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“An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” by David Hume Essay

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Hume’s Purpose in Writing

The main purpose of Hume’s writing is to identify and explain principles of association of ideas that govern the nature of human beings. The author has addressed the issue of logic by analyzing the operations and principles that govern the reasoning of human beings. He has also analyzed the nature of morals, ideals, and criticism of man in relation to tastes and preferences, politics, etc. Through this treaty, the author has therefore stipulated a hypothesis for a system of sciences that can be used as a basis for theories for other studies regarding human nature.

View on Perceptions

He defines perception as anything that can be developed in the mind of a man. This is regardless of whether the perception was actuated with passion, formulated through the senses of man, or reflected. He further divides perceptions into two categories i.e. ‘ideas’ and ‘impression’. He identifies impression as the perception that is imposed in the mind of a person through emotions, passion, or through sensory organs. Ideas, on the other hand, are the perceptions evoked in the mind through reflecting on an object or emotions that are currently not present.

In his view, one of the main propositions states that ideas are the weaker and fainter impressions created in the mind that is derived from stronger perceptions. He further states that human beings are incapable of thinking about anything that has never been seen or felt by their minds. Thus, he implies that the nature of human ideas is innate, a hypothesis that supports Locke’s studies. According to Hume, passion, emotions, virtue and other mankind factors are the perceptions that naturally occur.

In addition, Hume indicates that when human beings are faced with unclear circumstances, the impression is one of the many things on their mind. It is this impression that aligns the kind of ideas that is created in the mind subsequently. Imagination is then created simultaneously in correspondence to the impression that was created. In cases where ideas are ambiguous the author recourses ‘impression’ which must make it clear and precise.

Matters of Facts

In his proposition on the reasonings concerning matter of fact, he states that the reasoning of people is always linked in a cause-effect relationship. He further explains that in order to fully construe this reasoning one must first know the cause of the subject matter. This consequently means existing objects are partly or wholly connected together. It is therefore necessary to find something that has caused the existence of another object since people can never infer the existence of one object from another.

The author further states that this form of reasoning in people is normally founded on inferences. In this case, people use beliefs and knowledge derived from past history to make a conclusion or explain different causal phenomenal of existence. Secondly, to explain the phenomenon of the existence of an object the author explains that in human nature, whatever the mind conceives as true is true. So in explaining the cause of any existence, whatever the mind conceives as possible is possible.

The implication about Existence and Cause and Effect

The views given by Hume’s writings give insight into the science of human nature in relation to the principle of association of ideas. However, this treaty presents weaknesses in its hypothesis in its rigidity on perceptions. According to him, if an idea does not have a prior impression he discards it as insignificant. This consequently defies other aspects of human nature such as miracles that exist without prior impressions. Similarly, the phenomena of miracles do not provide a cause and effects related to the existence of a phenomenon.

Objections to Views

One objections demonstrated in Hume’s views in the rational claims is that the author limits causal necessities of subject matter to inferences and experiences. In this case, although the customary tradition of people to associate two states of affairs provides a psychological explanation; these affirmations can never fully be ascertained. The constant conjunction in objects cannot adequately provide premise to justify such a relation.

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IvyPanda. (2021, February 20). "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-enquiry-concerning-human-understanding-by-david-hume/

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1. IvyPanda. ""An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume." February 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-enquiry-concerning-human-understanding-by-david-hume/.


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IvyPanda. ""An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume." February 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-enquiry-concerning-human-understanding-by-david-hume/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume." February 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-enquiry-concerning-human-understanding-by-david-hume/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume'. 20 February.

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