David Hume recognizes two kinds of human reason which are the relations of ideas and the matters of fact. The relations of ideas encompasses aspects that are either intuitively of demonstratively certain such s the sciences of geometry, arithmetic, and even algebra. For example, it is easy to demonstrate that the square of a hypotenuse equals the two sides in that the suggestion expresses a form of relation between the figures. Moreover, by saying that three a multiplication of three and five equals the half of thirty, is an expression of a form of relation between the numbers involved (Lipton, 32-37). The propositions of the relation of ideas are discoverable by the operation of the human thought without depending on what may be existing anywhere else in the universe. For instance, even if there was never a triangle or a circle existing in the world before, the demonstration by Euclid on the ideas made it sure that they exist.
The second kind of human reason is matters of fact that are not necessarily demonstrated and hence cannot be ascertained in the same manner as the relations of ideas. The matters of fact are conceived by the mind and can never be subject to a contradiction since the mind conceives them with similar distinctness and facility. For example, a matter of fact that a human being needs to breathe to live is a fact that even an attempt to demonstrate otherwise is futile. The fact that its falsehood cannot be proved is an indication that it could never lead to a contradiction.
David Hume further indicates that all reasoning regarding matter if facts seemingly founded on the relation of cause and effect (Hume). He further asserts that using the relationship, human beings can go beyond the evidence by our senses and memory. Hume argued that we reason inductively in that we rely on experience and evidence gathered by our senses to ground our beliefs or rather form the basis for our reasoning. Inductive references are those that one has gone through and therefore, already established a kind of inference regarding them. For example, the rising of the sun every morning is a matter of fact reached upon inductively as human beings have experienced and seen it since they are born. One does not have to be taught or told about it. Hume however, indicates that inductive reasoning as a form of skepticism if it offers some references to reason (Hume). We cannot ascertain or even show the availability of knowledge, but we just opt to think that we do have knowledge when we rely on inductive references to reasoning. He further highlights the fact that the beliefs and perceptions we hold as a result of inductive reasoning are in reality not justifiable in a rational manner. Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, is more reliable than induction since it involves the first order logic of an individual. It is also demonstratively complete in that it can be demonstrated (Campbell, 553). The premises held regarding an argument are based on rules of logic before implying the conclusion of an argument (Hume). The deduction is, therefore, more reliable as one can acquire knowledge and give an explanation on how a premise is arrived at with ease. Inductive inferences are based on what is probable, but deductive references offer certainty.
Hume argues that all of the physical science is probably because it is inductive and not deductive therefore eliminating the certainty. Hume was pretty convincing regarding the inductive nature of physical science and the lack of certainty that it holds (Lipton, 30). For there to be knowledge one needs to have logic and deduce a form of reasoning that leads to the formation of knowledge. The physical sciences do not offer any explanations or systems of deduction and, therefore, are subject to contradiction and creation of various assumptions as well as explanations (Campbell, 555). It is the inductive nature of the physical sciences that lead to the formation of problems among the scientists and other stakeholders in trying to form knowledge regarding certain issues. For example, it is subject to personal interpretation on how the earth came into being and anyone with a good scientific study can come up with a theory. It is because of the probable nature of the science of revolution that has led to multiple ideas on the same. For example, there is the creation theory, the evolution theory and more and more scientists still come up with their ideas based on personal intuition and observations. Furthermore, inductive references to knowledge may be unreliable because they are based on our senses and experiences that may be based or subject to individual interpretation in some instances (Campbell, 560). For example, individuals may agree that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening but may not agree on the time it rises and sets. It all depends on when one perceives the first light or rather at times depending on the location of the individual. It, however, does not make the physical sciences weaker by any means it just makes them more subject to diverse interpretations and counterarguments.
Campbell, Scott, “Fixing a Hole in the Ground of Induction,” Australasian Journal of
Philosophy, 79(4): 553–563, 2001.
Hume, David. The chapter on Cause and Effect: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1772). Hackett Publ Co., 1993.
Lipton, Peter. The inference to the Best Explanation, London, and New York: Routledge. Pp. 35-80, 2004.
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