Re: Hume

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@LUBS.LEEDS.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Nov 18 2003 - 07:22:42 EST

Thanks Ian,

Let me give a practical and then a philosophical response.

From a practical point of view, acceptance of causal events
unknowable in principle (i.e. non-material) leads us to doubt obvious
facts like the fact that I am typing on my computer at the moment.
This is just silly (to borrow your own falicitous term) but it follows,
since there maybe an unknown and unknowable causal mechanism,
or 'force', about to turn my computer into an elephant or I may be a
brain in a vat or whatever, given the premise in question.

The practical point is that we know for certain that we are not brains
in a vat and it is scandolous (but a product of capitalism) that our
best known philosophies fail to uphold this fact.

From a philosophical point of view, the problem is a collapse to
scepticism, for, as Hume said, if the ultimate springs of the universe
are for ever outside of human cognition then we have absolutely no
idea what they are going to do next. So we have no idea what is
going to happen next. We know nothing. But this is really a collaspe
to a self-contradiction, since scepticism is self-contradictory and it
signals a need to find an adequate, non-self-contradictory
philosophy. In turn this requires a sublation of Hume's idea-object

The usual misinterpretation of my position is that I am after
*certain* knowledge. This is quite wrong. I am trying to uphold
philosophically the obvious fact that we have *some* knowledge,
however weak and fallible. Hume shows us how difficult this is --
see previous para. (My interpretation of Hume is different from the
usual one, e.g. that offered by Popper).

Thanks again,

> I don't see why, for example, its important to
> deny the possibility that some causal events may in principle be
> unable to be understood by the human mind (however disappointing this
> may be), neither do I see why Bhaskar's transcedental argument from
> the conditions of possibility of science don't answer Hume, and avoid
> the collapse into scepticism. I'm just not grasping the difficulty
> that materialist dialectics is supposed to overcome.

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