Hume and Descartes Essay

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Hume Descartes

Hume, Descartes and God

A great many ideologies produced through human history are generally connected to divinity and the idea that God or some other divine force will selectively intervene with human acts and experiences in order to perpetrate otherwise impossible happenings. Indeed, any such theology must be underscored by a belief that some higher force with a direct interest in the affairs of man both exists and has the capacity to manipulate events thusly. This is an idea that British philosopher and writer David Hume categorically rejects in Section X of his an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.


Hume's work takes a point of distinct opposition to the notion that the existence of an actually God has any plausible proof that we may feel comfortable in accepting. To Hume's perception, and the perception of this account, the human perspective is an individual filter of details which promotes distinctly differing conceptions of rationality. This is an approach which tends to define knowledge in inherently flexible terms, contingent distinctly upon experiences which differ from one person to the next.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Hume and Descartes Assignment

In contrast to the empirical perspective espoused by Hume, there is a more absolutist belief system which engages knowledge quite oppositely. To those in this school of thought, there is a belief that rationality is the formulating constant allowing for the assumption of absolute cognitive and moral principles. A fundamental belief in a moral and rational order defined by a divine power, as a prominent example, will tend to refute the concept that knowledge could somehow be mutable according to perspective. Instead, it is considered rational for all sound and reasoning individuals to achieve certain degrees of consensus on those 'certainties' which may be considered as knowledge. However, Hume notes that these 'certainties' are subject to the vulnerability of human perception and the variability he identifies. Hume contends that "it is acknowledged on all hands, says that learned prelate, that the authority, either of the scripture or of tradition, is founded merely in the testimony of the Apostles, who were eye-witnesses to those miracles of our Saviour, by which he proved his divine mission. Our evidence, then, for, the truth of the Christian religion is less than the evidence for the truth of our senses; because, even in the first authors of our religion, it was no greater; and it is evident it must diminish in passing from them to their disciples; nor can any one rest such confidence in their testimony, as in the immediate object of his senses." (Hume, Sec. X)

It is exactly thus that Hume's work has come to cast him in opposition to the religious perspective that has driven many a philosopher or religious leader to claim to be possessed in absolute knowledge. It is this perception, Hume would argue, that allows such individuals to concoct the notion that miracles may be possible on the mortal plain.

This contributes to the primary thesis of this discussion, which is that the belief in a supernatural order is a disposition that Hume argues is irrational and based on a composite cultural and moral entity reflective of man's goals, ambitions and devices .


Such arguments as that posed by Hume tend to serve as a hard counterpoint to the spiritual claims driving many religious traditions. Given the time of his writing in the 18th century, Hume's ideas would come often to clash with the beliefs of the ruling Catholic Church. The contrast is particularly observable in his position on the supernatural, which strikes one as a concerted point of contention with the divine implications of Catholic mysticism. It is also the case though that Hume differed from those contemporaries who similarly disputed the plausibility or likelihood of a higher force. For instance, in the ideas of French philosopher Rene Descartes we can see some of the core ingredients of empiricism and theology which have entered into the defining conversation on knowledge and rational thought. However, his perspective would differ significantly from that of Hume on man's capacity to reason upon its own knowledge.

Interestingly, it is here that we conside a man whose contributions to philosophical discourse were often informed by the thinker's experiences while he slept. Descartes' dreams were a fertile ground for revelations such as the one which prompted him to initiate the science of rationality. It is sensible then that these experiences would prompt him to explore the nature of the relationship between the dream-world and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Hume and Descartes" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Hume and Descartes.  (2010, May 3).  Retrieved January 25, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Hume and Descartes."  3 May 2010.  Web.  25 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Hume and Descartes."  May 3, 2010.  Accessed January 25, 2021.