Essay on David Hume

Submitted By hacefrio
Words: 1539
Pages: 7

Dan Arrick

Hume: The Essentials

David Hume was one of the most successful philosophers of the early modern era. His precise empiricism and cogent skepticism build upon a glorious philosophy that to this day remains a sturdy foundation for natural inquiry and metaphysics. Hume establishes what little footing we maintain as empiricists by plotting the trajectory of our feelings and ideas governing experience. In this way, Hume’s works culminate in a forceful denunciation of scientific inquiry, deconstructing our beliefs and undermining the very essence of comprehension. Hume appropriately starts from square one, at the very point of sensory inception. Hume finds the origin of ideas to be of empirical nature. Regardless of magnitude, all ideas are to some extent copies of their vivacious sensory counterparts. This operation starts with explicit sensory data then processed into simple, compartmentalized notions within the minds memory. To exemplify, receiving a blow to the stomach would be quite painful and create a very strong impression with associations of great agony. The experience itself would be undoubtedly committed to memory, however, to merely recall the experience would not have the same painful connotations as the experience itself. The memory may be unpleasant or distasteful, yet an idea derived in such a manner does not carry with it the same physical anguish initially incurred. In this way, every idea will be derived from the senses and every idea will produce a weaker notion of sentiment then when it was first felt. By these means, even complex ideas are comprised of simple notions from impression. Hume claims that even “The idea of God—meaning man infinitely intelligent, wise, and good Being—comes from extending beyond all limits the qualities of goodness and wisdom that we find in our own minds.” Hume means that our notion of God, however intangible of a phenomenon, is still based on an extrapolation of basic concepts of extension, wisdom and goodness. As we perceive such characteristics within our sensory world, we establish a creative conjunction of such ideas in which we endow God. Hume does present an objection to his argument stating that in an array, a missing component may be discerned without sensory faculties. Hume provides an example of such an array using a gradient of blue shades. One of these shades is missing however; creating a clear, blank space where a color should be present. In this case, the mind will logically insert a weak notion of the missing shade without prior sensory impression. Although, it is arguable that the mind was only able to “fill in the blank” with the assisted impressions of the lighter and darker juxtaposed shades. Another good example of this occurrence would be that of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle. Let’s say the puzzle is of a face and it is nearly complete. There is only one piece missing, a blank space where the right eye should be. Without ever seeing the missing piece, it is easy to infer that it is an eye, our notion of faces allow us to do so. Despite our clever deduction, we have only reached such a conclusion based upon a simple idea of a face derived from a culmination of sensory impressions. Similarly, our minds expansive ability to create fiction and fantasy is indeed reduced to a culmination of simple ideas from impression. Thus, a centaur’s attributes may be examined. Half human and half horse, the fantastical rendition of such is still a compounding of ideas we have already encountered, a horse and a human. A golden mountain is another example by Hume: In reality, such a feat is absurd yet we may envision this marvel with ease. The mind has no problem combining two ideas to create the appearance of one. From these deductions, Hume categorizes ideas into two parts. First, Relations of Ideas are the axioms of truth existing independent of space or time. Such instances include Pythagoras’ Theorem or how a circle is