The Concept of Certainty Comparison Essay by tizziefit

The Concept of Certainty
This paper looks at the concept of certainty, while discussing the theories of John Locke and David Hume.
# 113769 | 1,445 words | 6 sources | APA | 2008 | US
Published on May 08, 2009 in Philosophy (Metaphysics) , Philosophy (Logic) , Political Science (John Locke)

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In this article, the writer discusses that in John Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" and David Hume's "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding", both philosophers examine the theory of knowledge and the aspects of ideas, relationships, and certainty. The writer notes that Locke used the different types of knowledge (intuitive, demonstrative, and sensory) to discuss the level of certainty of ideas based on their degree of probability and margin of error. The writer then points out that Hume, on the other hand, did not believe that anything outside of the sensory field, such as metaphysical discussions, could be considered certain. The writer concludes that Hume's theory was that certainty was only found in factual elements which were based on sensations of objects which had spatial, sequential or mathematical relationships, whereas Locke used deductive reasoning and degrees of probability to discuss with a level of certainty, the existence of objects and ideas outside of the sensory range.

From the Paper:

"Locke's degree of certainty, which was more highly associated with intuitive and demonstrative knowledge, and different than the degree of certainty linked with sensitive knowledge, did present some disagreement at the time by critics, even though his theory led to the idea of solipsism (the idea that only the self can be known to exist). Contrary to their criticisms, he did not dismiss knowledge which had been derived through sensory experience. What Locke did suggest however, was that knowledge resulting from sensory experience could not be extended to general truths and in fact had a different, and not as strong, degree of certainty as those of intuitive and demonstrative knowledge. Certainty, for Locke, was based on degree, which increased or decreased depending on the probably and the margin of error which was allocated to each element (Wolff, 2006). In addition, he did not dismiss aspects of knowledge which did not have less than perfect certainty but rather placed the degrees of certainty in a hierarchy."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Hume, D. (1894). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748. Ed. J.A. Selby-Bigge. Oxford. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from
  • Kenyon, R.E. (1989). Locke's Theory of Knowledge. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from
  • Locke, J. (1964). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. Retrieved November 23, 2008 from
  • The Radical Academy. (2001). The Great Thinkers of Western Philosophy: The Philosophy of David Hume. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from
  • Weber, A. (2002). History of Philosophy: David Hume. Retrieved November 22, 2008 from

Cite this Comparison Essay:

APA Format

The Concept of Certainty (2009, May 08) Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

MLA Format

"The Concept of Certainty" 08 May 2009. Web. 22 October. 2020. <>