What Is Metaphysics According to Hume?


Vincent White

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, and cause and effect. According to David Hume, an 18th-century Scottish philosopher, metaphysics is a futile exercise that cannot provide us with any true knowledge about the world.

Hume’s critique of metaphysics is based on his empiricist approach to knowledge. He argued that all knowledge comes from experience and that we can only know what we observe through our senses. According to Hume, there are two types of knowledge: relations of ideas and matters of fact.

Relations of ideas are things like mathematical truths or logical deductions that can be known simply by thinking about them. Matters of fact, on the other hand, are things that we can only know through experience. For example, we know that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius because we have observed it boiling at that temperature.

Hume argued that metaphysical concepts like substance or causation do not fall into either category. They are not logical deductions or mathematical truths, nor are they directly observable in the world around us. Instead, they are abstract ideas that we use to make sense of our experiences.

For example, when we observe one billiard ball striking another and causing it to move, we infer a causal relationship between the two events. But according to Hume, this inference is not based on any direct observation of causation itself. Instead, it is based on our habit of associating certain types of events with each other.

Hume’s critique of metaphysics has been influential in shaping modern philosophy. Many philosophers today share his skepticism about abstract concepts like substance and causation and argue that they cannot provide us with any real knowledge about the world.

In conclusion, David Hume believed that metaphysics was a pointless endeavor because it could not provide us with any true knowledge about the world. His empiricist approach to knowledge led him to argue that abstract concepts like substance and causation were not based on any direct observation and were therefore meaningless. While his ideas have been debated by philosophers for centuries, his contributions to the field of philosophy continue to be studied and discussed today.