Interestingly enough, this point was brought home to me this week in a book I was reading by a Berkeley professor Charles Chihara called A Structural Account of Mathematics. He is responding to the view of a very famous American philosopher Willard Quine who taught at Harvard University and was one of the greatest American philosophers of the 20 th century.
He said when you think about it, all you really have is sense impulses from electromagnetic radiation impinging upon your body surfaces in various ways. This is what Chihara is reacting to. He says,. Quine then introduces a surprising new twist to an old story. That is, things like tables, chairs, dogs, buildings, even people? Not so, suggests Quine:. If we have evidence for the existence of the bodies of common sense, we have it only in the way in which we may be said to have evidence for the existence of molecules.
The positing of either sort of body [molecules or commonsense bodies] is good science insofar merely as it helps us formulate our laws. We just have sensory impulses of these. What Chihara reacts to in this is this is a misunderstanding of the concept of evidence. Let me read to you what his response is on this:. What I claim is that it by no means follows from the hypothesis that we have no evidence for the existence of the bodies of common sense that.
Before accepting Quine's conclusions regarding evidence, we should consider the following possibility. Our belief in the existence of physical objects. In such a situation, it would make no sense to try to gather evidence for the existence of physical objects. It is not that we would be in a situation in which it would be reasonable to look for evidence for the existence of physical objects but in which, for some reason, we just couldn't find any. Rather, it would make no sense to speak of evidence for something so fundamental to our whole practice of gathering evidence.
If something like this is the case, then it would be unreasonable to infer from the absurdity of maintaining that physical objects are unreal that we must adopt the Quinean pragmatic conception of evidence. In other words, what he is saying there is that the belief in the reality of the external world — the belief that I have a head, for example — is so basic that it is simply inappropriate to demand evidence for it.
In the absence of any reason to doubt it, it is what philosophers call a properly basic belief. That is a technical term. A properly basic belief. That is to say it is a belief that you cannot prove on the basis of any deeper beliefs because it is absolutely foundational to rationality and in experience. What I am saying is, in the same way that our beliefs that I have a head or that Flynn is sitting there is a properly basic belief grounded in my experience, so belief that it is wrong to torture a child for fun is a properly basic belief grounded in my moral experience of the world.
If you deny the rationality of the truth of those properly basic moral beliefs, then you are in the same boat with Quine in saying you ought to think that physical objects of common sense are unreal because they are exactly on a par with each other. So the idea here is that, granted you cannot get outside your moral intuitions in a way so as to justify those faculties from an external vantage point, but given that these are properly basic beliefs grounded in moral experience in the absence of any good reason to think that that experience is somehow delusory, we are within our rational rights in believing that a realm of objective moral values and duties exist.
The second one is that claims that these values are not objective and true based on socio-biological conditioning commits the genetic fallacy. The third one is that any attempt to question the reliability of our moral faculties will be paralleled by the same kind of argument that would call into question our sense faculties and lead us to the absurd conclusion that physical objects are unreal. But the concept of beliefs which are foundational is a common currency of Western philosophy and theory of knowledge.
This type of theory of knowledge is often called foundationalism which says that there has to be a foundation of your belief system which is just basic and is foundational. The question is what kind of beliefs get to be put into the foundation. I am suggesting that moral beliefs are part of that foundation. Answer: When we get to our next argument next time we are going to raise the question: could the belief that God exists be a properly basic belief? That is a very interesting question. Right now we are not assuming that it is. He thinks that moral values are just the result of social conditioning and therefore they are common among folks raised in a particular society.
What I just said was intended to address that. Answer: Then he should be skeptical about the existence of physical objects like that he has a head. Answer: These are all good question you are raising — the extent of this objective moral values. But if there is even one thing that is evil or one thing that is good the argument goes through.
Answer: I think you do probably know about that because we believe that God has revealed his will to us in Scripture, and in the Ten Commandments, and so forth. In one sense, rather than an objection, that would be a nice segue into sharing the Gospel. We need help. Answer: Again, this question is an interesting and important one though it is not directly relevant to what we are talking about now.
Answer: You are getting into what is called applied ethics and the degree to which we should try to legislate morality. Here we have to recognize that when you are not living in a theocracy where God is the head of the government, you have a secular state, that you have to in many cases allow people to do things that you regard as deeply immoral.
If God were running the government, it would be a lot more severe than it would be given our laws and so forth which allow people the right to do things that are moral. We allow people to smoke cigarettes.
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So this would be a sin against God to do such an unhealthy and damaging thing. Let me just say something about the last point which is this Euthyphro objection to basing values in God. Basically this argument presents a dilemma. It says either something is good because God commands you to do it, or God commands you to do it because it is good. Many of them involved agriculture.
For example, a person would pull kale or cabbage stalks from fields in the belief that the shape and taste of the stalks provided vital clues about the profession and character of one's beloved. Other forms of divination included bobbing for apples engraved with the initials of various candidates and reading walnut shells or looking in the mirror and asking the devil to reveal the face of one's future spouse.
Eating in general was an important component of Halloween as it is with many holidays. The most distinctive was "souling" or "soul-caking", in which children went from house to house singing rhymes and saying prayers for the souls of the dead. The soul cakes they received in return were good luck and represented a soul being freed from purgatory. Parish churches would sound with the ringing of bells - sometimes all night. They had little success; the parishes persisted despite the fact that bell ringers were regularly fined. In , after the English Civil War, the newly formed parliamentary government banned all of the "Papist" autumnal festivals except Guy Fawkes.
And, in England at least, Halloween lessened in importance. In the Great Potato Famine forced approximately one million people to emigrate from Ireland to the United States, taking their history and traditions with them. It is no coincidence that the earliest references to Halloween appeared in America shortly afterwards.
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In fact, an American ladies magazine printed a story in that describes it as an "English" holiday. At first, Halloween traditions in the US blended British agricultural games with local harvest traditions. The apples popular in British fortune telling games were made into cider and served with doughnuts. Corn, a premiere part of the American farming industry, became an important feature of American Halloween so that by the early 20th Century scarecrows were a common part of Halloween decorations.
It was in America the pumpkin emerged as Halloween's vegetable of choice. Halloween revellers had carried hollowed out turnips in the UK, but the pumpkin was an American fruit. A folktale about a blacksmith named Jack who outsmarts the devil and wandered the earth undead gave the Jack-o-lanterns their distinctive name and Halloween its ubiquitous orange and black colour scheme. America also gave rise to "trick or treating" in its modern form. We can see hints of it in souling and medieval pranks involving throwing cabbages, but it was in s America that pranking became more popular.
Trick or treating could turn violent, as it did during the Great Depression, and grew ubiquitous in the aftermath of World War II when rationing ended and candies were freely available. Perhaps the greatest Halloween "trick" was not about candy at all. The radio broadcast of H. Well's War of the Worlds, which prompted widespread confusion when it debuted, took place on 30 October At the conclusion of the play Orson Welles broke character to remind listeners that the performance was a Halloween concoction.
He likened his own role to dressing up in a sheet and saying "boo! Today, Halloween is the largest non-Christian holiday in the US. For much of the 20th Century Halloween languished in obscurity in Britain. It was outshone and overshadowed by Guy Fawkes Night bonfires and fireworks. In the past two decades, however, Halloween has experienced a renaissance. Hume rejects both these metaphysical arguments for the immateriality and immortality of the soul.
His refutations are presented, first, in the Treatise 1. It is possible that this essay contains material that was originally intended for publication in the Treatise but was withdrawn.
Faith and Reason | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Regarding the suggestion that thought and consciousness must belong to or inhere in an immaterial substance, Hume objects that we have no idea of either immaterial or material substance. The important and intelligible issue, according to Hume, is not the question of the substance of thought but that concerning the cause of our perceptions T, 1.
Furthermore, experience shows us, Hume maintains, that there do exist constant conjunctions between matter and motion, on one side, and thought and consciousness on the other. Clearly, then, in so far as we have any idea of causation as it exists in the world, we must conclude that thought and consciousness can indeed arise from matter and motion as the materialists maintain. In the Treatise Hume advanced another set of arguments against the doctrine of a future state. In this context he argues that any idea or belief in life in a future state is too faint and weak to have any practical influence over our passions and conduct.
In general, says Hume, the lack of resemblance between this life and a future state destroys belief and, consequently, has little influence on our passions and conduct. The evidence for this is that our conduct is usually guided with a view to the pleasures and pains, rewards and punishments, of this life and not a future state T, 1. Hume adds a further set of objections relating to the morally pernicious aspects of the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments.
Among the several arguments that he puts forward on this score, four points are especially important. In the first place, Hume asks, what is the point or purpose of punishment in a future state? In this life we assume that punishment must not only be deserved, it must also achieve some relevant social end or value e. When we are removed from this world these goals are taken away and punishment becomes pointlessly retributive ESY, The implication of this is that punishment without any further point or purpose is mere vengeance that lacks any proper justification.
Second, Hume asks on what basis God determines the extent of our merit and demerit. Among human beings the standard of merit and demerit depends on our moral sentiments and our sense of pleasure and pain. Are we to suppose that God also has human passions and feelings of this kind? ESY, ,; cp. LET, I, 40 [ 16]; D, 3.
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But the greatest part of mankind float between vice and virtue. From every point of view this doctrine is considered unsound. It depends on metaphysical assumptions about the nature of mind soul that are philosophically unconvincing, involving obscure ideas that are plainly at odds with our everyday experience and observations concerning the relationship between mind and body.
Moreover, because the ideas and arguments involved in this doctrine are considered by Hume to be obscure and unconvincing, we find, in practice, that the doctrine has little or no influence in directing human conduct.
Finally, not only is this doctrine considered by Hume to be philosophically flawed and psychologically feeble, it depends on moral principles that are both unjust and corrupting. This project follows lines of investigation and criticism that had already been laid down by a number of other thinkers, including Lucretius, Hobbes and Spinoza. Related to this point, Hume also wants to show that the basic forces in human nature and psychology that shape and structure religious belief are in conflict with each other and that, as a result of this, religious belief is inherently unstable and variable.
In arguing for these points, Hume is directly challenging an opposing view, one that was widely held among his own orthodox contemporaries. According to this view e. Belief in an intelligent, invisible creator and governor of the world is a universal belief rooted in and supported by reason. According to Hume, all that the various religions in the world have in common is belief that there is an invisible, intelligent power in the world NHR, Intro, 4.
Genuine theism involves a more specific set of beliefs: that there is only one god and that god is the invisible, intelligent creator and governor of the world NHR, 4. In several different contexts in The Natural History of Religion Hume suggests that the argument from design — based on our observation of beauty and order in the world — is a convincing and plausible basis for genuine theism NHR, Intro, 6. However, despite this veil of orthodoxy, his objective throughout this work is to show that the actual foundation of genuine theism, as we find it in the world, does not rest with reasoning or arguments of any kind.
The true roots of genuine theism can be discovered in the psychological dynamics that first give rise to polytheism. The same irrational forces that shape polytheism serve to explain the rise of theism and the instability and variations that we discover within it. Not only does the evidence of history make this clear Hume discounts the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible, which, as is well-known, presents a different picture , we know as well that if theism, based on the obvious and convincing argument of design, were the original religion then it would be impossible to explain how polytheism could have ever arisen out of it.
That is to say, the argument from design would continue to have the same force and so we should not expect any deviation from it. What, then, is the origin of polytheism? These are events e. In respect of these events, which engage our deepest hopes and fears, we are generally ignorant of the causes that are involved in producing them — especially when human beings are in a more primitive and backward state of society.
By this means, human beings hope to control what they do not understand and are afraid of. As a result of this process, as shaped by human fears and ignorance, the world becomes populated with human-like invisible, intelligent powers that are objects of worship. The religion of polytheism is very different from genuine theism in so far as it does not concern itself with the abstract and speculative question concerning the origin or supreme government of the universe.
These are questions that primitive people who are struggling for their daily survival do not have time to speculate about. The question that Hume now turns to is how theism arose from polytheism. In respect of this issue, Hume observes that there are two conflicting tendencies in human nature. These conflicting demands are best satisfied by representing the various gods as something like ourselves and attributing particular qualities and attributes to them that are relevant to their specific sphere of influence e. Over time, among the vulgar, one of these gods will gradually emerge as a particular object of veneration and worship.
In their anxiety to please and praise this god, worshippers will continually try to outdo their predecessors by attributing greater and greater powers and perfections to him. At last they will reach a point where they represent this god as infinite and entirely perfect, whereby they render his nature inexplicable and mysterious. This conflict, as Hume explains it, has deep roots in the dynamics of human nature and our conflicting propensities. The result of this process is an inherent instability in theism itself. On the one side, there is a tendency, originally present in polytheism, to anthropomorphize the gods in the hope of placating and controlling them.
This influence of the human passions and propensities affects the stability of our idea of God in another way. Our natural fear of future events encourages a conception of God that is severe and cruel. Clearly, the general point that Hume aims to establish by means of these observations is that the natural sources of religion are in conflict with one another and generate a continual cycle of opposition and instability in our religious beliefs and idea of god.
The origins of religious belief rest with human fear and ignorance, which gives rise, in the first place, to polytheism. The same psychological forces that give rise to polytheism gradually transform it into a system of theism. This system of theism is, however, itself a product of conflicting tendencies in human nature that result in an unstable oscillation between anthropomorphic and mystical ideas of god. The conclusion that Hume draws from all this is that religion generally rests on human weaknesses and vulnerabilities and that reason has little influence over its evolution or stability.
Richard Bentley, the first Boyle lecturer, neatly states the view that many theists hold concerning the relationship between religion and morality:. The general view defended by Bentley, and many other apologists for religion, is that without religious principles and institutions to guide and motivate us, the moral world will collapse into nihilism, egoism and the arbitrary rule of power. The foundation of this, however, rests with egoism and moral scepticism. That is to say, according to Hobbes, human nature is driven by psychological egoism and there is no real distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, just or unjust.
On the basis of a naturalistic and necessitarian conception of human nature, Hume aims to show how moral motivation and practice is possible i. One important element is the role of the indirect passions in accounting for the sanctions and support provided to moral life. A vicious character, he argues, produces hate and humility dishonour and shame that makes us unhappy.
In contrast with this, virtue produces love and pride, which makes us happy. This is the fundamental mechanism by which virtue is rewarded and vice is punished. This mechanism operates no less effectively among atheists, who have no belief in God or a future state, as it does among those with traditional theistic beliefs. We are naturally constituted, Hume maintains, to share the emotions of our fellow human beings. The closer our relationship, and the more we resemble each other, the stronger the communication of emotion will be T, 2.
By means of this principle of sympathy, human beings naturally take an interest in the happiness and welfare of others — especially our family, friends and neighbours. Hume denies, therefore, that human nature is wholly selfish or without any benevolent concerns or dispositions.
At the same time, Hume also emphasizes the point that our sympathetic and benevolent tendencies are limited and highly partial — both of which pose serious obstacles for social peace and cooperation. In this way, while Hume plainly rejects Hobbist egoism and allows that we are naturally social beings in a number of significant respects i. This is something that we must find a solution to if we are to be able to live together in groups larger than families and small clans.
Our human nature, combining both passions and reason, provides a remedy for this problem. In the first place, Hume denies that we lack any real standard of right and wrong or good and evil. The relevant standard depends on our sentiments of pleasure and uneasiness T, 3. More specifically, our moral sentiments, understood as calm forms of love and hate, enable us to draw the relevant distinctions in this sphere.
It is evident that Hume aims to describe a standard of merit and demerit that, although it depends on our given human nature, is in no way arbitrary or without rational constraints. There are no obligations that we have in respect of these institutions and practices that are prior to or independent of these conventions.
The general basis of our commitment to these conventions is that they serve our individual and collective interest. Failing this, we would have no relevant motive to obey these rules of justice. Clearly, then, with respect to property, there are no natural rights or claims of justice outside our created, conventional practices. On this view of things, God and a future state are wholly unnecessary for moral life and human society. The relevant foundation for moral life and conduct rests with the key elements of human nature that we have mentioned — pride, sympathy, moral sense, and conventions.
Moreover, the psychological mechanisms involved are strong and steady enough in their influence to ensure that there exists a reliable correlation between virtue and happiness and vice and misery. By these means, we find that human beings are constituted in such a way that they are capable of moral conduct and able to sustain social cooperation and harmony. In so far as religion plays any role here, Hume maintains, it is more likely to corrupt and disturb, than to contribute, to morality or social stability. In developing this account, Hume draws heavily from earlier work by other freethinking, irreligious, and radical philosophers, such as Hobbes, Spinoza, Bayle, and especially Shaftesbury.
While it is evident that Hume believes that religion is not necessary for morality, he stops short of claiming that religion is always destructive of morality — even though this is a view that would be no more extreme than the contrary view frequently advanced by religious apologists i. Nevertheless, in a variety of contexts, Hume does maintain that religion — especially monotheism — has pernicious and corrupting tendencies. One of the most sustained discussions of this general theme is in The Natural History of Religion , where Hume compares the effects of polytheism and theism on their believers Sects.
In this context. Hume leaves his readers with the clear view that religion, far from being a source of support for moral practice, is in fact a major source of moral sickness in the world. Hume returns to these same general themes in the closing passages of the Dialogues. In this context Philo emphasizes the point that the doctrine of a future state has little practical influence over human conduct D, EM, 3. Beyond all this, he also points out the particular dangers to society of the clergy when they gain too much power and influence D, This is a theme that Hume also touches on throughout many of his other writings, including The Natural History of Religion , several of his essays, and his History of England.
At best, religion has little practical influence in guiding or supporting moral conduct. The most effective and reliable levers for this purpose rest with various elements of human nature that operate independently from our religious beliefs i. At its worst, which is how we commonly find it, religious principles and institutions disturb and pervert that natural and reasonable moral standards that human nature has provided us with. Two methodological and historical caveats should be briefly noted before addressing this question.
Thomas Reid and, even if it were, it would not show that his critics were wrong about this matter. Second, and related to the first point, Hume lived and wrote at a time of severe religious persecution, by both the church and the state. Unorthodox religious views, and more especially any form of open atheism, would certainly provoke strong reactions from the authorities. Caution and subterfuge in these circumstances was essential if difficulties of these kinds were to be avoided. While conditions of suppression do not themselves prove a writer or thinker such as Hume had a concealed doctrine, this possibility should be seriously and carefully considered.
The view that has, perhaps, been most dominant during the past century has been that Hume was a skeptic and, as such, stands in a position that endorses neither theism nor atheism. Throughout his writings, while he is certainly concerned to discredit various dogmatic proofs for the existence of God, he also avoids advancing or endorsing any dogmatic atheistic arguments and their conclusions — preferring to suspend all belief on such matters NHR, There is, on this account, no commitment to some further, more specific, set of attributes.
Clearly major religions like traditional Christianity require a robust conception of God. With regard to robust theism, Hume is sharply critical and goes well beyond the bounds of a more limited soft skepticism. That is to say, Hume pursues what we may call the hard skeptical aim of providing grounds for denying the theist hypothesis in its various robust forms. For example, in a number of passages of the Dialogues Hume suggests that the abundant evidence of unnecessary evil provides us with compelling grounds for denying that there exists an omnipotent, morally perfect being who is the creator and governor of this world.
In light of these considerations, we may conclude that with respect to robust theism Hume is a hard skeptic who defends a non-dogmatic form of atheism. While Hume may be a hard skeptic about robust theism, it does not follow that he is either a hard or a soft skeptic about thin theism. The key passages that are generally relied on in support of this view are found in the last section of the Dialogues XII.
NHR, Intro. EU, To strengthen the skeptical side of these reflections Hume has Philo point out that there are other analogies available to us e. In light of these observations, we may conclude that it is highly problematic to present Hume as any kind of theist, either robust or thin. The question remains, however, whether his final skeptical attitude to thin theism is better understood as hard or soft in character? According to this interpretation, we should accept our epistemological predicament and avoid any final judgment on such matters.
The whole is a riddle, an enigma, an inexplicable mystery. Doubt, uncertainty, suspense of judgment appear the only result of our most accurate scrutiny, concerning this subject. There are two hard skeptical arguments concerning this hypothesis that are especially important. The first is that Hume points out that our experience suggests that mind is always accompanied by body D, 5. Any reasonable hypothesis, therefore, should be consistent with this aspect of human experience.
Although our experience may be narrow and limited, given the nature of the object of our investigations, it nevertheless provides some substantial basis for rejecting or denying the hypothesis of theism, including the thin version. Second, Hume also argues that there are alternative hypotheses that are available to us that are more plausible and consistent with human experience.
In particular, we may easily revise the old Epicurean hypothesis of eternal matter that generates cycles of chaos and order D, 6. This is a hypothesis that provides us with natural explanations for forms and orders of life and existence in a manner that clearly anticipates important features of Darwinian theory. His arguments are harder than this and present grounds for denying theism, both robust and thin.
In the previous section it was suggested that Hume may be properly described as a hard sceptic who is a non-dogmatic atheist. This returns us to a point that Hume had made earlier in the Dialogues ; namely, that in both theoretical and practical terms a mystical form of theism — lacking any significant anthropomorphic features — is indistinguishable from a form of scepticism, where all conjectures about the nature of God remain entirely undecided, unknowable and irrelevant to human life D, 6. What really matters, Hume suggests, is that the falsehoods, frauds, hypocrisies and cruelties of religion in the various robust forms that it almost always takes are firmly resisted and rejected.
The term irreligion has several other specific advantages. Thus T,1. Thus EU, The author and editors are grateful to Doug Jesseph for comments on an earlier version of this article. Religious Philosophers and Speculative Atheists 2. Empiricism, Scepticism and the Very Idea of God 3. The Argument from Design 5. The Problem of Evil 6. Miracles 7. Immortality and a Future State 8.
Religion and Morality Was Hume an Atheist? Whatever we imagine is finite. Therefore there is no idea or conception of anything we call infinite. No man can have in his mind an image of infinite magnitude, nor conceive infinite swiftness, infinite time, or infinite force, or infinite power … And therefore the name of God is used, not to make us conceive him for he is incomprehensible , and his greatness and power are inconceivable , but that we may honour him.
Also because whatsoever … we conceive has been perceived first by sense, either all at once or by parts, a man can have no thought representing anything not subject to sense… Hobbes, Leviathan , 3. This take on the idea of God is clearly more Hobbesean than Lockean. The Deity is known to us only by his productions, and is a single being in the universe, not comprehended under any species or genus, from whose experienced attributes or qualities, we can, by analogy, infer any attribute or quality in him… EU, In this context, he specifically mentions Clarke and condenses his argument into a few sentences: Whatever exists must have a cause or reason of its existence; it being absolutely impossible for any thing to produce itself, or to be the cause of its own existence.
In mounting up, therefore, from effects to causes, we must either go on in tracing an infinite succession, without any ultimate cause at all, or must at last have recourse to some ultimate cause, that is necessarily existent … D, 9. On this basis Hume argues: Creation, annihilation, motion, reason, volition; all these may arise from one another, or from any other object we can imagine.