How We Know


What we know. I’m revisiting David Hume and Karl Popper and others from my days of the Great Books Program I took in college. Trust me, when you think you know these things, you often don’t.

2 quick links The Problem of induction and David Hume and who knows, I may just add more links to this post later.

You know David Hume; he’s the one that argued that deductive and inductive reasoning were ‘necessary illusions.’ That brings all new meaning to the arguments over what “Is is.” Anyway, I’ll come back to this post!

Here’s a snip from what I found in the David Hume article


1. Demonstrative or Intuitive. This sort of reasoning is basically a priori. We cannot determine a priori that the future will be conformable to the past, because it is both (logically) consistent and conceivable that the world stop being uniform. Hume here does not distinguish adequately between the uniformity of nature in general and the persistence of particular regularities. For it is open to a philosopher (perhaps of a Kantian bent) to argue that it is in fact inconceivable that the world not be regular in some ways. However, what is important, and what vindicates Hume, is that for any particular regularity in the operations of nature, it is consistent and conceivable that it might cease. Thus we cannot ground our inductions in a priori reasoning.(Italics are all mine)

2. Inductive. We cannot appeal, either, to our past successes in using inductive inference, to the fact that it has worked in the past, for this would be circular reasoning.

Reason is, and ought only to be, slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” -Hume


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