On the Philosophy of David Hume (Part Two)

by Daniel A. Kaufman

The second of two conversations on the philosophy of David Hume, with Robert Wright.  First appeared on the Sophia program, MeaningofLife.TV, October 30, 2016.






11 responses to “On the Philosophy of David Hume (Part Two)”

  1. Thanks Dan, I enjoyed both of these diavlogs and the comments they generated on the other site.

    Speaking of which, I am not sure I understand the conflict with holding a sense of self (in the ordinary sense), and Hume’s ‘bundle of perceptions’ idea. I see how this idea undermines the idea of a static, foundational, or essential self. On the other hand don’t we think of all kinds things that are changing and made up of other things as maintaining a continuity over time. I’m thinking of universities, or river’s or really anything in the common sense way we think of things as persisting over time.

    Isn’t this also key to the way Wittgenstein wants to clear up philosophical language. Doesn’t early Wittgenstein say ‘all is flux’ and then later doesn’t he change that holding that we have to hold things in constant in language to say that. I think later Wittgenstein actually does say ‘you can step into the same river twice’ (in the ordinary sense). He even says the only correct things we can say are about ordinary and trivial events. So it is only when we look for meta-physical foundations that we run into the limits of language.

    I think ordinary people do think there is a sense in which we have a self that maintains some degree of continuity over time, but I don’t think that means most people think there some aspect of ourselves that is essential and unchanging. some might have that view but I’m not sure it is predominant.

  2. dmf

    I don’t know how you stomach Robert’s internet as “planetary-brain” gibberish, the man obviously doesn’t follow the economic/engineering trends…

  3. I’ve actually told him I thought it was BS in an earlier conversation we had. I didn’t want to waste time arguing it with him.

  4. dmf

    gotcha, just caught his last exchange with Chalmers and even David couldn’t bear Robert’s B-SciFi story about how we are coming together to form the mass-mind-network that will create blackhole generating technology that in turn generates the next incarnation of the Universe, as well meaning as he is the guy is the new L.Ron Hubbard.
    Have you thought thru the possible links between Wittgenstein (forms-of-life, turning spades and all) ,the nascent research into cognitive-biases, and the limits of argumentation/proofs ?

  5. You’d have to be more specific about what you are asking me.

  6. dmf

    yes sorry, my sense is that Wittgenstein saw that there are some limits to conversation/debate when it comes to people who have differing faith (religious or otherwise) commitments such that “If I have exhausted the justifications, I have reached bedrock and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: ‘This is simply what I do.’”
    and than there are the various related cog-biases including the one where if I throw evidence at someone that contradicts their biases I’m more likely to provoke a retrenchment of their commitments than to convince them that they are wrong.

  7. I think this is right.

  8. I agree with you. Of course there is a self. It’s just not what people traditionally have thought it is.

  9. I have actually always had a soft spot for the account Sartre gives in The Transcendence of the Ego, which I read for a Continental philosophy course at the University of Michigan, back when I was an undergraduate.

  10. dmf

    cool, seems to raise some serious questions about our modes of education, politics, etc in terms of how we expect reason-ing to work vs the reality of the limits of exchanging facts and so on.

  11. Hi Dan, sorry about coming in late. I watched both and thought they were nice overviews of Hume’s major offerings, placing them in a bit of historical context.

    In general, I have a hard time sharing Robert’s views on emergence of purpose or a world-mind network. Though it might be interesting to pursue if “mind” is taken as some set of capacities (not a “thing”) and the advancing network analyzed to see if it exhibits such features. I’m also with you on the (current) weakness of evo-psych, and wish Robert didn’t go to that so often. Still, I find him interesting and hope you guys will be doing more interviews together.

    On Hume, I think you said something (unintentional) which potentially shows a problem for Hume’s account of causation. The fact is that his psychological account pretty much requires we assume at least one set of real causal relations… between our visual observations and our thoughts about them. Whether one ball moving to touch another and the other racing away is evidence of a causal relation between the balls or not, the argument is that repeated exposure to such imagery “causes” us (through some unexplained set of mechanisms beyond correlated experience) to project causal powers to the entities we see.

    Besides the obvious inconsistency (allowing one causal relation in order to undercut all others) it could be argued that the only reason we would have such psychological drives (to impart causation in these situations) is because they held some value in that more often than not there are such causal forces at play. That is recognizing such interactions as causal allows us to make predictions and take actions based on those causal properties which end up helping us. If they didn’t, wouldn’t such associations drift away?

    This would be true whether you take an evolutionary or (same lifetime) developmental view of why one makes such inferences of causality.

    Also, Robert describes the “is/ought” problem as being about the naturalistic fallacy. I have heard/read lots of people claim this, but have not shared this view. To me it is directly connected with, and all about, the connection between passion and reason. In a loose way it would contain the naturalistic fallacy, but that is not its main message (or power) at all. At least to my read. Do you feel it was about the naturalistic fallacy as well? You didn’t correct him on this so I thought you might have agreed.