A Treatise of Human Nature: David Hume´s Philosophy

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It seems most appropriate, before having any mention of Hume’s philosophy, to briefly enunciate the concept of empiricism. Prior to Immanuel Kant’s solicitation of Transcendental Idealism, the schools of epistemological thought were divided into rationalism and the aforementioned empiricism. The former is the belief that knowledge is innate, and that logic and reason are the chief methods of acquiring that knowledge. Conversely, empiricists believe that knowledge is sensory, or experience, based; in essence, that human beings are tabula rasa. It is upon the latter end of this dichotomic spectrum that we find Hume’s epistemology; that of empiricism. Hume divides experiences, or perceptions, into two categories. The first is impressions, and the second is ideas. These are distinguished between one another, he says, by their respective degrees of force and vivacity; that is, how strongly these perceptions strike us, and how clearly they present themselves within our minds. “Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we may name impressions; and under this name I comprehend all out sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul,” (Pg. 7, Paragraph 1). Here, we see that impressions come with the greatest amount of force and vivacity, and that they are comprised of our senses and nonphysical feelings. Before expanding on this, however, it would be beneficial to see what he has to say about ideas. “By ideas I mean the faint images of these [perceptions] in thinking and reasoning […]” (Ibid). Ideas, then, are the what is left over when an impression is removed. I can clearly imagine this distinction by examining the book on the desk before me. It is paperback and bound in glue; it... ... middle of paper ... ...and effect, and he does this by consider their first appearance, from which we can readily agree that simple impressions necessarily precede simple ideas. "To give a child an idea of scarlet or orange, of sweet or bitter, I present the objects, or in other words, convey to him these impressions; but proceed not so absurdly, as to endeavor to produce the impressions by exciting the ideas" (Pg. 9, Paragraph 8). This is reasonable, as none of us can truly envision a sour taste without first having experienced it via our sense of taste. The only possible contradiction to this that Hume can find is that of gradient colors. If presented with a progression of shades of blue, with one shade missing, it is not difficult for us to conjure the idea of this missing shade, even if we have never seen it before. Works Cited: Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. (1739).

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