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David Hume

BOOK 1. Of the Understanding

Of ideas, their origin, composition, connexion, abstraction, &c.

Sect. 1. Of the origin of our ideas

All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I
shall call impressions and ideas. The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of
force and liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our
thought or consciousness. Those perceptions, which enter with most force and violence, we
may name impressions; and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and
emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images
of these in thinking and reasoning.

There is another division of our perceptions, which it will be convenient to observe, and
which extends itself both to our impressions and ideas. This division is into SIMPLE and
COMPLEX. Simple perceptions or impressions and ideas are such as admit of no
distinction nor separation. The complex are the contrary to these, and may be distinguishd
into parts. Tho a particular colour, taste, and smell are qualities all united together in this
apple, tis easy to perceive they are not the same, but are at least distinguishable from each

[] All the perceptions of the mind are double, and appear both as impressions and ideas.
When I shut my eyes and think of my chamber, the ideas I form are exact representations of
the impressions I felt; nor is there any circumstance of the one, which is not to be found in
the other. In running over my other perceptions, I nd still the same resemblance and
representation. Ideas and impressions appear always to correspond to each other

I consider another plain and convincing phnomenon; which is, that wherever by any
accident the faculties, which give rise to any impressions, are obstructed in their operations,
as when one is born blind or deaf; not only the impressions are lost, but also their
correspondent ideas; so that there never appear in the mind the least traces of either of
them. Nor is this only true, where the organs of sensation are entirely destroyd, but
likewise where they have never been put in action to produce a particular impression. We
cannot form to ourselves a just idea of the taste of a pine-apple, without having actually
tasted it.

As our ideas are images of our impressions, so we can form secondary ideas, which are
images of the primary; as appears from this very reasoning concerning them. This is not,
properly speaking, an exception to the rule so much as an explanation of it. Ideas produce
the images of themselves in new ideas; but as the rst ideas are supposd to be derivd from
impressions, it still remains true, that all our simple ideas proceed, either mediately or
immediately, from their correspondent impressions.
Of the ideas of the memory and imagination 1.1.3
Sect. 2. Division of the subject

Impressions may be divided into two kinds, those of SENSATION and those of
REFLECTION. The rst kind arises in the soul originally, from unknown causes. The
second is derivd in a great measure from our ideas, and that in the following order.

An impression rst strikes upon the senses, and makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or
hunger, pleasure or pain of some kind or other. Of this impression, there is a copy taken by
the mind, which remains after the impression ceases; and this we call an idea. This idea of
pleasure or pain, when it returns upon the soul, produces the new impressions of desire and
aversion, hope and fear, which may properly be calld impressions of reection because
derivd from it. These again are copyd by the memory and imagination, and become ideas.

Sect. 3. Of the ideas of the memory and imagination

Sect. 4. Of the connexion or association of ideas

The qualities, from which this association arises, and by which the mind is after this
manner conveyd from one idea to another, are three, viz. RESEMBLANCE,
CONTIGUITY in time or place, and CAUSE and EFFECT.

Sect. 5. Of relations

It may perhaps be esteemd an endless task to enumerate all those qualities, which make
objects admit of comparison, and by which the ideas of philosophical relation are producd.
But if we diligently consider them, we shall nd that without difculty they may be
comprizd under seven general heads, which may be considerd as the sources of all
philosophical relation.

1. Resemblance
2. Identity
3. Space and Time
4. Quantity or Number
5. Quality: Thus of two objects, which are both heavy, the one may be either of
greater, or less weight than the other. Two colours, that are of the same kind, may
yet be of different shades, and in that respect admit of comparison.
6. Contrariety
7. Cause and Effect

Of the ideas of space and time

Sect. 1. Of the innite divisibility of our ideas of space and time

Tis universally allowd, that the capacity of the mind is limited, and can never attain a full
and adequate conception of innity.

The idea of space is conveyd to the mind by two senses, the sight and touch; nor does
anything ever appear extended, that is not either visible or tangible. That compound
impression, which represents extension, consists of several lesser impressions, that are
indivisible to the eye or feeling, and may be calld impressions of atoms or corpuscles
endowd with colour and solidity.

Sect. 6. Of the idea of existence, and of external existence

we never really advance a step beyond ourselves, nor can conceive any kind of existence,
but those perceptions, which have appeard in that narrow compass. This is the universe of
the imagination, nor have we any idea but what is there producd

I am perswaded, that upon examination we shall nd more than one half of those opinions,
that prevail among mankind, to be owing to education, and that the principles, which are
thus implicitly embracd, over-ballance those, which are owing either to abstract reasoning
or experience.

But as education is an articial and not a natural cause, and as its maxims are frequently
contrary to reason, and even to themselves in different times and places, it is never upon
that account recognizd by philosophers; tho in reality it be built almost on the same
foundation of custom and repetition as our experience or reasonings from causes and

Nothing shows more the force of habit in reconciling us to any phnomenon, than this, that
men are not astonishd at the operations of their own reason, at the same time, that they
admire the instinct of animals, and nd a difculty in explaining it, merely because it
cannot be reducd to the very same principles. To consider the matter aright, reason is
nothing but a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our souls, which carries us along a
certain train of ideas, and endows them with particular qualities, according to their
particular situations and relations. This instinct, tis true, arises from past observation and
experience; but can any one
Give the ultimate reason, why past experience and observation produces such an effect, any
more than why nature alone shoud produce it? Nature may certainly produce whatever can
arise from habit: Nay, habit is nothing but one of the principles of nature, and derives all its
force from that origin.
Sect. 6. Of personal identity

I may venture to afrm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or
collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable
rapidity, and are in
a perpetual ux and movement. Our eyes cannot turn in their sockets without varying our
perceptions. Our thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and
faculties contribute to this change; nor is there any single power of the soul, which remains
unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several
perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away, and mingle in an
innite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time,
nor identity in different; whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that
simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us. They are the
successive perceptions only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant notion
of the place, where these scenes are represented, or of the materials, of which it is

For how few of our past actions are there, of which we have any memory? Who can tell me,
for instance, what were his thoughts and actions on the rst of January 1715, the 11th of
March 1719, and the 3d of August 1733? Or will he afrm, because he has entirely forgot
the incidents of these days, that the present self is not the same person with the self of that
time; and by that means overturn all the most establishd notions of personal identity? In
this view, therefore, memory does not so much produce as discover personal identity, by
us the relation of cause and effect among our different perceptions. Twill be incumbent on
those, who afrm that memory produces entirely our personal identity, to give a reason why
we can thus extend our identity beyond our memory.
Book 2. Of the Passions
For what is more capricious than human actions? What more inconstant than the desires of
man? And what creature departs more widely, not only from right reason, but from his own
character and disposition? An hour, a moment is sufcient to make him change from one
extreme to another, and overturn what cost the greatest pain and labour to establish.
Necessity is regular and certain. Human conduct is irregular and uncertain. The one,
therefore, proceeds
not from the other.

But these efforts are all in vain; and whatever capricious and irregular actions we may
perform; as the desire of showing our liberty is the sole motive of our actions; we can never
free ourselves from the bonds of necessity. We may imagine we feel a liberty within
ourselves; but a spectator can commonly infer our actions from our motives and character;
and even where he cannot, he concludes in general, that he might, were he perfectly
acquainted with every circumstance of our situation and temper, and the most secret

But these efforts are all in vain; and whatever capricious and irregular actions we may
perform; as the desire of showing our liberty is the sole motive of our actions; we can never
free ourselves from the bonds of necessity. We may imagine we feel a liberty within
ourselves but a spectator can commonly infer our actions from our motives and character;
and even where he cannot, he concludes in general, that he might, were he perfectly
acquainted with every circumstance of our situation and temper, and the most secret springs
of our complexion and disposition. Now this is the very essence of necessity, according to
the foregoing doctrine.

Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of
my nger.

Upon the whole, this struggle of passion and of reason, as it is calld, diversies human life,
and makes men so different not only from each other, but also from themselves in different

This image of fear naturally converts into the thing itself, and gives us a real apprehension
evil, as the mind always forms its judgments more from its present disposition than from
the nature of its objects.
Here is a matter of fact; but tis the object of feeling, not of reason. It lies in yourself, not in
the object. So that when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean
nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of
blame from the contemplation of it. Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compard to sounds,
colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects,
but perceptions in the mind: