Dialectical Spiritualism: David Hume, Part 4

BY: SUN STAFF - 20.3 2017

Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

David Hume (1711 - 1776)

Hayagriva dasa: As far as we can ascertain, Hume personally had no religion, no faith in the Christian or any other God. He also rejected the contention that argument or reason could justify a faith. He is a skeptic who denies the possibility of attaining certainty outside of a mere sequence of perceptions or ideas.

Srila Prabhupada: In other words, all statements are to be rejected except his.

Hayagriva dasa: Well, he claims that man cannot know ultimate reality or possess knowledge of anything beyond a mere awareness of phenomenal, sensory images.

Srila Prabhupada: If man cannot possess knowledge, why should we accept Hume's knowledge? It is better to stop the search for knowledge altogether, is it not? Why does Hume bother to write so many books? He is simply trying to set up his own system as supreme. But a skeptic has no foundation for anything.

Syamasundara dasa: Hume says that if we like, we can attribute the order and design of the world to an architect, but as far as he is concerned, there is no proof that a superior architect exists.

Srila Prabhupada: If something is artistic and systematic, we must admit that there is some intelligence behind it. We have no other experience. According to our experience, things do not work well without some brain behind them. When we see that the cosmic manifestation is systematic, we must admit that there is a guiding intelligence.

Syamasundara dasa: He feels that if such an architect exists, he must be responsible for evil in nature. He therefore concludes that God is either finite or imperfect. If He were perfect, there would be no evil, and if He were infinite in power, He could eliminate it.

Srila Prabhupada: God is absolute, and for Him there is no evil. For Him, there is only good, otherwise He could not be called absolute. What we think is evil, is good to God. A father may slap his child, and that child may cry. For the child, this is evil, but for the father, this is good, because he thinks, "I have done right. Although he is crying, he will not commit this same mistake again." Chastisement may sometimes appear evil, but that is relative to our position. Whose opinion are we to take?

Syamasundara dasa: Hume would say that this means that God is limited.

Srila Prabhupada: That is nonsense. If God is limited, He cannot be God.

Syamasundara dasa: The logic is that God must be limited in His goodness to allow evil to exist.

Srila Prabhupada: God is unlimitedly good.

Syamasundara dasa: Then God must be limited in His power because He cannot eliminate evil.

Srila Prabhupada: No. Evil works under His guidance. God controls both good and evil; therefore He is called the supreme controller. He is not limited in any way. The exact word used in Sanskrit is ananta, unlimited. God is advaitam acyutam anantam: nondual, infallible, and unlimited.

Syamasundara dasa: Concerning world morality, Hume maintains that morality consists of values formulated by the individual for himself as a matter of personal opinion. Each man may do as his conscience dictates.

Srila Prabhupada: One man may say that his conscience dictates this, and another that his conscience dictates something else. Therefore there is no agreement.

Syamasundara dasa: However, in society, Hume would say that moral values are relative to public opinion.

Srila Prabhupada: Then we have to accept the opinion of the majority. This is democracy.

Syamasundara dasa: Yet Hume admits that it is up to the individual whether to accept public opinion or reject it. Although the law is there, and society agrees to it, it is still up to the individual to follow it or not.

Srila Prabhupada: If you do not follow the law, you will be punished by the state. So we can conclude that independent thinking is not absolute. It is also relative.