Hume’s division

by Kathi Berman, June 2014

2100 words

7 pages


Hume’s division of all the objects of human reason into relations of ideas and matters of fact is central to his philosophy. According to the scientist, all knowledge rests upon personal experience which begins with various impressions we have of the world around us. All knowledge is divided by him into matters of fact and relations of ideas. Every object of reason which does not belong to either of the two groups cannot be called knowledge, thus it cannot be true at all. This principle is often called Hume's Fork. The author is consistent in his theory. He deems that “the science of man is the only solid foundation for the other sciences” (Hume, 1739), so all the sciences and knowledge in general should be founded on experience and observation. First, he demonstrates that all our complex ideas are made up of simple ones. These, accordingly, are formed on the basis of perceptions received through our senses and further carried in mind. Correspondingly, ideas depend on the experiences which one has in his life. In his Treatise of Human Nature Hume introduces two types of perceptions, these are impressions and ideas. Hume denies the existence of innate ideas and divides the sources of our ideas into two categories sensations and reflections. The former are derived through the use of our sense organs. The latter are formed through our own mental processes. For Hume, sensations and reflections both stand for the term impressions, while the term ideas results from impressions undergoing mental processes such as imagination and memory. The author distinguishes between the simple and complex perceptions. He draws a conclusion that, naturally, all simple ideas are preceded by correspondent simple impressions, which they exactly represent (Hume, 1739). However, there are some exceptions when the impression may derive from previous ideas, as in case with the shades of colors, mathematical calculations. That is, simple impressions create correspondent simple ideas which can give way for secondary ideas. Additionally, the scientist denies the existence of innate ideas. He claims that all the ideas have to rest upon personal experience, for instance, one can never have a true idea of what an apple is until he tastes it. Similarly, we cannot claim that God exists because we have no factual experience concerning him in our life. Impressions are further divided into sensations and reflections. The former are connected with the senses, and arise “in the soul originally, from unknown causes” (Hume, Sect II). The latter appear as a result of ideas which arise in the soul after a correspondent idea “strikes upon senses”. Impressions of reflection then can be copied in mind and become ideas, which can after that produce new impressions and so on. When repeated, impressions can cause either ideas of memory or ideas of imagination. The first are closer to the objects because they preserve original form of simple impressions, as well as their order and place. They can also be defined as matters of fact while they are experienced, …

Download will start in 20 seconds


Note that all papers are meant for inspiration and reference purposes only! Do not copy papers in full or in part. Papers are provided by other students, who hold the copyright for the content of those papers. All papers were submitted to TurnItIn and will show up as plagiarism if you try to submit any part of them as your own work. Assignment Lab can not guarantee the quality of the user generated content such as sample papers above.