9: From Hobbes to Hume


  • Read and analyze a description of philosophical thought
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between modern views of reality, the self, and ethical conduct in society
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between rationalism and empiricism
  • Demonstrate knowledge of Innate Ideas, Locke’s Tabula Rasa, Subjective Idealism, Skepticism, Matters of Fact and Relations of Ideas


I. Hobbes

Key Terms

State of Nature
Social Contract
Innate Ideas
Tabula Rasa
Subjective Idealism
Hume's Fork

Hobbes on the State of Nature

...which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short

The Social Contract

  • A. Contextualizing Hobbes’ Social Contract
    • Eliminate all assumptions about morality
    • No God to give commands
    • No natural purpose or law
    • Psychological egoism is true
    • We pity people because we fear the same could happen to us
    • What then is the basis of our morality?
  • B. The Basis of Morality
    • Practical need
    • Morality depends on practical solutions to problems
    • We need a peaceful cooperative society
    • Rules that come from need are our morals
  • C. The State of Nature
    • Suppose there were no authority or government institutions
    • Bleak picture of the world
    • Constant fear and danger
    • Self-interested individuals, when given no security, seek their own security first
    • Basic Facts of Human Life derived from the state of nature hypothetical
      • Humans have equality of need
      • There is scarcity of resource
      • Humans have a basic equality of power
      • Humans are basically selfish
    • State of nature is not a hypothetical conclusion
    • When governments fall or international crises occur, this is the result
  • D. The Social Contract
    • We collectively agree to follow rules that benefit society
    • We collectively agree to enforce those rules
    • We collectively agree to accept punishment for breaking rules
    • Enforcing the Rules
      • The law
      • The court of public opinion
  • E. Advantages of the Social Contract
    • Provides security
    • Permits altruism
    • Allows us to become a different kind of person
    • Explains purpose of morality and government


Locke on the Social Contract

The social contract should protect life, liberty, health, and property.

II. Locke

  • A. Locke’s Response to Hobbes
    • The state of nature is not all bad
    • People are governed by natural laws ordained by God
    • These laws make them free, rational, and social
    • Entitled to life, liberty, health, property
    • Freedom from Bad Government
      • Society requires authority
      • But the state is a servant of the people
      • We require freedom from interference from bad government that might limit our life, liberty, health, or property
  • B. Locke on Knowledge
    • Rationalism opens the door to speculations that are unsupportable and impossible to prove
    • Common sense dictates we follow the direct data of experience
  • C. Tabula Rasa and the Theory of Innate Ideas
    • Locke is opposed to the Theory of Innate Ideas
    • Argues against Universalism
    • We are born a tabula rasa (blank slate)
    • Liebniz disagrees, saying the human mind is born with innate inclinations and tendencies
    • Contemporary research supports Liebniz, not Locke
  • D. Locke on the Self
    • Perception
    • We gain knowledge through experiences, which are perceived through our senses
    • Locke’s concept of the self is tied up with his understanding of personal identity
    • The self is personal identity
    • Requires consciousness, constantly perceiving the self connected by memories
    • Tabula Rasa = blank slate
    • We are born without innate ideas

III. Berkeley

What is Subjective Idealism?

Matrix Clip Link

  • Subjective Idealism
    • Takes empiricism to the next level
    • Objects do not exist independently of consciousness
    • The only things that exist are conscious minds and the ideas subjectively present to the conscious mind
    • Physical objects are groups of sense experiences
    • To be is to be perceived

IV. Hume


  • A. Skepticism
    • Doubting all assumptions (Descartes)
    • Claiming no knowledge is possible under any circumstances
    • Radical view based on empiricism
    • Hume applies skepticism to everything
      • Science
      • Other philosophical arguments
      • The principle of universal causation and the principle of induction
  • B. Contents of the Mind
    • Impressions - actual experiences
      • Tasting an apple
      • Immediate feelings of pain, hunger, etc.
    • Ideas - copies of impressions
      • Memory of the apple's taste
      • Remembering pain, hunger, etc.
  • C. Hume’s Fork
    • Relations of Ideas
      • Discoverable by reason
        • Facts we don't traditionally question
        • Opposite of the idea would not be true
        • Hume claims these are not true knowledge

Relations of Ideas

  • All triangles have three sides.
  • All bachelors are unmarried
  • A2+B2=C2
  • Matters of Fact
    • Proven by experience
      • Because these are based on experience, they are true knowledge

Matters of Fact

  • All bachelors are messy.
  • All dogs have four legs.
  • Apples are red.
  • D. Truth in Relations of Ideas and Matters of Fact
    • Because Relations of Ideas do not require experience and are discovered through reason, they are impossible
    • Only Matters of Fact are true knowledge because they require experience
  • E. Hume on the Self
    • Extending Perception
    • Skepticism
      • There is no self
    • Rather than a "self" we have Impressions and Ideas
      • These give us a stream of sensations, not a constant notion of self that exists as a unified identity
    • If there is no continuous idea of self, but instead changing sensations, there must not be a self
    • Even when actively looking for the self, we only see perceptions
    • This means there is no ongoing self during times when we are not thinking, such as when we are dreaming or at death

Logic Week 9: Special Pleading & Slippery Slope