Descartes v Hume Essay

Words: 1531
Pages: 7

The concept of self identifies the essence of one’s very being. It implies continuous existence having no other exact equal, i.e. the one and only. Whether or not the specific characteristic(s) used to define self are objectively real, i.e. physical attributes, or purely subjective, i.e. imaginary traits, the concept makes distinct one entity from another. Rationalism is the theory that truth can be derived through use of reason alone. Empiricism, a rival theory, asserts that truth must be established by sensual experience: touch, taste, smell, et al. Rene Descartes, a philosopher and rationalist concluded that one self was merely a continuous awareness of one’s own existence; one’s substance was one’s ability to think. On the other …show more content…
While it’s possible to not sense things, it’s impossible not to think. Descartes claims that he is just “a thing which thinks” (Descartes 9). His proof is that he can question his own existence. While he admits many “images are framed by thought, which are tested by the senses” (Descartes 10), he claims that the way we perceive things comes from thinking. To prove his claim, Descartes examined a piece of wax in various forms and submitted that even though it’s physical form may change, one’s understanding of it to be wax was solely a construct of the human mind. The ability to think is undeniable proof of existence and self is an innate idea created by the mind or soul. So self is just a continuous awareness of one’s individual existence. David Hume was an empiricist who believed that knowledge came from the way one’s mind perceived the physical world. He claimed that there was no such thing as an innate idea, which is an idea present in the human mind that was not created through some sort of experience. Hume argued that people perceive the world in two ways – through impressions which are one’s senses and through ideas which are one’s thoughts. Furthermore, Hume claimed that all ideas were formed by sensual experiences, “It must be some one impression that gives rise to every real idea” (Hume 14). Ideas are essentially copies of impressions and there are two ways of repeating impressions, memory and imagination. One can remember impressions and