8 episodes

Under “David Hume”, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins with, “The most important philosopher ever to write in English”. His most formidable contemporary critic was the fellow Scot, Thomas Reid, the major architect of so-called Scottish Common Sense Philosophy. The most significant features of Hume’s work, as understood by Reid, are the representive theory of perception, the nature of causation and causal concepts, the nature of personal identity and the foundations of morality. Each of these topics is presented in a pair of lectures, the first summarizing Hume’s position and the second Reid’s critique of that position.

Reid's Critique of Hume Oxford University

    • Education

Under “David Hume”, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins with, “The most important philosopher ever to write in English”. His most formidable contemporary critic was the fellow Scot, Thomas Reid, the major architect of so-called Scottish Common Sense Philosophy. The most significant features of Hume’s work, as understood by Reid, are the representive theory of perception, the nature of causation and causal concepts, the nature of personal identity and the foundations of morality. Each of these topics is presented in a pair of lectures, the first summarizing Hume’s position and the second Reid’s critique of that position.

    • video
    Reid on the Principles of Morals

    Reid on the Principles of Morals

    The final part of Professor Dan Robinson's series on Reid's critique of David Hume. “Like all other sciences, morals must have first principles, and all moral reasoning is based on them... In all rational belief, the thing believed is either a first principle or something inferred by valid reasoning from first principles”. As for utility, “Suppose that mice rescue the distressed person by chewing through the cords that bound him. Is there moral goodness in this act of the mice?” Beyond the armchair and other precincts of untrammeled speculation, one finds that, there is little purchase on a morality of pleasure and utility. Indded, “If what we call ‘moral judgment’ isn’t really a judgment but merely a feeling, it follows that the moral principles that we have been taught to consider as an immutable law to all intelligent beings have no basis except an arbitrary structure and fabric in the constitution of the human mind…Thus, by a change in our structure immoral things could become moral…There are beings who can’t perceive mathematical truths; but no defect, no error of understanding, can make what is true to be false”.
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    • 52 min
    • video
    Hume’s “Sentimentalist” Theory of Morals

    Hume’s “Sentimentalist” Theory of Morals

    The seventh part of Professor Dan Robinson's series on Reid's critique of David Hume. In his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals [1751], Hume states: “The final sentence, it is probable, which pronounces characters and actions amiable or odious, praise-worthy or blameable; that which stamps on them the mark of honour or infamy, approbation or censure; that which renders morality an active principle and constitutes virtue our happiness, and vice our misery; it is probable, I say, that this final sentence depends on some internal sense or feeling, which nature has made universal in the whole species”. The ruling motives are shaped by considerations of utility. “The rage and violence of public war; what is it but a suspension of justice among the warring parties, who perceive, that this virtue is now no longer of any USE or advantage to them? The laws of war, which then succeed to those of equity and justice, are rules calculated for the ADVANTAGE and UTILITY…”
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    • 50 min
    • video
    Reid on Personal Identity

    Reid on Personal Identity

    The sixth part of Professor Dan Robinson's series on Reid's critique of David Hume. In the third of his Essays on The Intellectual Powers of Man, Reid devotes the fourth chapter to the concept of 'identity', and the sixth chapter to Locke's theory of 'personal identity'. This latter chapter is widely regarded as a definitive refutation of the thesis that personal identity is no more than memories of a certain sort, less a “bundle of perceptions”. As he says, “This conviction of one’s own identity is utterly necessary for all exercise of reason. The operations of reason—whether practical reasoning about what to do or speculative reasoning in the building up of a theory—are made up of successive parts. In any reasoning that I perform, the early parts are the foundation of the later ones, and if I didn’t have the conviction that the early parts are propositions that I have approved or written down, I would have no reason to proceed to the later parts in any theoretical or practical project whatever”.
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    • 49 min
    • video
    Hume on Personal Identity

    Hume on Personal Identity

    The fifth part of Professor Dan Robinson's series on Reid's critique of David Hume. “There are some philosophers who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our self; that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence; and are certain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and simplicity…For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, 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 never can observe any thing but the perception. When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and could I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after the dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated...”
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    • 41 min
    • video
    Reid on Causation and Active Powers

    Reid on Causation and Active Powers

    The fourth part of Professor Dan Robinson's series examining Reid's critique of David Hume. “It is evident that a power is a quality, and therefore can’t exist without a subject to which it belongs…This (Humean) suggestion— There exists some power that cannot be attributed to any thing, any subject, which has the power —is an absurdity…No principle seems to have been more universally acknowledged by mankind ever since the first dawn of reason than that every change we observe in nature must have a cause…Another argument to show that all men have a notion or idea of active power is that there are many mental operations—performed by everyone who has a mind, and necessary in the ordinary conduct of life—which presuppose that we have active power”.
    Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 45 min
    • video
    Hume on Causation

    Hume on Causation

    The third part of Professor Dan Robinson's series examining Reid's critique of David Hume. Causality arises from a habit of the mind formed by repeated experiences. “There is nothing in any objects to persuade us, that they are either always remote or always contiguous; and when from experience and observation we discover, that their relation in this particular is invariable, we, always conclude there is some secret cause, which separates or unites them…” Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/

    • 49 min

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