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Description
Seventeenth century science drew attention to striking similarities between the physical make-up of human beings and of animals. In spite of these observed similarities, however, one of the most in...fluential philosophers, Rene Descartes was convinced that human beings were essentially different from animals.
Metadata describing this Open University audio programme
Module code and title: A204, The Enlightenment
Item code: A204; 08
First transmission date: 1980-04-01
Published: 1980
Rights Statement: Rights owned or controlled by The Open University
Restrictions on use: This material can be used in accordance with The Open University conditions of use. A link to the conditions can be found at the bottom of all OU Digital Archive web pages.
Duration: 00:16:42
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Producer: Helen Rapp
Contributor: Stuart Brown
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Descartes; Locke; Newton
Footage description: Seventeenth century science drew attention to striking similarities between the physical make-up of human beings and of animals. In spite of these observed similarities, however, one of the most influential philosophers, Rene Descartes was convinced that human beings were essentially different from animals. Hunan beings had minds, were endowed with both consciousness and Reason and these constituted the most fundamental part of the total person. Pure reason could add to scientific knowledge of man and of the world in matters where it did not have the positive support of experience, Descartes' influence on Physics and Philosophy were great generally but it is one which was rejected almost entirely by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, at least in Britain and France. In the late seventeenth century, two English philosophers, John Locke and Isaac Newton, were thought to have exposed serious limitations in Descartes' approach. Newton's own great achievement in Physics was taken to be a triumph for the full experimental method' and it was this method which Hume professed as the basis for his science of man. Hume denied that pure reason could tell us anything about the world, and denied accordingly that there could be any differences between men and animals except those for which experience provides an assurance. Observation of the behaviour of animals provided just as good an assurance that animals learn from experience, have feelings and beliefs, as there is in the case of human beings, Human beings, according to Hume, are a kind of animal. Human beings only differ from animals generally in respects in which they differ from one another, mainly in posessessing certain capacities to a much higher degree. It is this difference, and not any external difference between human and animal societies, which explains the fact that human beings are capable of many moral sentiments which are unknown in animals. Hume claims that our sense of justice derives from our ability to reflect on what is in the public interest. In generalizing from this case about other social virtues Hume claims to be following Newton's chief rule of philosophizing.
Master spool number: TLN13952H078
Production number: TLN13952H078
Available to public: no