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Metaphysics As Addressed By Kant And Hume

1455 words - 6 pages

Metaphysics as Addressed by Kant and Hume

In the Prolegomena, Kant states that reading David Hume, "awakened him from his dogmatic slumber." It was Hume's An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding that made Kant aware of issues and prejudices in his life that he had previously been unaware of. This further prompted Kant to respond to Hume with his own analysis on the theory of metaphysics. Kant did not feel that Hume dealt with these matters adequately and resolved to pick up where Hume had left off, specifically addressing the question of whether metaphysics as a science is possible.

Hume basically asserted in his writings that metaphysics, as a science, is not possible. He specifically drew on the theory of "causality", which is the attempt by people to rationalize situations. These rationalizations deal with the experience of cause and effect. People tend to attribute patterns to things according to their cause and effect. For example, gravity causes the anything that goes up to come down- we have become so used to this principle that we have made a very definitive statement on the subject. Hume however, attacks this principle by claiming that we have not experienced every instance of this matter. It is not that it must come down, but that it happens to come down. He believed that any "all" or "must" statement is not reinforced through reason but through repetition. Because Hume feels this way, he then concludes that metaphysics is not possible.

Hume's writing posed an interesting starting off point for Kant's theories. As said before, Kant attributes Hume's writing with waking him from his "dogmatic slumber." He recognizes both Hume's intelligence and the validity of his statements. However, he does not totally agree with all of Hume's theories and attempts to discredit them in the Prolegomena. The basic question that Hume brings up and tries to answer is whether metaphysics is possible as a science- or to put it another way, are synthetic judgements possible a priori.

Brought to light now are more of Kant's theories, influenced of course by Hume. Synthetic judgements- as opposed to analytical judgements- are judgements based on experience. A priori is another term that he uses as well. It is defined by Hume as uninfluenced by experience. Essentially he is asking a question that doesn't seem possible- can we make judgements based on experience, with out actually experiencing it.

To answer this seemingly unanswerable question, Kant divides metaphysics into two forms- the general and the special. General metaphysics incorporates universal terms- everything that we can make general statements about with some validity. Special metaphysics, on the other hand, deals with separate and higher beings- there are deep roots in theology and religious beliefs in this aspect of metaphysics. This distinction allows him to view metaphysics in two different ways with two different outcomes.
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