Question on Empiricism

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Ian M.
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    says:

    Hume is best writer of the three, so you will probably have the best classroom discussions if you pick his works. Personal preference is for “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”. You can skip teaching Berkeley if you at least tell your class how to pronounce his name and saying his writings are of no matter.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Ian M.
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      says:

      Yeah, I think I’m leaning most heavily towards Hume. I did want to assign the Treatise of Human Nature, since it’s so important, but I’m looking at my copy and it’s 678 pages and I’m asking myself, “Seriously, do you expect undergraduates to come back a week later having read this, or are you just trying to be funny?”Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Ian M.
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      says:

      We did the Enquiry when I was in college — it was by far the best-written and most thought-provoking of the works we read.

      Though Kant’s Prolegomena was fun too. In particular, my friends and I had a lot of discussions about whether the unintuitive conclusions of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics refute Kant’s notion of the relationship between science and human perceptions. (Did I ever tell the story about when a female friend asked what we were discussing so avidly and I said “Kant”?)Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Do you think you guys could sit in on my class? You can audit it.

        I’m going to go re-read Enquiry. I think it probably is the most enjoyable of the bunch. Thanks.

        Kant… I wonder if they really should get the Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals. I’ve got to think about that too.

        Incidentally, they’ll probably also be getting the Himmelfarb text TVD suggested recently.Report

        • Avatar Patrick in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          You have this class on teh intrawebs?Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Patrick
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            says:

            No, I don’t even let them bring electronic devices to class I’m such a stick in the mud (although I will probably stick some of the texts on the web so they don’t have to buy a ton of books). However, I will very, very likely be posting here about the texts covered in the course, since a great many of them are ‘canonical’ and deal with the same political, religious, and cultural issues that we’re still hashing out today. A big theme in the course will be the Enlightenment as an open question today.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F.
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          says:

          Cool, Rufus. I can say Himmelfarb’s Which Enlightenment? definitely applies to America of the Founding era. Perhaps as formal philosophy it doesn’t work so well, but Hume and Voltaire and the like are mostly off the American map.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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            says:

            Yeah, well it’s an intellectual history class, so I’m more interested, with the handful of secondary texts, in giving them interesting arguments about the history of ideas than formal philosophy. What’s really killing me is that I’ve run out of weeks and want to assign them Radical Enlightenment by Jonathan Israel, which is an unbelievably erudite study. The rumor is he has no phone, television, or internet in his home, which explains a lot.Report

  2. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    I’d go with Hume too. Locke can be difficult to read, and Berkeley is very difficult to understand, especially without Locke. Hume is fun, too, since he has a sense of humor.Report

  3. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    I vote Hume as well. Reading Hume in college for me was a defining experience. I always preferred Hobbes to Locke. When I read “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” I found myself unconsciously consuming beverages until I had to take bathroom breaks every five minutes.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      I’m glad to know he was so meaningful to people. I hate to say it, but I really doubt these students will have been exposed to much Hume yet. Locke will be included as well. Hobbes I haddn’t thought of. I’ve got about 13 weeks, so he might have to be summarized.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        The day you do that, begin a stuffed tiger.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Mike Schilling
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          says:

          Oh God, I just realized that my students are young enough that, if I make Calvin and Hobbes jokes, they’re likely to stare at me blankly.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
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            says:

            “What is he going on about this time?”

            “Calvin and Hobbes shared a pessimistic view of life. Apparently he thinks that’s funny.”

            “Or maybe it’s all the drugs people his age used to take when they were young.”

            “Yeah, that’s why he thinks it’s funny.”

            “And why he’s talking to that stuffed tiger.”Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        I don’t think I read Hume until my senior year, or at least I didn’t notice reading Hume until my senior year. I don’t know if this was just chance or whether Hume’s place in the mainstream isn’t as large as his place in my warm heart. I do remember reading Smith, Locke, Hobbes, and Berkeley several times before that though.Report

  4. Avatar db
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    says:

    I’d vote for Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion”. It was one of my top 5 favorate philosophy texts from college. Beyond the obvious merits of the substance, it is well written, clear, and accessible–a very successful use of the form of the dialogue, showing that it isn’t obsolete even after the printing press.Report

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