Tyler Barg Oct 9 2014 Professor Higgins Intro to Philosophy
Take a Position Papper #1: Descartes and Hume
The great Greek philosopher Socrates based much of his teachings on searching for the meaning to the "self." The Delphic Oracle gave him these prophetic words "know thyself" (102) which would influence his existence and others. Yet for centuries the greatest minds have yet to agree on a concrete definition of what the self is. When we look inside the nature of the human mind there is a intricate realm that is not easily explained. Everyday we live and think, but for what purpose and what is the explanation behind it? Years after Socrates' death we are still debating over the nature of the self. Does the self even exist, is the mind physical, is thought linked to the body, are just some of the questions philosophers have raised since Greek times. To debate these findings are the philosophers Rene Descartes and David Hume. Descartes a rationalist believed that truth comes from our natural gift of reason, and would argue that the self is split into a physical and conscious form. Hume on the other hand was a empiricist and believed experience gives us knowledge, and basing his beliefs on science believed that the self does not exist. Although Descartes and Hume had their similarities their teachings on the self is what separates them. Ultimately my position is one that supports Hume over Descartes. Hume's disciplines are stronger because of his less dogmatic rulings and empiricist views.
The self is an important component of philosophy that is often overlooked by the general public. Philosophers understand the need to examine it, and their desire to better understand this part of humanity is what unites them. Before we analyze how Descartes and Hume differ we should see how these two philosophers share similarities on their views on the self. To start, both thinkers understood that the self was worthy of heavy study. The self was a starting point for philosophical reflection, and it can be said that they were dedicated towards its mystery. Even though Hume did not believe in the existence of the self the same way Descartes did, he acknowledged humanities fixation with it; "our propension to confound identity with relation is so great, that we are apt to imagine something unknown and mysterious connecting the parts (126)" This shows that Hume is aware of that humans want desire unification with the body and soul even if it is fictional. How is this assertion similar to Descartes? Descartes is also aware of peoples focus on the self. He believes that humans have a dynamic identity that imagines and understands, and are aware of this constant changing. Thus we all have a distinct self. Humes believes there is no self, while Descartes does, so how are these two thinkings connected? Regardless of these opposing viewpoints, they both acknowledge that the topic of the self is something other human beings and non philosophers debate themselves. This...