In the history of philosophy it has sometimes been the case that a philosopher has been considered to be important primarily because of the relationship he bears to some apparently greater philosopher. It was the plight of David Hume, until only recently, to have been so regarded. For Hume’s importance as a philosopher was considered to lie not so much in his own philosophical doctrines, but in the effect they had on Kant, and by this means on the subsequent character of Western Philosophy. How often has it been asserted, and it is still asserted today, that you can’t really understand Kant until you have studied Hume, or that Kant’s main task was to overcome the scepticism of Hume, or that Hume drew the logical conclusions of empiricism and thus set the stage for Kant’s critical method? How many philosophy students have answered questions like “How did Kant advance beyond Hume?” Many philosophers have come to associate Hume with Kant, and the main reason they consider Hume worthy of study, if not the only reason, is that Hume awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumbers. For example, in Alburey Castell’s Introduction to Modern Philosophy, in a section entitled “From Hume to Kant,” he relates the two philosophers in this manner. “What Hume did, in effect, was to take Locke’s appeal to experience and push it to its logical conclusion. This conclusion was that much of the familiar furniture of man’s world was dissolved into a series of question marks.... These conclusions, which filled Hume with grave doubts about the whole epistemological enterprise, were meanwhile being read and digested by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. They did not fill his mind with any fright and confusion. Their effect was, to quote his well known words, ‘to rouse me from my dogmatic slumbers’.... Hume’s conclusions served only to convince Kant that unrelieved empiricism must somehow be a mistaken hypothesis.”1 No wonder the Treatise fell stillborn from the press; Kant was not there to read it.
KeywordsLogical Conclusion Modern Philosophy Great Philosopher Subsequent Character Grave Doubt
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- 1.Alburey Castell, An Introduction to Modern Philosophy ( New York: Macmillan Co., 1943 ) pp. 217–219.Google Scholar
- 1.C. L. Stevenson, Ethics and Language (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1944) p. vii.Google Scholar
- 2.A. N. Prior, Logic and the Basis of Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949) p. x.Google Scholar
- 3.John Rawls, “Two Concepts of Rules”, Philosophical hical Review, 1955.Google Scholar
- 1.R. M. Kydd, Reason and Conduct in Hume’s Treatise (London: Oxford Press, 1948 ).Google Scholar
- 2.All references to the Treatise are from the L.A. Selby-Bigge edition (London: Oxford Press, 1958) and the page numbers of the quotes, which will be included in the text rather than being footnoted at the bottom of the page, refer to this edition. All references to the Enquiry are from the Selby-Bigge edition (London: Oxford Press, 1902) and will have an “E” before the page number. These works used by permission of the Clarendon Press.Google Scholar