PHI 205 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: The Strongest

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11 Mar 2017
Hume’s Treatise
Descartes’ Second Meditations Review
Descartes creates/elaborates on a belief compatible with the principle of rational doubt
o “…I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true
whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.”
o To Descartes, this is indubitable
o He knows this to be true
He spends a lot of time trying to persuade you of what you know exists
o Trying to guard against the idea that you are a body or a brain
o It’s all mental, not physical.
o “But what then am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts,
understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has
sensory perceptions.”
o Purely mental; separate and distinct from the body
o This is the Cartesian self
o Cartesian: of or relating to Descartes
Hume takes on Descartes from the view of an empiricist
He says, if what Descartes believes is true, it’ll be something we can take on with our
sense impressions
Hume’s objection to the Cartesian self
o Hume tries to show there’s something suspicious about the Cartesian self
o He wants to suggest that whatever idea we have of ourselves, it is not the
Cartesian self, but rather it is something that will be understood by our sense
impressions and will be compatible with empiricism
Hume’s Treatise
“There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of
what we call our Self; that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence; and are
certain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and
simplicity. The strongest sensation, the most violent passion, say they, instead of
distracting us from this view, only fix it the more intensely, and make us consider their
influence on self either by their pain or pleasure.To attempt a father proof of this were to
weaken its evidence; since no proof can be deriv’d from any fact, of which we are so
intimately conscious; nor is there any thing, of which we can be certain, if we doubt of
o Hume is saying we can’t confirm the existence of self with sense impressions,
based on Descartes’ argument
o “Some philosophers” is an under-the-breath reference to Descartes
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