An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

395 Words2 Pages
Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding ‘Nature, by an absolute and uncontrollable necessity has determined us to judge as well as to breathe and feel’ Although many modern commentators have demurred from Hume's views, some have notably concurred with it, seeing his analysis of our epistemic predicament as a major contribution to the theory of knowledge. In ‘An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Hume tries to explain the problem of induction by humans. Hume distinguishes between impressions and ideas; he says that impressions are sensory impressions, emotions, and other vivid mental phenomena. Ideas are thoughts or beliefs or memories related to these impressions. According to Hume we build up all our ideas from simple impressions by means of three laws of association: Resemblance, Contiguity, & Cause and Effect. Hume distinguishes between relations of ideas and matters of fact; he says that relations of ideas are, for the most part, mathematical truths, so denial of them would result in a contradiction. Matters of fact are the more common truths that we learn from experience (for example the sun rising in the morning). Hume also says that that there is no rational justification for a belief in miracles. There are many contradictions in Hume, but there is little agreement on what these contradictions show about Hume's thought in general. The major contradiction Hume makes is how he says that we have to experience something before we can think about it. If that was true, how can one think of a ‘golden mountain’ even though they have never seen one? All of our ideas come from observation, cannot be true. Hume would argue that a ‘golden mountain’ would be a complex idea. This complex idea could be formed by two simple ideas, my experiences of mountains and my experiences with gold. In my opinion, Hume makes some valid points, but his views must be
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