Via his skeptical arguments (which became famous for the tenacity of their logic) he maintained that all knowledge, even the most basic beliefs about the natural world, cannot be conclusively established by reason. Rather, he maintained, our beliefs are more a result of accumulated habits, developed in response to accumulated sense experiences. Among his many arguments Hume also added another important slant to the debate about scientific method — that of the problem of induction. Hume argued that it requires inductive reasoning to arrive at the premises for the principle of inductive reasoning, and therefore the justification for inductive reasoning is a circular argument. Among Hume's conclusions regarding the problem of induction is that there is no certainty that the future will resemble the past. Thus, as a simple instance posed by Hume, we cannot know with certainty by inductive reasoning that the sun will continue to rise in the East, but instead come to expect it to do so because it has repeatedly done so in the past.
Historical perspective is helpful. It surprises Western Christians to learn that the Orthodox deem all of what we consider sacred art—from Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel to Bernini’s marble Madonna and Child in the Vatican—to be, in reality, wholly secular. Michel Quenot, in his well-known study of the art and theology of the icon, summarizes the Orthodox position:
Entry on explanation in the sciences from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Empiricism by nature is the belief that there is no knowledge without experience. How can one know what something tastes like if they have never tasted it? For example, would someone know that an apple is red if they have never actually have seen one. Someone can tell you an apple is red, but, if you never have seen one, can you really be sure?
Empiricists use three anchor points in which they derive their opinions from. The first of these points is; the only source of genuine knowledge is sense experience. An easier way to understand this is to compare the mind to a clean sponge. As the sponge touches things, it takes with it, a piece of everything it touches. Without this, the sponge would remain clean and be void of anything other than its own material. With this conclusion, empiricist believes we must be content with the knowledge we have at hand, rather than things we have not yet been privy to.
The second anchor point is; Reason is an unreliable and inadequate route to knowledge unless it is grounded in the solid bedrock of sense experience. Empiricists believe that all of our words meanings are derived from our experiences. Everything can be traced back to a single moment in our lives. Empiricists understand that reason is necessary in helping us make our experience intelligible, but reason alone cannot provide knowledge.
The third anchor point is; there is no evidence of innate Ideas within the mind that are known apart from experience. What this means is the mind does not possess ideas that are not backed by experience. In no case are there a priori truths that can both tell about the world and are known apart from experience.
When asked the three epistemological questions the three empiricists all have different answers. The first of these questions is; is knowledge possible? John Locke (1632-1704) states “Knowledge, however, is not something lying out there in the grass; it is located in our minds. So to understand knowledge we have to analyze the contents of our minds and see what they tell us about the world” (pg. 93). Locke believes that all of our known truths are made up of simple ideas. Simple ideas are what make up the rudimental elements of everything else we know to be true to us today. For example, they consist of ideas such, hot and cold, soft and hard, bitter and sweet. They also give us experience through are own mental o...
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...s not possible for our knowledge to truly represent what reality really is. He believes that “the only certainty that we can have concerns the relationships of our own ideas. Since these judgments only concern the realm of ideas, they do not tell us about the external world” (p. 108). This means that any knowledge about reality must be based on a posteriori judgments. These judgments are made by Hume because he believes there is no way to have a true reality through knowledge because you only gain knowledge through experience. In conclusion, Hume states that many empiricists discovered that reality is an impossible goal to understand.
Overall, Empiricists believe that there is no knowledge without experience. While their individual views may differ, their fundamental ideas are used to make conclusions about theories in the world. Each of these men have ideas about how knowledge is used and what it creates for each person. Through each of these theories it is apparent that knowledge and reality are difficult to access in such a complicated world.
Lawhead, William F., The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach, Second Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2003.
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Another difference between these two philosophies is the belief in an essence behind objects. Basically, the idea of an essence or a form behind all objects was believed in each and every philosophy from Plato all the way up to Descartes. Empiricism was the first philosophy that contested this belief. Empiricism argues that any and all essence is derived from experience. Hume, being the radical empiricist that he is, rejects the essence and forms behind things. Locke also denies the existence of essences and forms, yet on a lower magnitude than that of Hume. Instead, empiricism employs the bundle theory. What this theory states is that an object is a bundle of physical characteristics, lacking an essence or a form of any kind. This is really where Hume's strict empiricist nature truly comes to light. One of the conclusions he reaches is that science and all things relating to science can be disproved. According to the bundle theory, an object is a mass of physical characteristics. Gravity, for example, is not a physical, tangible object. Since the bundle theory suggests that objects are made up of purely physical characteristics, there is no way that gravity could exist, or be real at all for that matter. Interestingly enough, science has been disproved by the logic Hume uses. This is arguably a statement
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