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Once the reader gets past the language and time issues that have passed since Hume's lifetime, the ideas he presents become clear and make a great deal of sense.
Hume uses several main arguments and conclusions in his writing. The first two are the most important, as they seem to set the groundwork for the others. The first is that everyone has impression and ideas about things but that these must be examined closely because they are often false. This seems logical because many things that people do, when looked back on, are found to be not really the best or most logical choice after all.
The second thing that Hume points out is that there are two different kinds of reasoning. One deals with fact and the other with ideas. Facts deal with mathematically-based issues that can be proven, and the other deals with understandings that have been passed down. They appear to be true, but there is no mathematical way to prove why they are true. This is like people who believe, for example, that fruits and vegetables are good for health. This appears to be the case, but there is no mathematical formula that can be used to prove that this belief is true for all people all of the time.
Hume also points out other, smaller bit of information, such as that causation has a great deal to do with his understanding of things (Bongie, 1998). In order to reason, one has to understand why they are reasoning on something. What kind of causation is used relates to the necessity of finding the information. Other points deal with past and future and their resemblance to each other, external objects, the idea of self, and the limits of enquiry. All of these things are important, but not as important as the first two points that Hume makes. This is why the others are not discussed in detail here. Without the first two points and an understanding of them, the other points Hume makes become meaningless.
One individual that should be compared with Hume is Friedrich Nietzsche. The Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was born in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century. He was interested in Christianity and traditional morality, and often challenged the foundations of these issues. He was not that concerned about what the world beyond would be like, but rather had interest in the reality that people live in now, and involved himself in creativity, health, and life. Life-affirmation was a central theme in his philosophy, which will be more thoroughly discussed momentarily.
Nietzsche was born in Rocken bei Lutzen, which is southwest of Leipzig and dominated by farmlands, on the 15th of October of 1844. His grandfathers were ministers in the Lutheran Church, and his father was Rocken's town minister. When Nietzsche was very young, his father passed away from an ailment of the brain, and his younger brother died only six months after that. After this took place, he moved away to another town, Naumburg an der Saale, where he lived for the next eight years, sharing space with not only his mother but his grandmother, his younger sister, and two aunts.
He went on to boarding school after that, and then on to the University of Bonn, where he studied both biblical and classical texts and found himself very interested in what they had to say. At 23 he entered military service, which was required. He was injured, put on sick leave, and eventually went back to the University after the wound he had suffered did not heal properly. He took a job with the faculty of a Swiss University at the age of 24, and from there he worked for some time before eventually leaving the University due to sickness. He collapsed in 1889 and died later that same year.
One of Nietzsche's greatest works was a book entitled Beyond Good and Evil. His concept of what he calls a "will to power" is one of the central themes in his philosophical beliefs, and therefore it is also a recurring theme in the book. When Nietzsche was young and only a budding philosopher, he often admired and was highly influenced by the writings of other philosophers, most notably Arthur Schopenhauer. However, Schopenhauer, like most scientists and philosophers of that day, attributed a "will to live" as being the highest motivational life force that could be found anywhere in nature. Nietzsche also observed that having a "will to live" was not really life affirming enough for him to be comfortable with and that humankind actually needed a higher power than that to rely on.
Because of that, he theorized that human beings were not actually motivated solely by a survival instinct. He understood something beyond that, which was that humans had a much higher need than that, which he then termed the "will to power." One can very easily interpret his "will to power" as the method which people use in order to grow and nurture the creative energy that they have, and what they use to interact with their world. Nietzsche believed that the "will to power" was then coupled with the desire of a human being's innate nature and passion for creativity.
Nietzsche thought that this "will to power" was actually the driving force of humanity. "A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength -- life itself is will to power, self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results" (Nietzsche, 2005). This "will to power" then causes human beings to want to dominate people and to impose their specific will onto others. For Nietzsche, then, humanity's "will to power" meant that life is essentially the exploitation of other people, and that it has been so since the beginning of time (Nietzsche, 2005). In addition to this, Nietzsche also believed that an individual could take the concept of a "will to power" one further step, and it could be used in order to explain motivations behind whole societies and nation states, instead of seeing it as only being behind the motivations of an individual (Nietzsche, 2005).
Nietzsche appears to be also extremely passionate and very specific in the aphorisms that he has stated. He wrote so many things that it is relatively easy to locate instances in some of his works where he actually contradicts himself. Nietzsche's concept of a "will to power" is simply a philosophic thought, and it has led to many different interpretations. Many people that read the work of Nietzsche assume that he thought the primary instincts of humans came down to violence and that there was very little else, which amounts to a serious underestimation of the views that he held on humanity. However, most of the writings that he created on the concept of "will to power," if they are interpreted as being very violent, need to be understood more in how he saw a constant struggle within people to overcome their individual weaknesses (Nietzsche 2005).
Nietzsche saw this "will to power" along the lines of being able to apply one's will in overcoming problems of the self. His writings about violence, therefore, are usually meant as violence against the idea of giving in to "the herd" or a slave mentality. The herd, as Nietzsche calls it, is the large majority of human beings who, throughout world history, have simply obeyed and blindly followed the status quo. The herd has slowed the development of humanity with the slave mentality that they have shown (Nietzsche, 2005). The slave mentality, therefore, invented a dichotomy between good and evil.
Moral judgments and condemnations constitute the favorite revenge of the spiritually limited against those less limited" (Nietzsche, 2005). In addition, the herd mentality can also cause people to hide or quash the creative drive that they have. Because of this, Nietzsche is imploring a few noble humans -- the few geniuses that he believes still exist -- to struggle against following the herd and to show where the mentality of humanity should really lie. Nietzsche wanted noble people to create their own mentality and morality and the values that they need to have in order to live their lives properly. If they did this, Nietzsche thought, they would fulfill their own "will to power" and not try to indulge in efforts that would attract other individuals to their values (Nietzsche, 2005).
Emile Durkheim is another individual with close ties to much of what Hume had to say, as were Comte and Spencer, who Durkheim draws much from. He placed great emphasis on the division of labor (DOL) in society. He wondered about what it was, and how it applied to everything that society encompassed, such as individual people, animals, and plants. He was not the first to ponder these things and try to come up with an explanation that made sense…[continue]
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