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    David Hume’s “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”

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    I would like to start by stating that the arguments I will present about David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” will not lean completely towards his point of view or against it. This is because I agree with certain views on his philosophy and disagree with others. In “Of the Origin of Ideas,” Hume divides all perceptions into two basic kinds: impressions and ideas. Impressions are the “livelier” and “more vivid” perceptions, while ideas are “less lively” copies of the original impression. He gives some excellent analogies to back this up. For example, he says, “when we think of a golden mountain, we only join two consistent ideas, gold and mountain, with which we were formerly acquainted.”

    I consider this point of view to be completely logical and agree with Hume. However, I am a little skeptical about it because he himself gives a counterexample to his own claim that simple ideas are always copied from impression. In the whole example of introducing a new shade of color, I disagree with Hume when he states, this instance is so singular, that it is scarcely worth our observing, and does not merit, that for it alone we should alter our general maxim” because what if there are other instances where the same thing could happen.

    Did he have an infinite amount of time to go through all the possibilities of all the cases that could happen in an entire lifetime or just generally in life? In Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding,” he says that “all reasoning about matters of fact seems to be founded on the relation of Cause and Effect.” I agree with him because if I challenge it and put it to the test, it seems to work every time. However, he doesn’t stop there. He says that if you agree with the cause and effect concept, then you must find out how we arrive at the knowledge of cause and effect. His answer to this is that you don’t know the cause and effect of an object just by looking at it and reasoning a priori, but solely through experience. I agree with this, but I am skeptical about his conclusion because he is basically saying that nothing should be assumed due to prior experience and should be challenged at all times. For example, he says, “All our reasonings a priori will never be able to show us any foundation for this preference,” and also that “It could not, therefore, be discovered in the cause, and the first invention or conception of it, a priori, must be entirely arbitrary.” Sure, this would probably be the best way to be certain about a factual matter, but we as humans are not immortal, so I say it would be ludicrous to go on living life in this frame of mind.

    I think Hume’s view on cause and effect is similar to Descartes’ view on reality because they are both super skeptical about matters of fact. However, a major difference would be that Hume actually believes in a fact once it has been challenged, whereas Descartes would doubt everything, even if it has been experienced and challenged. Like Hume, Locke believed that you are born with a blank mind, and then through experiences, you would gain knowledge. But there was a difference in the way each viewed this notion. Locke believed that an object obtained certain qualities or attributes, which were powers, and these powers would then produce the ideas. He also broke these qualities into two types: primary and secondary. The primary were the simple ideas like solidity, texture, extension, figure, and motion.

    The secondary qualities were not inherent in the objects themselves, but rather were powers to produce color, sound, taste, and other similar things. This may seem like a rational way to gain knowledge, but I prefer Hume’s way of thinking much better. He states that we obtain all of our conclusions from the principle of Custom and Habit.” He describes custom as the repetition of any particular act or operation, which produces a tendency to repeat the same act without being influenced by reason.

    In conclusion, he says, Without the influence of custom, we would be entirely ignorant of every matter of fact beyond what is immediately present to the memory and senses.” This is the statement I like the most because it’s how every human being lives today, whether they realize it or not.

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    David Hume’s “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”. (2018, Dec 31). Retrieved from

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