The way in which a concept comes to exist in one’s mind is itself a concept worth examining. Many philosophers have looked for the origin of thought in the human mind, and many different reasons for this origin have been put forth. As a philosopher, it is only fitting that Hume would propose his own framework for human thinking. For Hume, perceptions are developed either as the understanding of the outside world, or as recollections of these events or alterations of these memories within the mind¹. This distinction is important, as it allows Hume to differentiate perceptions as true or false notions. With this, Hume puts forward his concepts of belief and fiction. Belief is defined in perceptions that one, simply put, believes, and fiction encompasses the thoughts that are not believed. These definitions seem redundant when viewed as so, but further examination of Hume’s framework sheds light on the meaning of what he attempts to establish concerning belief.
In order to fully understand the difference between belief and fiction, Hume’s definition of thought must first be studied. Hume splits perceptions of the mind into two sections – impressions and ideas – and the distinctions between the two are significant (Hume, 18). For Hume, the most important aspect of perceptions is the force in which one experiences the thought. Impressions are defined as, “all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will” (p. 18). On the other hand, “the most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation” (p. 17). Here, Hume elaborates on the concept of force in ideas, stating that ideas are simply less forceful than impressions. As he continues, Hume explains that our thoughts of ...
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...ntrollable, and while this feeling is hard to define, it is simply known, as “every man is every moment conscious of the sentiment represented by it” (p. 50). A major distinction to note is that belief is generated through custom. Belief in some perception is guided by the framework built by past experiences which leads you to make judgments about the world. This framework allows you to believe in what you observe, and to reject any ideas that do not make sense in regards to the custom. While Hume may not have been exact in some aspects, the writings provided remain strong, and this allows for an understanding of belief and fiction.
David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, in Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals: Third Edition, ed. P.H. Nidditch (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 18.
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