According to philosopher David Hume, there is no self. It is an illusion created by humans’ lack of believes in cause and effect. David Hume (1711 -1776) was a Scottish economist, philosopher, and historian famous and known for his skepticism. He started to develop his philosophical skepticism in his works A Treatise of Human Nature published in 1734. The work was an analysis of human beliefs, mental perception, and impression that was identified as self. However, Hume disagreed with the idea that there existed the concept of self in people. In his works, David Hume opposed and criticized other philosophers pointing to the existence of identity that defined a person. The philosopher provided arguments to support his critique of the personal self. He supported this by introducing different views about the soul and impression in people.
David Hume supported his idea of the absence of the self in terms with the existence of a soul in human beings (252). He countered the notion of having a soul by claiming that it is just a mere illusion and people cannot justify its existence. It is the reason why people support their disbelief in cause and effect. According to him, individuals cannot provide substantial evidence for the existence of their soul (Hume 253). Hume employed his theory of the necessity of causation to challenge people to consider the impact of cause and effect. His idea of causality was a counterargument to Newton’s scientific theories and laws of nature’s cause and effect.
Hume first supported his idea of no self by denying that the latter had an impression. In the case of the existence of the self, David said that it had to be fluctuating. Thus, there is no constant self. He argued that people lack a clear idea about it. An impression created by the latter has to continue to be seen in human lives, but in reality, it is not manifested in people’s experiences. Identity is an explanation of the human nature, and it is based on contiguity, resemblance, and causality. He argued that it could only be established if the character of an object remained the same throughout its lifetime. Hume argued that there could be no sameness because of a change in humans, for example from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, it makes it difficult to determine identity (252).
The philosopher used the ship’s analogy to support his ideas about identity. He claimed that the latter were only in mind, as well as idealistic and lacking reality. According to him, the design and materials of a ship keep changing over the years, but such changes do not affect its identity. People view the ship as the same even when the whole design and parts are modified. Another example is a tree, which is identified as the same from being a seedling to its adulthood. According to Hume, the two identities are established through imagination by the human race (253).
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David Hume supported his idea of no self by applying the argument that the concept was only a perception in human minds. According to him, the affirmation of the rest of the humankind only exhibited attitudes that succeeded each other being in constant change and movement. He also argued that a change in perception was the only way to make things happen, such as making eyes turn into their sockets. As Hume suggested, in a deep sleep without a dream, the human perception of the self does not exist. According to Hume, the self is only a human perception that only exists in their minds. Understanding is combined to develop a meaning based on human past experiences to guide persons. Hume said that the latter are only a manifestation of cause and effect, whereby the truth lacks a proof (Hume 255).
Hume’s ideas were however subject to criticism on the part of other philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). He was one of the thinkers who developed David Hume’s theory of causation and investigated the concept of human self deeply. Kant became famous for his book Critique of Pure Reason published in 1781, which supported the existence of soul and the self in human (Belvedere 14). The philosopher explained his skeptic views differing from Hume’s unrealistic ideas. According to Kant, there exists the concept of soul and self in people. The two are used to explain human behavior as a result of consciousness and the knowledge of self (Belvedere 15). Unlike Hume, Kant believed that the idea of soul was not a belief, but a real concept other than just mental propagation.
Kant’s approach differed in some ideas from Hume’s theory of causality. His ideas on self were a deeper exploration of the concept and a justification that there is self. He agreed that human beings establish causal relationships between things and experiences. According to Kant and Hume, the idea of cause and effect is in human minds, but Kant argued that it is not a routine. His concept of self was a response to David Hume, which he discussed in parts. He divided self into inner and outer. The first one is a psychological human state and the rationale, while the second involves the real personality and identity. He applied the principle of inner sense to justify the existence of body and soul. According to him, the inner sense is made up of the soul and mind, while the outer one represents the physical body (Brook).
Kant also studied consciousness to prove the existence of self. The consciousness of self is the perception of the inner self and a psychological being. It is divided into the ‘I’ that lacks a manifold in it and the empirical consciousness of self in its variety. The inner self is defined by the understanding of oneself and through apperception. According to Kant, representation enables people to become conscious of self. However, the awareness of the latter is different from the knowledge of it because the second is attributed to personal identity. Kant developed Hume’s ideas and proved that self was more than an idea of mind and cause and effect.
Kant’s response was an adequate and effective one towards David Hume’s idea of self. Kant’s ideas differed from Hume’s concepts and deepened the concept of self through dividing it into self-consciousness and self-knowledge. His works disagreed with David’s idea of no self. Kant proved that the idea of self was realistic, but not idealistic as theorized by Hume. The former successfully explained the concepts of the inner and outer self through their empirical development. He also explained how identity was created through the knowledge of self and criticized the notion that it was an idea in mind.
In conclusion, the philosophers, David Hume and Immanuel Kant, made a great contribution to defining the self. According to Hume, there is no self, and a soul is just a human unjustifiable belief in existence. He denied the existence of the self in people, but his arguments were proven wrong by Kant. The latter explained and convinced other scholars that the idea of self was a reality. He confirmed the existence of the soul as part of the inner self that created self-consciousness. However, Hume did not justify his argument.