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David Hume’s (1711-1776) exciting new philosophic
outlook combined the empiricism of Locke and
Berkeley, who argued that knowledge comes only
from sense perception, with the moral philosophy of
Francis Hutcheson, who argued that morality comes
only from sentiment or feeling.
He believes that our scientific laws, are nothing but
sense perceptions which our feelings lead us to
believe. Therefore it is doubtful that we have any
He says “All the perceptions of the human mind divide
themselves into two different kinds, which I shall call
Impressions and Ideas.” It follows from the above citation
that Hume accepts two basic premises of Locke.
First, sense-perception is the only source of knowledge.
Secondly, what we apprehend through sense-perception
are impressions and ideas.
Here, we may point out that what Hume calls ‘impressions’
are nothing other than the ‘simple ideas’ of Locke and
‘ideas’ of Berkeley.
Hume defines impressions and ideas in the following
term, “Those perceptions, which enter with the most
force and violence, we may call impressions, and under
this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and
emotions as they make their first appearance in the
soul. By Ideas I mean the faint images of these in
thinking and reasoning.”
In this definition, Hume makes it clear that both
‘impressions’ and ‘ideas’ are ‘perceptions’ of our
mind, and the difference between them lies not in
kind but only in the ‘degrees of force and
liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind.
‘Impressions’, in his view, are the lively perceptions.
When we reflect on these lively perceptions, we
receive ‘ideas’, which are less lively copies of these
‘impressions’. In order to emphasise the mental
character of ‘impressions’ and ‘ideas’, Hume
maintains that the difference between them is a
difference of feeling and ‘thinking’.
IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804),
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is the most influential
thinker because he gave a new direction to
modern philosophy and of European
Enlightenment. Kant have made great stir in the
fields of epistemology, metaphysics, morality and
aesthetics. Today philosophers may disagree with
Kant on many points, but no one can ignore him.
IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804),
Kant develops the logical foundation for a moral
philosophy which is based on a priori rather than
empirical principles. Kant proposes a rationalist theory
of ethics, arguing that ethical judgments should be
based on pure reason. Kant maintains that rationalism
in making ethical judgments is necessary because only
pure reason can define practical principles of morality
which have universal validity.
IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804),
Kant argues that there are universal moral laws which are not
merely empirical but which are logically necessary. An action
which is good should not only conform to a moral law, but
should be done for the sake of a moral law. If an action
conforms to a moral law, but is not done for the sake of a
moral law, then its conformity is merely contingent to subjective
conditions, and is not logically necessary. Kant emphasizes that
moral philosophy cannot be merely an empirical inquiry, but
that it must be a metaphysical inquiry, and that it must be
based on pure practical reason.
• According to Kant, the 'categorical imperative' is to act in such a
way that the principle according to which the action is performed
can be accepted as a universal law of morality. This can be stated as
the command to "Act only in such a way that you can will that the
maxim of your action should become a universal law."4 Kant defines
a maxim as a subjective principle of volition, and he defines a law as
an objective principle of reason. Thus, an action is good if it is
produced by a unity of subjective and objective motivation, i.e. if the
subjective principle of volition which motivates the action becomes
an objective principle of reason.
It may also be argued that Kant’s theory of universal moral
laws tends to polarize moral judgments by reducing them to
statements about what is lawful or unlawful. The concept of a
'categorical imperative' may oversimplify the moral
complexity of situations in which there is moral ambiguity,
and may not be applicable to situations in which some degree
of moral compromise may be necessary. The theory of the
'categorical imperative' may not be adaptable to situations in
which there is not a perfect choice of moral action.
Although Kant borrowed heavily from the empiricist tradition, he
modified the empiricist knowledge gained by sensory experience. Hume
wished to prove that metaphysics was invalid. Kant wished to salvage
morality, and to show that empiricist thought was inadequate.
Kant responded to his predecessors by arguing against the Empiricists
that the mind is not a blank slate that is written upon by the empirical
world, and by rejecting the Rationalists' notion that pure, a priori
knowledge of a mind-independent world was possible
Who is right in the epistemological debate: the
empiricists, with their emphasis on the senses as the
exclusive source of our knowledge of the world, or
the rationalists, who insists on reason alone as the
final arbiter of truth? Kant, who was familiar with
the philosophy of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, was
steeped in a form of rationalistic philosophy
stemming from Descartes but was more
immediately influenced by the German philosopher
Kant shares Descartes’ conviction of the foundational
role of the proposition “I think” on the one hand, of the
concept of God on the other hand, in framing all
cognitive use of reason. And in both cases, Kant’s
discussion of the Cartesian view is focused primarily on
the statement of existence. Descartes thinks he can
derive from the proposition “I think” and from the
concept of God, respectively. Kant criticizes the
Cartesian proof of the existence of God, on the
Kant’s epistemology is a clear and explicit
response to Hume’s scepticism, an attempt to
provide both a foundation for empirical scientific
knowledge and to show the limits of such
knowledge. Kant freely admits that reading the
work of David Hume was the stimulus that roused
him from his “dogmatic slumber,” as he put it.
In simple terms Kant wants to show how objective
knowledge, that is knowledge about the world, which is
independent of our own subjective perception, is
possible. This question can be resolved into a question
about the presuppositions of experience, or what it is
that must be true for us to be able to have experience,
as we know it. In this way Kant will bring together both
the empiricism of Hume and the nascent rationalism of
Descartes and, in so doing, produce a complete
epistemology and an explanation of the process of