer to contingent ideas, a posteriori.

A Posteriori - Latin
--> Meaning ‘after experience’.

Hume argues that all our claims on existence, come from our posteriori ideas, which he calls ‘matters of fact’.

Relations of Ideas
There are certain ideas that you cannot see in the literal reality, but still are known. These ideas aren’t a posteriori ideas.

Such as… Love, justice, and arrogance for instance.

Another example of this, is common ‘truths’ which cannot be expressed in reality…

Such as… two parallel lines will never meet. We all know this must be true, but we do not have two cosmic infinite parallel lines available to us, to test this theory.

These are called a priori ideas…

A Priori - Latin
An idea that cannot be seen to exist in reality, but is always true due to reason.


Philosophy Lesson Seven: Concept Formation

A concept is the idea of something. It can range from anything as simple as a mental picture of something, to a completely abstract idea, such as beauty, hatred, or loneliness. Complex ideas, and ideas of refection, are called concepts.

For example… In the 16th century, explorers from Europe were voyaging around the world, and seeing animals in places like Africa for the first time. They’d come back to their home lands, with stories, and concept drawings, in order to show people what beasts they’d seen on their voyages. The people who had never seen these beasts would be left with a conceptual idea of what these animals were like.

A child who had never seen a Giraffe’s, when described a Giraffe, would have an idea of what a Giraffe looks like, but until it’s made an impression.

An impression is an experience of anything in the physical world, which you gain from any of your senses.

For example, if you look at a daisy, you are given the impression of a daisy, it’s only until you think about the fact that it’s a daisy, that it becomes a concept.

Hume believed that every idea is always a copy of an original sensation of any one of the senses.
Meaning, our mind stores ideas and applies them together as it wants.

Because of this, we can think about our past, and imagine our future, we can create scenarios out of nothing and imagine aliens, and mythical beasts, and people with impossible talents etc.