Hume argues that we study history in order to understand our origin and satisfy our human curiosities. He says “in an effort to make us bound to the truths we discover” (Hume, 1920, p.23). Hume further argues that the only way to understand human nature and to be contended with our roots is to know our history. It is for this reason that he introduces philosophy as a means of understanding human nature.
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Hume classifies the different reasons for the study of history into various categories that he uses to explain the expected outcome of man in his quest for historical knowledge. He attributes the presence of different categories of philosophy to the advent and study of history. According to Hume, it is from history that different branches of philosophy emerge.
These are natural philosophy and philosophy that is totally dependent on human nature. He also argues that for one to fully understand the nature of human philosophy and natural philosophy, they should have an idea about their own origin (Hume, 1902).
Hume’s other argument consists in the fact that the study of history helps us achieve the basic understanding of where ideas originate from and why we possess some ideas and not others. Hume argues that for one to understand the origin of ideas, they should embrace their memories; it is in this premise that our history lies. History, according to Hume, is developed in a chronological manner and so is our ability to understand and associate ideas with their sequences (Hume, 1902).
The argument on the probability of certain events to occur is also backed up with the study of history. Hume argues that it is from history that we derive our experiences. He states that experiences are able to determine the probability of occurrence of certain events. In the next chapters, Hume underlines the importance of history in the field of applied epistemology and its links to human nature.
The similarity between Hume and Collingwood’s arguments on the reasons for the study of history is that they are unanimous about the fact that we study history in order to acquire knowledge, they also associate the process of acquiring knowledge as a journey that involves personal discoveries and requires a good understanding of our history.
However, the major difference between the works of Hume and Collingwood in tackling the relevance of history to our human nature is clearly seen in their arguments. Collingwood unlike Hume uses facts from history to relate the nature of man and to predict the future. He uses facts of events that have either occurred or have been mentioned in history to explain certain occurrences, while Hume in his arguments uses historical premises to prove his theories and explain their relevance to history (Collingwood, 1946).
Furthermore, Hume’s arguments require a deeper understanding of philosophical premises to correctly comprehend their meaning. Collingwood uses an example of someone fearing to cross the mountains because there are wolves there. He says “someone fearing to cross the mountains is not suffering merely for the sins of his fathers who taught him to believe”, which is true since we are brought up and made to believe things that have been passed down from generations (Collingwood, 1946, p.4).
In conclusion, the relevance of history is demonstrated and proved to be critical in enabling us to understand ourselves and our own existence. Hume and Collingwood both argue and present us with the facts needed to understand the relevance of history to our existence.
Hume, D. (1902). Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Moralsed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, M.A. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Collingwood, R.G (1946). The Idea of History Epilegomena: 6: History and Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.