Hume and Descartes’s Philosophical Views on Knowledge, Perception, and Imagination

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Descartes’ and Hume’s perspectives on knowledge, perception, and certainty can be compared and contrasted in distinct ways. Hume’s philosophical rationalist ideals challenged the idealisms of other philosophers, including Descartes himself. Both Hume and Descartes belonged to the British tradition of empiricism which was a foundation for different philosophers to meet and discuss various ideals. Descartes’ philosophy was considered more sophisticated than Hume’s, but Hume’s ideas were more conservative and strict. For example, each philosopher had different takes on the definition of true knowledge.

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The topic of knowledge is frequently debated between these two philosophers. Hume believed in the ability of knowledge and how it is founded upon sense perception. Hume contends that our knowledge is only limited to sense experience. Descartes’s views on knowledge contradicted Hume. Descartes did not trust the information that was received through the senses, but he did believe that specific experience and expertise could be obtained through different means. Unlike Hume and others who thought that knowledge and wisdom come through the senses, Descartes argued the opposite, stating that actual knowledge and understanding only come through the application of pure reason and knowledge.

According to Descartes, the precedent for experience is certainty, a clear and distinct idea that cannot be doubted by anyone. This is because if you can question his beliefs, you are using a form of thinking. Hume’s definition of knowledge is the ability to function and make judgments. His theory of knowledge is established by a specific set of expectations, as well as secondary analysis of concepts and beliefs. In his Meditations, Descartes posits a philosophy in which knowledge is based on a principle of reason so powerful that it can never be supplanted by any other. The definitions of knowledge proposed by both philosophers can be widely debated in modern-day society.

In regards to perception, these philosophers had different views and opinions on what true understanding is. Hume distinguishes between straightforward and convoluted perceptions. He explains that all concepts are perceived in our minds. He discusses two kinds of impressions: impressions and ideas. He suggests that having impressions is similar to experiencing feelings or firsthand experiences. He states that all impressions comprise sensations, passions, or any firsthand experiences. Impressions can be associated with an attitude, desire, or emotion that we might feel in our body and perceive as perceptions. All conceptions come from impressions; he maintains that every basic idea has a foundational impression. Descartes did not believe in impressions or imagination. He categorized these as weaknesses because he presumed that one cannot logically prove something through feelings or visions. This theory can be refuted, according to Descartes.

Descartes believed in innate ideas and how fundamental insights can be gained through our senses to show that ideas are not innate. One must realize that they have already had the experience of having an idea to know that this idea is not inherent. Descartes described how imagination couldn’t help humans because his views on imagination and perception all existed in his mind. One of Descartes’s biggest strengths was his concept of objective reality because he was able to apply this philosophy to better help himself and others. His conception of objective truth is durability and perception of reality that can only be thought of in the mind, not through the imagination. He claimed that if something precisely embodied something, it could be considered objective reality.

Descartes and Hume disagreed on the matters of imagination and innateness. Hume provides clear-cut examples of intellectual ideas, such as a candle wax, to specify specific ideas that Descartes has discredited. Hume argues that candle wax can be perceived as a material substance, and that we can use this to view an element as an assemblage of astute qualities.

Hume is challenging Descarte’s views on perception by using candle wax as an example of what true perception is and how it can be described. Hume thinks he can explain abstract ideas by formulating fundamental ideals and essential functions of different ideologies and imaginations.

Thirdly, Hume comprehends Descartes’ reasoning in explaining his abstract ideas. Their ideas and philosophies on knowledge and perception can be tied to their ideas regarding certainty. Hume creates two sub-faculties of thinking: understanding and imagination. He has designed these functions to be the same essential functions as imaginative functions. This means he is able to perceive certainty through imagination and thinking. These functions contrast with Descartes’ views and idealisms because Descartes believes you are not able to imagine different things; you are only able to think of them. This means to Descartes that you can only think of things, not imagine them, which means that the certainty of thinking is all we can rely on because we cannot trust what is proven through imagination.

Hume and Descartes both have many flaws in their philosophical views. Hume’s flaws lay in his excessive skepticism, resulting in inconclusive theories. Similarly, Descartes’s views are flawed because they are too extreme; he claims that certain things, such as imagination, do not exist. This stance doesn’t make sense because he takes an extreme position without adequately explaining his theories.

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Hume And Descartes's Philosophical Views On Knowledge, Perception, And Imagination. (2022, Aug 19). Retrieved from