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Hume Critique of Plato and Descartes

The philosopher David Hume is credited for his contribution towards the development of empiricism and epistemology. Hume believes in the thought of ‘knowledge of facts’ based on experience. Thus, Hume sees claims about the world based on experience as constituting ‘matters of fact.’ Further, Hume elucidates that despite propositions being true or false, they remain non-facts. In the views of Hume, such reflects ‘relations of ideas.’ According to the philosopher, relations-of-ideas are propositions that expose features, which are known already; thus, learning does not take place.

Plato is another philosopher who has made a significant contribution towards understanding of knowledge. In the views of Plato, there is a sharp difference between perceived objects and forms or universals. Based on the views of Plato, people can only hold opinions about perceived objects, although it remains conceivable to have knowledge about universals. Plato proceeds to observe that it is impossible to hold knowledge about anything which is subject to change since knowledge is expected to be the same irrespective of time and space. Drawing from that position, on the one hand, Plato holds that the real world is that of forms such as sunlight. On the other hand, the sensible world remains partial and imperfect. Shadows are an example of the sensible world.

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The propositions presented by Plato are likely to cooperate with the ones of Hume based on the view that perceptions do not make a significant contribution to knowledge. Based on the views of Hume, impression involves actual seeing, feeling and hearing as opposed to mere reflections or perceptions about events. Consequently, knowledge entails that which is seen, felt or heard. In other words, the two philosophers agree that knowledge rests on empiricism and can only be corroborated on the basis of sensations.

Descartes considers the issue of existence by querying how one would know whether they existed. It appears that Descartes is interested in overcoming skepticism. In the pursuit of answers to the issue, Descartes wants to prove that there is no deception about the issue. In his endeavor, Descartes seeks to prove that God is perfect and incapable of deceiving human beings. Effectively, Descartes opines that some ideas have a superior moral reality compared to others. For the philosopher, existence equates to perfection as those objects/things in existence are more noteworthy than those that are not. Additionally, Descartes claims that those who can be deceived are imperfect. Nonetheless, the likelihood to learn a new aspect implies that there is a greater being in existence. In the views of the philosopher, there is no greater being than God. Furthermore, according to the idea that existence is more important than non-existence, God exists as a unique idea.

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David Hume has castigated Descartes model by focusing on the interplay between cause and effect. In his conclusion, Hume holds that Descartes does not see a connection between the two aspects. Taking an example of seeing a cup and subsequently seeing broken pieces, Hume believes that there can be no connection between the two since broken pieces and a cup are two independent ideas. Put bluntly, Hume disputes the argument about cause and effect relationship. While disputing the causation issue, Hume notes that causation encounters a problem since it borders on statements such as ‘X consistently occurring before Y’ seems to highlight a connection. The inherent tendency to assume that a connection exists between two occurrences that follow each other closely is contested. Hume disagrees with the reasoning of connecting every incidence to a cause. The philosopher holds that despite the possibility of causation in the past, nothing justifies its recurrence in the future.

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Moreover, Hume relies on modus tollens in questioning Descartes argument. In particular, Hume contests the notion that peoples’ minds are full of ideas coming from the external world. Of the ideas, one of them is the cause-effect relationship. According to Hume, there need to be a link between cause and effect. However, in Hume’s assessment of Descartes model, the link between the two aspects is missing. Thus, the model is erroneous.

Unlike Descartes who focuses on idea, Hume concentrates on ‘cause and effect’ relationship. In the views of Hume, the presence of order in the universe does not necessarily postulate the existence of God or a god. Thus, Hume would criticize Descartes for entertaining a ‘flawed’ idea about God’s existence. However, Descartes would argue that it is God who created the universe, order and purpose. The view is held since Descartes believes that people are reflective of the order and purpose created by God. Another aspect that would put the two philosophers on a collision course is that Descartes holds that God is moral, intelligent, all-knowing, beneficent, all-powerful, and mortal. Hume would criticize the argument by arguing that if God exists, then he does not fit the above criterion because the presence of evil presents a view that contradicts God’s qualities. For example, evil proves that God is not all-powerful because if he is that powerful, then he may not be completely well meaning since he allows evil things to take place. In the same way, Hume would argue that God is not all-powerful as demonstrated by his inability to prevent evil occurrences.

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