In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

174 Humes verborgener Rationalismus. By Lothar Kreimendahl (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1982) Pp. ?, 222. DM 98. Hume's hidden rationalism is here revealed in four fundamental and frequent debating moves or principles, which Hume can never fully justify or reconcile. Nor can we mend matters by tinkering with his formulae or by supplying extra reasoning to fill his gaps. Humean empiricism is a hopeless enterprise. The best we can do is to puzzle out how Hume came to build such a rickety structure, and to see where and when he obtained such an ill-matched set of second-hand materials. The four principles are these: A. we cannot make up new ideas (but only repeat or re-combine those taken from impressions received through the senses); B. whatever we can distinguish could be separate; C whatever we manage to think of could exist; D. thoughts express either relations of ideas (with certainty) or_ matters of fact (without). Appeal is made to each of these principles as though it were a universal and necessary truth. But such truths cannot be known as such simply on the basis of experiences. Therefore a would-be empiricist like Hume has no right to appeal to such principles. Appeal had better be made to each of these principles one by one, for if we take two together, and dig, we shall find an inconsistency. Thus B should enable us to separate an impression from 'its' idea, but the Copy-Theory says they must stick together, and A is based upon the Copy-Theory (134). C is 'irreconcilably opposed' to A and tends to cancel B (206) . And so on. 175 Following Flew, D is referred to as Hume's 'Fork'; and the title 'Axiom' is proposed for B. (To complete this handy scheme, we shall call A the 'Dogma' (of empiricism), and C the 'Principle' (of possibility ). Principle and Fork, it seems, were taken over from rationalist thinkers ready-made; the Dogma is a new and unpractical extension of Locke's theory of knowledge and ideas, while the Axiom derives from the notion of a complex idea, was mistakenly applied to things as well, and later dropped. In deriving the Dogma, Hume says that impressions are more lively than ideas; but this criterion appears inadequate and (like any other) might not work next time. Hume thinks it a simple matter to distinguish simple from complex ideas: but it needs an expert to decide when we have really reached simplicity, e.g. in analysing chords. The copy-theory — even if we give up attempting to refer to outward things — will still require us to inspect an impression and its idea together, to note their similarity — which seems impossible. Moreover that theory is presupposed in every instance brought to illustrate or enforce the theory; every case Hume cites, from God to pineapple, is inevitably circular. The Axiom figures quite largely in the Treatise, Book I, and in the Appendix, first part, but not in Books Il and III, nor in the Abstract of 1740, nor the Enquiry. It arises as follows: given that ideas may be either simple or complex, no impression can be indissolubly composite, and any distinction noted between ideas must involve their separability; so whatever is different can be distinguished and may be thought of separately (80). Applied to ideas, this might pass as a statement of our imaginative capacity; but Hume has it apply to things as well. Thus employed, it tends to atomise all phenomena. 176 Hume's main use of the Axiom is in showing that something cannot possibly be proved, for, behold, the contrary is conceivable. Thus no cause can be shown necessary to its effect, as we can imagine that cause having a different effect, or even that effect resulting from no cause at all. Hume is careful not to mention, at this point, that any causal argument for a God would also be undermined by this line of argument, but his imprecise footnotes refer to just that topic in Locke and Clarke, and a letter to Ramsay (29.9.1734) mentions an Abbé's library in Paris in which Hume had found Locke's Essays...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 174-180
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.