Hume or Homer - Battle of the philosophers
It has been recently announced that Homer Simpson has won the philosopher of the decade title over at Britain's Men's Health Magazine. Samantha Burns has some of his philosophical thoughts for your amusement.
Somewhat providentially, I have been reading and thinking about David Hume's works over the last week and a few things stand out that make me think that if David Hume can be a philosopher, then so can Homer Simpson.
For instance, three of Hume's better known pronouncements seem a little bit illogical. Maybe I am missing something, but they seem to contradict themselves.
Firstly, David Hume told us that real knowledge unless it is analytically true i.e. by definition (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4), or by empirical investigation. He even went so far as to suggest people burn all books that did not fit this criteria. If this is the case, then this principle of what constitutes real knowledge fails its own test as it is not analytically true or empirically discovered. Hence, this principle is self-refuting. It must be false.
Secondly, David Hume went on to deny that we could know whether an event caused another event. That is, "He noted that although we do perceive the one event following the other, we don't perceive any necessary connection between the two". 2 events may often be seen together in succession, but we cannot conclude anything more than this simple observation that they often seem to be correlated. (Note that he didn't deny there was a cause of an event, just that we cannot know what that cause is).
This may all be well and good, but then he also went on to deny that miracles are no support for religion because they:- Violate the laws of nature; The strength of human testimony is too weak to be considered as useful against the weight of evidence from natural law.
What I don't understand is that how can you say on one hand that we cannot know what actually causes something, and yet on the other hand that natural law (I.e. the laws that govern cause and effect) is inviolate or too strong for human testimony of miracles. If I cannot know what a particular cause is, then I cannot know whether the cause is natural or supernatural. Therefore, on Hume's own grounds, he cannot argue against the miraculous by claiming knowledge of causes.
All in all, it is suprising that Hume's work has been so widely valued for so long. It contains obvious contradictions and so cannot be true.