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.