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Hume - Lecture 1.docx

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Peter King

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Hume was important figure in ‘Scottish Enlightenment’
o Progress made by the free exercise of reason alone
Being able to identify precise problems exactly so as to n with
the approach them with an open mind and to try to figure out
steps that could be taken toward their solution
Free your mind of all preconceptions
Wanted to eradicate superstition (read: religion)
Public health example cholera outbreak
Examine pattern objectively
Forget religious explanations for disease
Forget ‘prejudices’ – bad air, etc.
o Was dissatisfied with previous philosophy and impressed with the
genuine advances made by science in his day
The ‘science’ Hume has in mind is that of Newton – to uncover general laws
that reduce the diversity of the phenomena to the conjoint operation of
several simple principles
o Hume wanted to introduce regularity and order into our
understanding of ourselves scientific, objective examination of how
human beings work
o Begins by investigating our cognitive apparatus
o He took philosophy proper to begin with the philosophy of mind
Theory of Ideas begins with three claims:
o (T1) All perceptions are either (a) impressions, or (b) ideas
o (T2) Sensing and sentiment produce only impressions, whereas
thinking produces only ideas
Impression forceful and lively; intrudes on you
Emotions much the same
o (T3) All ideas are ‘copies’ of impressions
Impressions are more ‘forceful and lively’ than ideas
Thinking is a matter of combination and division, therefore
single idea can be produced by many ideas and vice versa
Simple ideas vs. complex ideas explained in terms of the
composition of ideas
Ex. ‘the golden mountain’ – derived from the combination of
ideas of gold and mountain
Hume assumes that compounding ideas results in an idea with
compound content
Reformulated theses:
o (T1*) Each perception is either (a) an impression, or (b) an idea that
is either (b1) simple in itself, or (b2) a complex composite of simple
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