An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Hume: Criticism of Descartes College

David Hume, a Scottish philosopher and historian, thrived during the Enlightenment era. In this segment of history, which is also known as the Age of Reason, European scholars attempted to find the root of knowledge, often by working through one of two prevalent schools of thought, empiricism and rationalism. Hume, an empiricist, suggested that knowledge is gained from sensory experiences. Yet Rene Descartes, a French rationalist, advanced the thought that knowledge is based on reason and intellect. These two ideologies differ foundationally, and Hume’s arguments promoting empiricism in his work An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding justify his suggestion that we should disregard Descartes’ work. While it should not be assumed that Hume wished to literally “commit [Descartes’ work] then to the flames,” Hume made clear that he did not see truth in Descartes’ method of epistemology. In addition to the pointing out the logical fallacies that Descartes’ work possesses, Hume’s critique is premised on his methodology of proving certainty, sense of self, and existence of God.

In his work Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes suggested that one should utilize methodological doubt to question the surrounding world. On page 11, he...

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