PHILOSOPHY – David Hume

PHILOSOPHY – David Hume


The 18th century writer, David Hume, is one of the world’s great philosophical voices because he hit upon a key fact about human nature- that we are more influenced by our feelings than by reason. This is, at one level, possibly a great insult to our self image, but Hume thought that if we could learn to deal well with this surprising fact, we could be both individually and collectively a great deal calmer and happier than if we denied it. Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711, to a family that was long established but far from rich. He was the second son and it was clear early on that he would need to find a job eventually, but nothing seemed to suit him. He tried law, the vocation of his father and his older brother, but soon decided that it was: “a laborious profession, requiring the drudgery of a whole life.” He was considered for academic posts at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow, but he didn’t land either job. So, he set out to become a public intellectual, someone who would make his money selling books to the general public. It was pretty hard-going. His first book, ‘A Treatise of Human Nature’, for which he had the highest hopes, met with a dismal reception. “Never literary attempt was more unfortunate than my Treatise”, he wrote. “It fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction as to even excite a murmur along the zealots.” But Hume kept at it, realising that the blame largely lay with the way that he had expressed his ideas. And doggedly training himself to write in a more accessible and popular manner, eventually, he did find an audience. his later works: popular history books and collections of elegant essays were best-sellers of the day. As he would say, not without some pride: “The money given me by booksellers much exceeded anything formerly known in England; I was to become not only independent but opulent.” Humes philosophy is built around a single powerful observation: that the key thing we need to get right in life is feeling rather than rationality. It sounds like an odd conclusion. Normally we assume that what we need to do is train our minds to be as rational as possible, to be devoted to evidence and logical reasoning and committed to preventing our feelings from getting in the way. But Hume insisted that whatever we may aim for – reason is the slave of passion. We are more motivated by our feelings than by any of the comparatively feeble results of analysis and logic. Few of our leading convictions had driven by rational investigations of the facts. We decide whether someone is admirable, what to do with our spare time, what constitutes a successful career, or who to love on the basis of feeling above anything else. Reason helps a little, but the decisive factors are bound up with our emotional lives, with our passions, as Hume calls them. Hume lived in a time known as the Age of Reason, when many claimed that the glory of human beings consists in their rationality, but for Hume a human is just another kind of animal. Hume was deeply attentive to the curious way that we very often reason from not to our convictions. We find an idea nice or threatening and on that basis alone declare it true or false. Reason only comes in later to support the original attitude. What Hume didn’t believe however was that all feelings are acceptable and equal. that’s why he firmly believed in the education of the passions. People have to learn to be more benevolent, more patient, more at ease with themselves and less afraid of others. But to be taught these things they need an education system that addresses feelings rather than reason. This is why Hume so deeply believed in the role and significance of public intellectuals. These were people who (unlike university professors that Hume grew to dislike immensely) had to excite a passion-based attachment to ideas, wisdom and insight. Only if they succeeded would they have the money to eat. It was for this reason that they had to write well, use colorful examples and have recoursed wit and charm. Hume’s insight is that if you want to change people’s beliefs reasoning with them like a normal philosophy professor won’t be the most effective strategy. He’s pointing out that we have to try to adjust sentiments by sympathy, re-assurance, good example, encouragement and what he called “art”. And only later, for a few determined souls, should we ever try to make a case on the basis of facts and logic. A key place where Hume made use of the idea of the priority of feeling over reason was in connection with religion Hume didn’t think it was rational to believe in god. That is – he didn’t think there were compelling logical arguments in favor of the existence of a deity. He himself seems to have floated between mild agnosticism (there might be a god, I’m not sure) and mild theism (there is a god, but it doesn’t make much difference to me that there is). However the idea of a vindictive god, someone ready to punish people in an afterlife for not believing in him in this one, this he considered a cruel superstition. Hume’s central point is that religious belief isn’t the product of reason. So arguing for or against it on the basis of facts doesn’t touch the core issue. To try to persuade someone to believe or not believe with well-honed arguments seemed particularly daft to Hume. This is why he was a foremost defender of the concept of religious toleration. We shouldn’t treat those who disagree with us over religion as rational people who’ve made an error of reasoning and so need to be put right, but rather as passionate emotion-driven creatures who should be left in peace so long as they do likewise with us. Trying to have a rational argument over religion was for Hume the height of folly and arrogance. Hume was what is technically known as a skeptic someone committed to doubting a lot of the common sense ideas of the day. One of the things he doubted was the concept of what is technically called “personal identity”. The idea that we have that we can understand ourselves and have a more or less graspable and enduring identity that runs through life. Hume pointed out that there is no such thing as a ” Core Self ” “When I enter most intimately into what I call “myself”,” he famously explained, “I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch “myself” at any time without a perception and can never observe anything but the perception. Hume concluded that we aren’t really the neat definable people reason tells us that we are and that we seem to be when we look at ourselves in the mirror or casually use that grand and rather misleading word ” I “. Yet, despite being skeptical of temper Hume was very happy for us to hold onto most of our common-sense beliefs because they are what help us make our way in the world Trying to be rational about everything is a special kind of madness. Hume was making a slight dig at Descartes. The French philosopher had died 60 years before Hume was born. But his intellectual influence was still very much alive. He had argued that we should throw out every fruit of the mind that wasn’t perfectly rational. But Hume proposed that hardly anything we do is ever truly rational And yet he ventured that most beliefs are justified simply because they work They’re useful to us. They help us to get on with what we want to do. A test of a belief isn’t its provable truth but its utility Hume was offering a corrective which we sometimes badly need to our fascination with prestigious but not actually very important logical conundrums In opposition to academic niceties he was a skeptical philosopher who stood for common sense Championing the everyday and the wisdom of the unlearned and the ordinary. Hume took a great interest in the traditional philosophical topic of Ethics A conundrum of how humans can be good. He argued that morality isn’t about having moral ideas It’s about having been trained from an early age in the art of decency through the emotions Being good means getting into good habits of feeling. Hume was a great advocate of qualities like wit, good manners and sympathy because these are the things make people nice to be around outside of any rational plan to be good. He was hugely struck by the fact that a person and here again, he was thinking of Descartes could be ostensibly rational and yet, not that nice. Because being able to follow complex argument or deduce trends from data doesn’t make you sensitive to the sufferings of others or skilled at keeping your temper. These qualities are the work of our feelings So, if we want people to behave well, what we need to do is to rethink education We have to influence the development of feeling We have to encourage benevolence, gentleness, pity and shame through the seduction of the passionate sides of our nature, without delivering dry, logical lectures. Hume’s philosophy always emerged as an attempt to answer a personal question. What is a good life? He wanted to know how his own character and that of those around him could be influenced for the best. And oddly, for a philosopher, he didn’t feel the traditional practice of Philosophy could really help. Though he was scholarly, he was in large part, a man of the world. For some years, he was an adviser to the British ambassador in Paris who welcomed his shrewd wisdom. He was much liked by those around him, known by the French as ‘Le Bon David’, a humane, kind and witty conversationalist, much in demand as a dinner companion. he insisted. That’s the way Hume lived. Not in the intellectual seclusion of a monastery or ivory tower, But deeply embedded in the company of other humans, dining. He especially liked roast chicken, chatting about love and career and playing Backgammon. Hume died in Edinburgh in August 1776, at home, in his house in St. Andrew’s Square His doctor wrote about the last hours to Adam Smith, for many years, Hume’s best friend. Hume remains a rather outstanding thing. A philosopher, alive to how much Philosophy can has to learn from common-sense.

100 thoughts on “PHILOSOPHY – David Hume

  1. I had a professor in college (Don Martindale) who reduced the types of sociological theory from over 70 to seven. His favorite philosopher was Hume!

  2. hogwash…some have no feelings other than self interest, David. Ridiculous. He confused instinct with emotion. I am not motivated by emotion or reason. I am motivated by what others have. It is in wanting what they have that motivates me. I am a thief. Nothing has any value unless it is owned by someone else. Then I want it. It is in the owning that draws my attention and not the thing. I cannot know what has value on my own. I am envy, David. It is the basis of advertisement. It is the motivation behind fads. It is not as you thought to be part of a group. It is that I want what they have. I also enjoy the pain it gives them when I steal what they own. I find pleasure in their misery. I have no pleasure on my own. I only know degrees of pain in others. There are many of us and we are hidden behind your false ideas. I know about do no harm. It is boring. Motivate me to do no harm. I was just writing in the first person narrative. I could have said they. The problem with Hume and others is they were writing before behavioral biology was written. It is impossible to think about philosophy without behavioral biology. Recommend Sapolsky at Stanford. Then there are those without any values and they steal thinking it has worth or the objects and when they don't for themselves destroy it. That's pretty much it for envy. Motivate them to do good. You have to fool them into thinking they are stealing.

  3. Alain de Botton's superior and condescending attitude towards Brexit voters is very emotional and not rational.

  4. No problem of induction? No is-ought problem? No mention of compatibilism? Look I know that you're trying to make philosophy accessible and teach it in a way that's relevant to peoples' lives, but these ideas were what Hume was fairly well-known for and any video on Hume feels incomplete without covering them.

  5. Bla bla bla why the fuck do i have to learn about this guy in a class about consumption… modern university is a damn joke

  6. In the middle of writing my uni coursework on Hume, and this has added some much-needed clarification to my perturbed mind – thank you!

  7. The first thing I ever wrote was called Brane to Brane
    I thought it would be understandable by anyone willing to spend a few minutes that it took to read
    I wrote it with expectation of clearing up some the harder parts of string theory
    I could nothae been more wrong
    The most common comment made was
    " You missed spelled brain"
    The failure was my fault for over estimating people interest in parts of physics that needs a lot of abstract thought
    Until you put yourself outer to the public it's hard to describe how it feels
    People might choose to attack your whole premise or even go after your level of intellect from mistakes or precieved errors in grammar and spelling
    The clever attacker will write condescending reviewed of what you have written with facts that are clearly the results hasty google search
    These comments end usually with a benevolent overtures like " keep at it your really close " or don't be too hard on yourself even Einstein made mistakes
    What I could understand was people like this would always slap a like on what I had written
    Then it hit me once they like it would go into their feed
    So if someone they knew read what I wrote then happened to.venture into the comments section
    Then there's a chance they might read the comments they had left
    I still answer as many comments as I can but have found that corresponding with this type of commenter is impossible
    I carefully read the comments to either fix my mistakes or to clarify what I have written in the hope of helping people to understand the meaning of what I have written
    Plus the comments comments positive, negative, and the mistakes I have made in expressing my thoughts and ideas are invaluable writing tool
    Interaction with commemtors has made me a much clearer and more understandable writer
    I wrote all of this to say what Nietzsche made famous
    Dave humes I understand you

  8. As a practicing stoic, I would have to disagree that emotion is more important than logic and reason. If one constantly does whatever his feelings tell him to do, what difference is there between this person and common animals? If you chase after pleasure, you'd never be truly satisfied because once you get it, you'd want to experience even more pleasure. This is called hedonic adaptation.

  9. The 'Smart' People aren't The Brightest, as everyone, Intelligent and Dumb alike, form opinions and establish their dogma on their eagerness to believe in pleasant things; But the ones that rise to the prominence of the Orthodoxy are the Clever ones that create irrefutable arguments that their beliefs are true.

  10. Descartes contradicted Aristotle, Hume contradicted Descartes and Kant contradicted everyone including himself.

  11. That’s why the left are collapsing, fact don’t care about feelings.
    Hume “God’s aren’t logical, but my feelings are…” sounds like a typical lefty

  12. Both the girls and especially their hair are so damn lovely and beautiful in the third picture, starting from the left, at 9:01

  13. How is it that people who are religious believing in it for its sole utility value? most of the conflicts in the world comes from religion, which means they're either psychopaths or idiots to perceive it as a guide for achieving good life.

  14. I know I am ignorant. I would like to make that point now. Not in the sense of rudeness, but in the sense of the intended meaning of the word. As in not having knowledge of; beliefs unfounded in reason on the basis of pure speculation or idea.

    However. I would still like to share my views. Descartes philosophy is in my humble opinion great. His idea of a rational world is in my opinion an enticing fantasy, yet I believe that's all that it is. Those who claim to be fans of Descartes, fine, but those who claim to be students of Descartes teachings. Almost certainly in my experience, No. Of course I do not have a large range of experience with such people. Yet they are I emphasise Almost, almost always wrong. We may enjoy the idea of being a student of Descartes teachings, yet hume is right in my opinion. That we are based on feeling, and only the rare exception can be said to be more grounded in rationality than feeling. Is Descartes way of living in my opinion a better way of living, Yes. Will it ever come to pass. Almost definitely Not. Humans are simply to naive and entranced in our own feeling to bother with reason to the extent of being considered truly rational.

    Once again this is my opinion feel free to comment.

  15. Actually, wasn't the philosopher that stood for common sense his contemporary and interlocutor, Thomas Reid?

  16. "One should not assume the philosophy of David Hume
    Is nothing more then a subjective conclusion" – Canibus

  17. After watching a few of these videos, I am starting to feel a sense of kinship towards these philosophers. Rather many of them it seems has a disdain for the institution of education (Professors, standardized education), and the idea that one should think "differently" about things, than the current norm dictates.

  18. Why would you have an interpretation of Hume with a lack of discussion of his contributions of empiricism? Seems to miss the point.

  19. WARNING Do not read Hume's Treatise on Human Nature!
    I don't know how I managed to finish this book, as I only understood two paragraphs.

  20. 6:27 Sounds a lot like Quantum Theory. Observation changes the outcome so to speak. The self then is undefinable but rather a bundle of possibilities…

  21. Hume was the man. I love how he was smart AF and still chose to live among the people and did so happily. His last days are so inspirational. Now that’s a philosopher to follow 💕💕💕

  22. Absolute bullshit. Hume was an agnostic atheist, NOT a damn theist. Get your head out of your ass, Botton.

  23. In a way Hume predicated my independent thought, and he pre-affirmed it, that all great philosophers, including those in academic settings in professional positions of all times, have been high-functioning autism sufferers. (Explains why they were each men and not women… women are less prone to acquire this disease, for one reason or another.) From Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to Descartes and Kant, to Marx and Schwirtzenwurtberger. Hume started out that way, too, maybe yes, maybe no, but in mid-stream he recognized his own humanity. He is my Hero.

  24. "The madness in striving always for rationality is the effect of the highly intelligent yet autistic mind's incapacity to understand, feel, and empathize in a most basic human way."

  25. Clearly rubbish! They explicitly mentioned chicken as a Hume favorite and then clearly displayed a picture of a turkey! Other than that… Bravo! Then again that could be an oven stuffer roaster and I'm a complete moron. Or I could just be a complete moron, poultry notwithstanding.

  26. Laugh clown laugh. Though your heart is breaking, a smile still comes shining through, if you only laugh.

  27. all philosophy is in its infancy…we are merely in the machine age…we don't think about it much but it's the machine age as opposed to the stone age.

  28. Finally a famous Western philosopher who seemed to live well. I often feel like most great western philosophers undermine the validity of their ideas by being jerks, Nazis, emotional wreks, sexually unhealthy, or people I wouldn't trust to be around children. This guy reminds me of Plato, a master, not only of intellectual gymnastics, but of living.

  29. “So convenient a thing to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.” – Benjamin Franklin

  30. How do you not have a francis bacon episode. Please do one. There's literally 0 good videos on him on YouTube. You could be the first.

  31. Hume made a devastating critique of the concept "cause", arguing that we never catch a "cause" in the act, like a brick flying through a window, we say that the flying brick "caused" the window to shatter, but all we perceive is a process, a one-after-another, and nowhere in the whole process, from the motivation of the thrower of the brick, to the brick's flight, to the brick emerging at the other side of the window, do we catch anything at any one moment that is a substantive "cause".

  32. Reminds me of Hillary's main message when trying to become President: "Vote for me because men are meanies and I have a vagina."

  33. Everything always boils down to the education system. We actually live in a society modeled after David Hume's ideas. No better example of this is there than the Mainstream Media: Everything caters exclusively to human feelings, and cravings. But Hume was 100% right about "God". There is none.

  34. What a pity he didn’t come across the works of the Buddha. – he would have saved himself a great deal of time and may have developed even greater insight into what we are as humans.

  35. Sorry, Hume wasn’t a Theist, he was a Deist. Theists believe in a god or gods who intervenes in human endeavors. Deists believe a god might exist but it does not intervene and has no interest in human affairs, he/she/it would just have been the creator of the universe.

  36. The problem with his philosophy is that it’s hard to implement a government with it because in politics goodness doesn’t equate to economic success that’s why socialism never works and I think the way our colleges are being destroyed is a great example of how it can’t work in education because it creates emotional people and never matures the youth they put morality first and fail over and over

  37. I can absorb this information so much better by just listening. The visuals are fun but entirely distracting from the actual content.

  38. So wait, Hume made a rational argument about religion that it's pointless and foolish to make a rational argument about religion?

  39. Hume believed in public intellectuals. had to excite attachment to ideas, wisdom and insight. if they succeeded, they would have the money to eat.
    The danger is, to appeal to the masses in order to eat rather than to educate…
    The masses could hold a bad belief, where intellectuals publish in order to eat over educating

  40. The first philosopher I can actually agree with, because he understood that people must be manipulated through their emotions in order to get them to use reason.

  41. I feel this….. control and manipulation of logic is way easier than control and separation from one's emotions

    Edit: I really resonate with the bit about how so often logical and well reasoned people are assholes because for me the more i learned the nicer I was to other people…..it honestly blows my mind how extremely smart people can be so apathetic I've kinda come to the conclusion that being an asshole is actually a lack of intelligence in atleast one form or another

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