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Hume- EHU 1.pdf

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Peter King

HUME: A NEW BEGINNING [1] Take stock. Socrates and Aristotle insisted on starting with everyday beliefs and views, even when they thought such views needed to be modified or extended. Plato was less attracted to the everyday, but he too accepted without much question certain fundamental views of his day—the primacy of justice, say, and the nature of the virtues. In Plato and Aristotle we saw philosophers attempting to draw conclusions from deep metaphysical principles, in each case trying to get ethical values out of them. Now Descartes famously rejected part of the classical enterprise, because he thought that metaphysics was secondary to epistemology: first we need to know what it is we can know, and then we can set about the enterprise of knowing it. Hume rejects the other part of the classical enterprise, namely the link between metaphysics and values (about which we will only hear a little), and goes further than Descartes in dethroning metaphysics. Hume, in fact, deeply distrusted speculative metaphysics as well as what he called “ordinary” philosophy. His contribution helped make the modern world. [2] David Hume (1711–1776) was an important figure of the so-called ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, a friend of Adam Smith. In common with other Enlightenment thinkers, Hume adopted the following broad claim: Progress is made by the free exercise of reason alone. The chief enemies of progress were forces that obstruct reason, which Hume thought of as (institutional) religion and (individual) prejudice/preconceptions. He regarded his Enquiry Concerning Human Under- standing as the clearest expression of his mature philosophical views, which were meant to put “the study of man” on a scientific basis. Hume, like Descartes, was impressed with the genuine advances made by science in his day. As he himself put it: The only method of freeing learning, at once, from these abstruse questions, is to enquire seriously into the nature of human understanding, and shew, from an e
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