PHIL 437 Study Questions for Week #2 (Oct. 6-8).

 

Introduction

 

1.  At what age did Hume begin writing the first Treatise?  What were you writing when you were that age?

 

2.  What does Norton mean by saying that Hume is a post-skeptical philosopher?

 

3.  What are the two kinds of perceptions?  What is the main difference between them?  What is an impression of the senses?  Give an example.  What is an impression of reflection?  Give an example.

 

4.  What was the strongest passion in Hume's life?

 

5.  In the Advertisement to the Treatise Hume says that he defers to the judgment of the public?  Did he?

 

6.  What does Hume take the aim of logic to be?  Do you agree?

 

7.  What does Hume mean by "There is no question of importance, whose decision is not compriz'd in the science of man."(T, p. 4)?  Is he confusing the descriptive with the normative?  Make a case for both sides.

 

8.  Something to think about:  Why does Hume call Book 1 a treatise on human understanding rather than on human knowledge?

 

The Mind

 

1.  Explain the following distinctions in Hume's philosophy:

(a) impression/idea

(b) memory/imagination

(c) simple/complex ideas

(d) relations/modes/substances

(e) general/particular ideas

 

2.  What does Hume mean by a perception?

 

3.  In 1.1.1.10 Hume argues that there are different ideas for each different shade of color by a kind of reduction argument?  What is the argument?  It has been found experimentally that it is possible to divide the color spectrum into about a million shades that are so close to each other that human perceivers cannot detect the difference between any two adjacent shades.  Does this show that Hume's claim that we have a different idea for each shade of color is mistaken?  Explain.

 

4.  Hume says that all our simple ideas are derived from simple impressions.  Does he believe there are any exceptions to this general principle[WJT1] ?  If Hume himself acknowledges an exception, why does he state it as a general principle?  Is there a general principle that Hume would accept that has no exceptions?  Think about it.  Would you agree with that principle?

 

5.  Hume distinguishes between simple impressions (and ideas) and complex impressions (and ideas).  Give an example of each and use it to explain the distinction.  Is it possible to specify all the simple impressions (ideas)?

 

6.  The Picture Theory of Ideas.  Hume not only says that all ideas are derived from impressions, he specifies the relation between them?  What is it?  How might someone agree that ideas are derived from impressions but disagree with Hume on what the relation between them must be?

 

7.  What are the three ways that ideas are associated in imagination[WJT2] ?

 

8.  According to Hume, what is the source of our idea of substance?  Many philosophers would disagree.  How would they explain the source of our idea of substance?  How would Hume respond to them?

 

9.  What are the psychological building blocks out of which Hume constructs all psychological phenemona?  Explain each.

 

10.  A big issue for Hume's psychology is the explanation of abstract ideas.  What is Hume's account?  Infinity plays an important role in Hume's account.  But infinite is an abstract idea.  Can Hume give an account of the abstract idea of infinity?  If not, is this a flaw in his account of abstract objects?

 

11.  Why does Hume's psychology imply that there are no innate ideas?  Do you agree with this conclusion?  Explain.

 

12.  The Explanatory Circle.  Hume claims that all ideas are copies of impressions.  Then in the discussion of substance he argues that we have no idea of substance (other than as a collection of simple ideas) and in the discussion of abstract ideas he argues that because any existing triangle must have a precise proportion of sides and angles, our idea of triangle must also.  But in both cases isn't he just assuming that his theory that all ideas are derived from impressions is true?  Why don't the examples of substance and triangle show that his theory is false—that some ideas are not copies of impressions? 

 

13.  A Chicken-Egg Problem.  Hume's psychology relies on abstract ideas, for example resemblance.  How would Hume explain our ability to have the idea of resemblance?  Consider the following chicken-egg problem:  How could we acquire the idea of resemblance unless we could already recognize particular resemblances as resemblances? 

 


Yes  [WJT1]T 1.1.1.10

 [WJT2]resemblance, contiguity, cause and effect T. 1.1.4.1