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Michael Fario

Philosophy 1010
November 22, 2014


Critique on Humes argument for Empiricism

I will be critiquing Humes argument for Empiricism on the grounds that; his argument
doesn't present a wide enough scope, the missing shade of blue is too weak of a sample size. I will
present Humes argument then proceed to give examples, research , and stronger evidence that
proves the exact opposite of Humes stance.
First, lets go over Humes argument. The missing shade of blue goes as follows.
P1. If you have an idea, then youve experienced the relevant impressions from your senses.
P2. You have not experienced the missing shade of blue.
P3. Therefore, you cannot form an idea of that shade of blue.
Premise one is simply stating that any ideas that we can have; must come from impressions
of things youve experienced, or seen in the real world.
Hume then goes onto premise two to prove premise one with the missing shade of blue.
The missing shade of blue is saying that if we wanted to come up with a new shade of the
color blue that we havet seen before, we wouldnt be able to unless we saw it in the real world.
He concludes his argument by saying that since we cannot form the idea of the shade of
blue, therefore everything in mind must come from sense-data (experience) of the world.
Humes argument is trying to prove that there is no inborn knowledge. Everything must
come from sense-data (experience).

I will now go on to present my own argument. I will be arguing for the exact opposite; on
the grounds that everything comes from the mind. Arguing that our minds form the best reality
they can via sense-data; although that reality is close, it is not a complete picture of the external
world. After my argument is presented we will be able to see which of the two arguments has
more conclusive evidence.

David Hume was born on May the 7th, 1711,in Edinburgh, Scotland. Hume was a

Scottish Philosopher, and arguably one of the most important Empiricists. The reason I bring
this up is because look at the date, Hume was alive during the 1700s, thats over 300 years ago.
Since Humes death science has made discoveries to disprove his argument altogether.

The first example I want to go over is light. In 1895 a German physicist by the name of

W.C. Roentgen discovered X-ray light while working in his laboratory. We now know by this
discovery that the light spectrum goes beyond the human field of visible light. Why is this
important? This is important because it shows that we were able to discover something external,
something that exists outside of what our sense-data has told us. Humans cant actually see X-ray
light, but we know they are there, and we even use them (hospitals). Another basic example of
this dogs; they can hear higher frequencys then humans can.

The next example I want to go over deals less with the shade of blue, but more with

Humes core argument, that there is no inborn knowledge. In 1976 a German neurologist by the
name of Hoimar Von Ditfurth published a book called; The Mind did not come out of the blue
skies. In his book he describes experiments biologist used to study inborn (knowledge) patterns
of animal behavior. One of the experiments was done by a zoologist named Tinbergen in 1951.
Tinbergen took a few days old baby turkeys and closed them off in a circular pen with the walls
about a foot in height. In the middle of the pen he put a horizontal arm that could sweep left or


right. When the arm swept in one direction it would look like a hawk, when it would swing the
other direction, the arm would look like a goose. The flying silhouette would leave a shadow of
one of the two birds flying above. When he would swing the arm to look like a goose the chicks
would happily keep pecking their food and seem undisturbed. When he would swing it in the
other direction (the shadow of a hawks body) they were terrified and would run for cover.
Without a mother to warn them about her experiences to these chicks, they were still able to
recognize the hawk as their natural enemy. Inborn in these few day old chicks was the knowledge
to protect themselves, even without any experience of the external world.

Without any training, without any conscious thought processes, a few days old chicks were able to

recognize a clear and present danger - the hawk - even though it was only a silhouette model of their enemy passing
over their heads. (, Knowledge vs. instinct, 2002: 1)

There is many other studies on innate knowledge in animals, but Instead I want to bring

up one more examples similar to this, but only this time with humans. When we look at human
sex drive; we can see patterns of innate knowledge. Nothing from the external world tells us to be
attracted to the opposite sex, attraction and sex drive are like instinct, they come from within.

After looking at what I have presented so far, we can see evidence of inborn knowledge,

and the ability to learn something new about the eternal world without experiencing it via sensedata. To tie it all together I want to move into the final leg of my argument; the mind.

The mind is a beautiful thing. When I speak of the mind; I am also referring to the brain.

No one is a dualist anymore, as most consider the mind as; the brains representation of sensedata given via senses. I agree with Hume that our senses give us relevant impressions, but I
disagree that we aren't able to form an idea of something if we haven't experienced it. One way
of explaining this is with depth perception. We cant actually see in three dimensions, our brains


make up a three dimensional image of the world. Yes, we are 3D creatures living in a 3D world,
but our eyes can only see in two dimensions.

Humans do not have 3D vision - we have 2 eyes both of which see a 2D image. The combination of

two lenses a marginal distance apart gives us depth perception; this gives us an illusion of 3D vision.

The image of the world given to us from our eyes is partly formed in the mind. We live

in 3 dimensions but our eyes see in two. Our mind forms a perception (idea) of the world without
actually experiencing it.

Everything I have said here is valid science. I believe if Hume was alive today, he would

change his argument altogether because the research we have today out weighs his 300 year old
theory. I will let you draw your own conclusion, but his argument shouldn't even be a valid
subject anymore because its too out dated and too weak. We can argue all we want but science
isn't a democracy; its the truth. The truth has shown in multiple, valid, sound, experiments, that
reality is made up of the mind, and my reality could be different from yours. Another easy way
to look at this is with mental illnesss like Schizophrenia. Someone with schizophrenia is hearing
voices that aren't real. For him they are real, but for me, they are not. He genuinely hears these
voices and perceives them to be real. Although perception can be close, it is not a perfect
representation of the true nature of things.

To conclude my argument instead of coming out with a guns blazing approach, I want to

end on a positive note. I believe with whats stated, we can draw the conclusion that there is still a
lot of unknown knowledge to be discovered. I believe we aren't even close to whats right and
even further more; I believe we aren't supposed to know (whatever reason that might be), but
thats whats so humbling and beautiful about the notion of reality and the mind; not knowing.


This conclusion leaves me with the idea that we shouldn't even question something we cannot
truly understand, and instead we should strive to be happy and positive, because weather we see
the glass half empty, or half full; the glasss contents remain the same. Only the perception of it

If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and

vibration. - Nikola Tesla

The Mind did not come out of the blue skies by Hoimar Von Ditfurth, 1976.
Knowledge Vs. Instinct by Garnhan, Apr, 14th, 2012 02:43 PM