I'm struggling to reconcile David Hume's critiques of science and religion. On the one hand, he suggests that our application of cause/effect to natural phenomena is problematic since it ammounts to simply equating the present with the past. On the other hand, he warns us against believing in second-hand accounts of miracles since they are interruptions of natural law. Isn't our use of causal reasoning the way we determine the characteristics of natural law? Is this an inconsistency in his argument and, if so, does he address it anywhere?

Good question. You are pointing out an apparent contradiction. Hume seems both to say that we have no good reason to rely on induction (predicting the future based on the past), and yet that we should rely on it when we reject belief in miracles. What Hume says about causal reasoning is that we never have sufficiently good reason to believe present predictions based on past experience. We can only justify induction by appeal to induction itself, but that is arguing in a circle. So we have no good reason to believe that the conclusions of induction are true. Nonetheless we instinctively make and believe the predictions, anyway. We can't help it. So we make a virtue of necessity and rely on these predictions. That is how we come to believe in natural laws. Now comes the part about miracles that are supposed to be violations of these laws. Based on past experience, it is more likely that a report of a miracle is mistaken than it is that the laws were really violated. So if we rely on our instinct to...

Yes, that's a good point. It is true that Hume's practical recommendations are based on inductive claims that he can't ultimately justify. However, he is relying on the natural force of appeals to induction, not their epistemic justifiability. So he is still not relying on the justifiability that he denies.

I want to say Hume was an idealist but this seems controversial. My reasoning goes like this. Hume thinks that all we can know comes from our personal experience (this is uncontroversial Hume was an empiricist). He also thinks that we have no justification for believing in an external world, because all we ever experience are our sense perceptions which, Hume thinks, are wholly mind dependent. So Hume thinks all we can know is mind dependent and we have no justification for believing that there is anything more than this. So for Hume all there is, is mind dependent stuff. This clearly makes Hume an idealist. So my qustion is am I right in saying that Hume was an idealist?

Here is another take on this important and difficult question. The fact that Hume can find no justification for believing in the external world does not prevent him from believing in it. Nature causes us to believe many things we can find no justification for. "We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body? but 'tis vain to ask, Whether there be body or not? That is a point which we must take for granted in all our reasonings" (Treatise Body for Hume is what continues to exist unperceived and is distinct from mind or perception. So he is not an idealist.

I have recently been thinking about a comment that one of my philosophy professors made in college that has been causing me a great deal of distress. He said "If you have a problem that you don't want to deal with, go to sleep and let someone else deal with it." meaning that the person who wakes up in the morning is not the same as the person who went to sleep the night before. Is there any validity to this claim? Does our consciousness continue while we sleep or does it stop and then restart? Is the person typing this question the same person who will wake up in my bed tomorrow? If we were replaced each morning by a person with identical memories, wouldn't it appear the same from the inside and the outside? And finally, is this worth getting worked up about? thanks

There are arcane theoretical reasons for thinking that you are not the same person when you wake up. There are also arcane conceptual scenarios that prevent you from being absolutely certain that you are the same person. These considerations are no match for your everyday certainty that it is you, even if they are able to cause short-term anxiety. Your everyday certainty will return, with a faint residue of wonder that we cannot absolutely prove the things we know. That residue is part of the point of doing philosophy. It helps save us from the dogmatic arrogance people are prone to. Your professor was partly joking and partly trying to push you toward this philosophical lesson.

I am 1 living thing. I am made up of 10 trillion cells, which are also living things. If I am alone in a room, how many living things are in the room? 1? 10 trillion? 10 trillion and 1?

Some philosophers would say that there are 10 trillion and 1 (at least). After all, you are a person and none of your cells is a person, so you are a distinct thing from each of them, and so an additional thing to all of them. Other philosophers would say that "living thing" is not a count noun because "thing" is not a count noun, and you need to be more specific about what you are counting. Is it persons? Then there is one. Is it cells? Then there are 10 trillion. I am dissatisfied with both these responses. It seems to me that "thing" is as much a count noun as is "item" in a sign for a grocery line that says "Six Items or Less." And it seems to me wrong to think that strictly speaking one should be barred from taking a six-pack through the "Six Items or Less" line because it is seven items: one six-pack plus six cans. Instead, it seems to me that the six-pack just is the six cans (neglecting packaging), not something in addition. The very same portion of reality can be accurately counted two different...

If a judgmental individual asserts his or her judgments outright and an individual says, “You’re so judgmental,” will it make that person a hypocrite for judging? Is there any way not to be considered judgmental? If tell a drug dealer, what you’re doing is harmful to society; you should stop. Am I being a hypocrite for judging? Or, is there correct way or wrong way of conducting oneself? Does one have the right to judge a rapist, child molester, and cannibal?

Not everyone who judges is judgmental. To be judgmental is to be prone to condemning people without regard to what can be said on their behalf. If you reserve condemnation for cases in which little can be said for the person and much against, then you are not being judgmental. So, if you have made a good faith effort to discern that your friend condemns people without considering their sides, then you are not being judgmental to point that out. If you have made a good faith effort to find out whether the others are really rapists, child molesters, and cannibals, and you find that they are, then there is little to say on their behalf and you are not being judgmental in condemning them.

I have been romantically seeing a man for more than five years. We have known each other for a long time and I know he is an extraordinary man who will be there for me through anything, no matter what. However, I feel that his future is not nearly as bright as mine. The only reason he decided to study hard to get into a good college was because I urged him to. However, I admire him for his social skills and his ability to judge situations accurately and quickly (which means good social skills.) On the other hand, after going on a break with this man due to the long distance, I have met another man who I have been seeing for a while. This second man is not nearly as great a person as the first. His family is well-off, but this has led him to be somewhat spoiled and I find that I do not respect or admire him as I do the first. However, he is with me physically where I study and he had provided me with comfort and company when I needed/wanted it. Furthermore, he seems a bit more intellectual than the first...

For these questions, you would probably be better off asking an older person whose wisdom you respect, than someone with a philosophy degree. However, since they are questions I also have wondered about, I will attempt an answer. The beginnings of love happen when you find that you are not just concerned with what the other person can do for you, but find yourself concerned with their good. When love grows, you find that your concern for their good is equal to and inseparable from your concern for your own. This stretching beyond concern with your own good is one of the main things valuable about marriage. It will more likely happen with someone you admire and who has strengths that complement your weaknesses. Intellectual and social similarities do not seem to me to be as important, even though dissimilarities can be a source of tension sometimes. Which of these men do you feel this loving way about and feels this way about you? One way to tell is to observe if you are kind to each other and willing to...

It seems obvious that a line of length 4 is longer than a line of length 2; but couldn't we just as easily say that the two lines are equally made up of an infinite number of points?

You are right that the points in a 4 inch line segment can be put into one-to-one correspondence with the points in a 2 inch line segment. Think of a line swinging through both line segments, the way a door swings through a shorter path nearer its hinge and a longer path further from the hinge. The swinging line matches any point in one with a point in the other. Therefore, they have the same number of points--an infinite number. However, that is not a strike against the claim that the line segments have different lengths. The points are dimensionless, and the length of a line segment is not a function of the number of its dimensionless points. So the 4 inch line segment is still twice the length of the other.