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Title: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
Author: David Hume
L. A. Selby-Bigge
Posting Date: November 15, 2011 [EBook #9662]
Release Date: January, 2006
First Posted: October 14, 2003
Language: English
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DAVID HUME
AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN
UNDERSTANDING.
Extracted from:
ENQUIRIES CONCERNING THE HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, AND CONCERNING
THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALS, BY DAVID HUME.
REPRINTED FROM THE POSTHUMOUS EDITION OF 1777, AND EDITED WITH
INTRODUCTION, COMPARATIVE TABLES OF CONTENTS, AND ANALYTICAL
INDEX BY L.A. SELBY-BIGGE, M.A., LATE FELLOW OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE,

SECOND EDITION. Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy Footnotes Index . Of the Origin of Ideas III. Of a Particular Providence and of a Future State XII. 1902 CONTENTS I. Of the Idea of Necessary Connexion VIII.OXFORD. Sceptical Solution of these Doubts VI. Of the Different Species of Philosophy II. Of the Reason of Animals X. Of Probability VII. Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding V. Of Miracles XI. Of Liberty and Necessity IX. Of the Association of Ideas IV.

or love. or desire. And impressions are distinguished from ideas. but the colours which it employs are faint and dull. the 13. Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into two classes or species. can never paint natural objects in such a manner as to make the description be taken for a real landskip. and form a just conception of his situation. which are distinguished by their different degrees of force and vivacity. If you tell me. at first view. I easily understand your meaning. employing that word in a sense somewhat different from the usual. our thought is a faithful mirror. The utmost we say of them. then. And while the body is confined to one planet. that any person is in love. as to render these perceptions altogether undistinguishable. or hate. or see. The most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation. however splendid. I suppose. These faculties may mimic or copy the perceptions of the senses. A man in a fit of anger. costs the imagination no more trouble than to conceive the most natural and familiar objects. that they represent their object in so lively a manner. in comparison of those in which our original perceptions were clothed. which not only escapes all human power and authority. It requires no nice discernment or metaphysical head to mark the distinction between them. they never can arrive at such a pitch of vivacity. is actuated in a very different manner from one who only thinks of that emotion. and call them Impressions. By the term impression. To form monsters. or feel. therefore. when a man feels the pain of excessive heat. along which it creeps with pain and difficulty. or anticipates it by his imagination. Nothing. but philosophical purposes. to rank them under a general term or appellation. when we hear. When we reflect on our past sentiments and affections. Let us. but they never can entirely reach the force and vivacity of the original sentiment. or the pleasure of moderate warmth. and join incongruous shapes and appearances. but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality.SECTION II OF THE ORIGIN OF IDEAS. is. The other species want a name in our language. We may observe a like distinction to run through all the other perceptions of the mind. I mean all our more lively perceptions. Every one will readily allow. which are the less lively perceptions. except the mind be disordered by disease or madness. because it was not requisite for any. even when they operate with greatest vigour. but never can mistake that conception for the real disorders and agitations of the passion. use a little freedom. . may seem more unbounded than the thought of man. and in most others. and when he afterwards recalls to his memory this sensation. 12. The less forcible and lively are commonly denominated Thoughts or Ideas. when we reflect on any of those sensations or movements above mentioned. or will. that we could almost say we feel or see it: But. All the colours of poetry. 11. that there is a considerable difference between the perceptions of the mind. of which we are conscious. and copies its objects truly.

I hope. proper for exciting any sensation. if we would maintain our doctrine. that a man is not susceptible of any species of sensation. into the unbounded chaos. transposing. where nature is supposed to lie in total confusion. and he finds no difficulty in conceiving these objects. without limit. however compounded or sublime. 15. The case is the same. we always find that they resolve themselves into such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or sentiment. which corresponds to it. In short. to wit. seem the most wide of this origin. by the actual feeling and sensation. because. to produce the impression. and mountain.thought can in an instant transport us into the most distant regions of the universe. wise. arises from reflecting on the operations of our own mind. where we shall always find. to be derived from it. except what implies an absolute contradiction. First. upon a nearer scrutiny. that every idea which we examine is copied from a similar impression. is not derived from this source. A virtuous horse we can conceive. all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies of our impressions or more lively ones. may yet be conceived. we can conceive virtue. a deaf man of sounds. when we analyze our thoughts or ideas. Restore either of them that sense in which he is deficient. upon a nearer examination. that it is really confined within very narrow limits. you also open an inlet for the ideas. by opening this new inlet for his sensations. To prove this. which. . in their opinion. What never was seen. Secondly. A man of mild manners can form no idea of inveterate revenge or cruelty. we shall find. It will then be incumbent on us. And though there are few or no instances of a like deficiency in the mind. all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward or inward sentiment: the mixture and composition of these belongs alone to the mind and will. Even those ideas. If it happen. or even beyond the universe. by producing that idea. at first view. from a defect of the organ. and good Being. from our own feeling. Those who would assert that this position is not universally true nor without exception. nor can a selfish heart easily conceive the heights of friendship and generosity. It is readily allowed. and that all this creative power of the mind amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding. that other beings may possess many senses of which we can have no conception. yet we find the same observation to take place in a less degree. Or. nor is any thing beyond the power of thought. are found. or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. where a person has never felt or is wholly incapable of a sentiment or passion that belongs to his species. But though our thought seems to possess this unbounded liberty. or heard of. as meaning an infinitely intelligent. which is an animal familiar to us. be sufficient. the two following arguments will. We may prosecute this enquiry to what length we please. gold. has never been applied to the organ. to express myself in philosophical language. which. The idea of God. and that an easy method of refuting it. because the ideas of them have never been introduced to us in the only manner by which an idea can have access to the mind. or lively perception. A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. A blind man can form no notion of colours. augmenting. with which we were formerly acquainted. and augmenting. those qualities of goodness and wisdom. we only join two consistent ideas. we always find that he is as little susceptible of the correspondent ideas. When we think of a golden mountain. if the object. have only one. 14. and this we may unite to the figure and shape of a horse.

and does not merit that for it alone we should alter our general maxim. to supply this deficiency. in itself. it is plain that he will perceive a blank. either outward or inward. which may prove that it is not absolutely impossible for ideas to arise. though this instance is so singular. which it never has been his fortune to meet with. 16. Now if this be true of different colours. from his own imagination. independent of their correspondent impressions. By bringing ideas into so clear a light we may reasonably hope to remove all dispute. For if this should be denied. we need but enquire. which not only seems. but. and raise up to himself the idea of that particular shade. which may arise. therefore. therefore. especially abstract ones. this will serve to confirm our suspicion. at the same time. whether it be possible for him. if a proper use were made of it. are really different from each other. derived from the correspondent impressions. are naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them: they are apt to be confounded with other resembling ideas. and banish all that jargon. though without a distinct meaning. that is.There is. and when we have often employed any term. a person to have enjoyed his sight for thirty years. where that shade is wanting. which are conveyed by the ear. it must be no less so of the different shades of the same colour. or those of sound. that the several distinct ideas of colour. we are apt to imagine it has a determinate idea annexed to it. that it is scarcely worth our observing. and drawn disgrace upon them. by the continual gradation of shades. Suppose. and if you will not allow any of the means to be different. all impressions. Let all the different shades of that colour. When we entertain. and to have become perfectly acquainted with colours of all kinds except one particular shade of blue. Here. I believe it will readily be allowed. might render every dispute equally intelligible. On the contrary. therefore. are strong and vivid: the limits between them are more exactly determined: nor is it easy to fall into any error or mistake with regard to them. except that single one. though. which has so long taken possession of metaphysical reasonings. which enter by the eye. to run a colour insensibly into what is most remote from it. from what impression is that supposed idea derived? And if it be impossible to assign any. simple and intelligible. and will be sensible that there is a greater distance in that place between the contiguous colours than in any other. all sensations. any suspicion that a philosophical term is employed without any meaning or idea (as is but too frequent). one contradictory phenomenon. be placed before him. concerning their nature and reality. without absurdity. for instance.1 17. however. it is possible. and each shade produces a distinct idea. resembling. independent of the rest. descending gradually from the deepest to the lightest. All ideas. . in every instance. Now I ask. though it had never been conveyed to him by his senses? I believe there are few but will be of opinion that he can: and this may serve as a proof that the simple ideas are not always. is a proposition. deny the extremes to be the same. you cannot.