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 Five: Sensory Impressions

We cannot have any ideas without first having impressions.
-David Hume (1748)

Let’s start by looking at this apple.


When we look at this apple, a variety of ideas come to our mind, even if we don’t notice them at all. Our subconscious links this computer image to numerous ideas in moments. Such as…

- The apple is red
- The apple is shiny
- The apple is smooth
- The apple is crunchy
- The apple is sweet
- The apple is round
- The apple has a leaf
- The leaf is green

With the ability of being able to simply visualize this apple, we have almost created an apple in our internal minds. The apple is everything, except physical.

If someone had never seen an apple, or the color red, it would be quite literally impossible for them to imagine such a thing. Because, how does one describe a color? a taste? an odor? I have never eaten meat, I know the smell of meat though, and from that I can try to understand what the texture might be like, and the blend of the spices covering it, but I still, don’t know what meat tastes like.

This can be related to anything in existence, if you haven’t seen it, or have sense impressions that you can draw from and create ideas from, you can’t imagine it. How can we imagine ANYTHING we’ve never seen then? We can all picture a unicorn, we can all picture aliens, and different kinds of fictitious creatures, we can create worlds, and machines. Although, these ideas aren’t alive in our reality, they are all directly linked to different things in our world... just rearranged. Locke and Hume argue that all ideas spawn from reality. Nothing we could ever conceive or imagine could ever actually be original.


How can we explain our emotions and our feelings away?


Loving cheese -----------------------> Knowing what cheese taste’s

The idea’s our mind creates, evolves into a world of opinions, likes, dislikes, fears, and passions. Hume states that, ‘We have ‘inner senses’, such as plain pleasure, feelings of love and hate. Our inner and outer senses create our reality, our ideas and impressions. If we’re insane, are we insane to ourselves?


Philosophy Lesson Two: What is Skepticism?


a. To have doubts or reserved judgements about a thing.
b. a political movement in Philosophy.

We will be learning about definition b in this short mini lesson of notes.


Let’s start by introducing to you…

The Infinite Regress Argument: an argumentative point in Philosophy that states true knowledge of the world is impossible. Why? Because every time you create a new ‘truth’ in your mind, you are justifying it.

For example: I saw a dalmatian at the park the other day.

But can we know this to be certain? Was the dog painted with spots? Was it a robot dog? Was it really an alien pretending to be a dog? The larger the imagination, the more possibilities we can conger up with our minds about what I really saw at the park the other day. The thing that stops people from speculating over this, every time they create a new ‘truth’ in their head, is called ‘common sense’, which although can be spoken for, can also be very, very, wrong.

In order for you to be a ‘true’ skeptic, you must realize that in order for anything to technically be considered true, you must justify it, then justify your justification, and justify that justification, and thus, carry on to infinity. Which is where ‘The Infinite Regress Argument’ comes from.


This leads us on to question the legitimacy of our senses...

Can We Trust Our Senses?:
We already know that there are ways in this universe to manipulate sight…

a. Perception
b. Optical Illusions
c. Color blindness
d. Hot water on normal vs. freezing hands
e. Mirages
f. Hallucinations (drug induced or otherwise)

Waking Dreamers:
While you are dreaming, everything seems entirely real. Henceforth, what’s stopping all of this from being a dream right now?
- See Inception

It’s All An Illusion!: Because of the reasons I listed above, we cannot fully trust our senses, what’s stopping all of this from being merely an illusion brought on by anything, from Aliens keeping us sedated in a coma like state so they can feed off the magnetic fields in our brains, to being a fairy princess in a magical land, simply asleep by the fairy dust stream.
- See The Matrix I, II (but not three, that was crap).

This is another reason we can never be certain of anything.


Pyrro of Ellis arrived at this and thus rejected all forms of knowledge because he truly believed that NOTHING is for certain. Pyrro thus became a bit of a philosophical calamity because he was so extreme with his theories, that his friends and followers had to follow him around stopping him from walking into traffic and falling into holes. This is a case where a philosopher has rejected all common sense about the world for his claims.