David Hume’s Concept of Substance and God

David Hume’s Concept of Substance and God

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Substance: What leads Hume to deny the existence of a permanent self that somehow maintains its identity throughout time is his denial of the existence of any form of substance.

Locke accepted the idea of ​​substance as having color, form and other qualities, but he did not hesitate to say “something I do not know what it is”. Berkeley, on the other hand, denied the existence of a substance underlying the qualities, but retained the idea of ​​spiritual substances. Hume, on the other hand, tried to deny the existence of a substance in any form. In other words, he did not accept material or spiritual substance. Hume argued that such a substance could not be derived from sense-impressions. If the idea of ​​substance is conveyed to us through our senses, which of these is substance? If we perceive it with our eyes it must be a color, if we perceive it with our ears it must be a sound, if we perceive it with our tongue it must be a taste. Therefore, it cannot be said that we have an idea of ​​substance apart from the collection of special properties.

Locke accepted material and spiritual substances, but argued that they could not be known. Berkeley rejected material substance and embraced spiritual substance. Hume, on the other hand, completely rejected substance.

God: Hume’s radical empiricist premise that “all our ideas come from experience, there is no idea beyond experience” has led him to a point of skepticism in terms of the concept of God. According to him, many attempts to prove the existence of God are based on certain versions of causality. these include the forming-to-shape, to design argument, which has always had a powerful effect on the mind. Hume first passes this argumentation through the filter of criticism.

This reasoning begins with the observation of the beautiful order in nature. This order is similar to the kind of order that the human mind can impose on material that is still formless. Just as man can give formless matter a form, and in this way, for example, a sculpture emerges, there must also be an artist who initially gave form to this nature; this is God. Going from effect to cause once is not a sufficient route; It could be something else that gives form to nature. In addition, it is not correct to establish a similarity relationship between the idea of ​​the principle that gives form to nature and the human giving form to the formless raw material, because these two are very different from each other. Therefore, the existence of God cannot be proved beyond belief.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook