David Hume 2 Essay, Research Paper
David Hume attempted to study human nature by using the laws of physical science. He also set out to find an absolute truth by using scientific reasoning. In his search for an absolute truth he discovered an immense difference among opposing opinions on nearly every subject confronted by man. Each of these opinions has an equal truth-value and there is really no way of justifying any one over the other because the truth is different for each individual. The sequence of events that each person has experienced throughout their life depicts how they will interpret things and because no two people experience the same exact events throughout their life no two people will interpret the same things from what they perceive from their senses. When it comes to things like this that are matters of fact, there will never be a case where everyone is in agreement. Their will always be disagreements over the validity of everything because the “truth” is only how different people comprehend the things they perceive through their senses. Therefore using any type of scientific method was useless in proving certainty of human nature because there would always be enough evidence to prove the opposing view as being the truth. However the truth can be proved when referring to the relations of ideas. When dealing with things like (2+2=4), there is no openness to interpretation and no exceptions. 2+2 must always = 4 because it is based on scientific factual information and there is clearly no argument against it.
Hume boldly states that “impressions” and “ideas” make up the total content of the mind. His definition of ‘impressions” is what each person perceives from the physical world through their senses. And according to this theory “ideas” are merely copies of these impressions within the mind. He justifies this by saying that when we imagine something that we have never actually seen before our minds are actually transposing impressions that we have formerly perceived and rearranging them in a new way. For example, we can clearly imaging things that don’t exist like a unicorn. This could lead us to believe our minds have created a new image which is contrary to what Hume says is possible. But actually this unicorn is made up if images that we have already seen before and our mind is just combining the image of a horn with that of a horse. Thus the human mind is incapable of creating anything completely original. It only has the ability to rearrange pieces of what has already been imprinted in us through our senses. This seams extremely constrictive upon our imagination and it left me with a feeling of confinement to our perceptions. If this is all we are capable of than all we really are is as Hume says “A Bundle of perceptions.” But the more I tried to disprove this theory the more I found myself believing it. At first I tried to think of something totally original, but how is anyone to know for sure that this new thought isn’t simply an obscure combination of images retrieved from former impressions originating from the senses. To determine the originality of my thought I broke it down into its components only to find that they were all composed if things which I had seen before. For example the colors of this supposedly original thought were clearly colors which I had seen before. So then I tried to think of a totally new color, one which no one had ever seen before. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine this new color, hundreds of colors I had seen before filled my thoughts but the best I could do to think up a new one was to mix the ones that I had already seen. And this was exactly like the unicorn example. I thought that perhaps using the word color to trigger the search was limiting my ability to see anything other than what I have previously labeled as a color. So I began focusing on forms, for example God. Because I had never seen God before I was hoping for a color, which I had never seen before. But an unmistakable deep dark shad of red immerged from somewhere within my memory. I tried it again with beauty concentrating this time on this idea that I have never used my senses to know what beauty is but again all I found was a familiar shade of purple. Finding this impossible I concluded that Hume was correct and our thinking cannot extend beyond our immediate experiences. Even though I can not disprove him on the ability to create something from nothing I still feel like there has to be more to us than interpretations of perceptions. I am not totally disregarding my former beliefs as an apostasy, but I am beginning to doubt the boundless capacity of the human mind. If people are nothing more than a bundle of perceptions than how would anyone explain emotions. You don’t need to use any of your senses to experience things such as love. I have never seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled love but there is no denying its existence. If Plato is right and our senses deceive us. If the physical world were an illusion than everything we perceive from it would be a falsity. And if all we are is what we perceive than our existence is based on an illusion and nothing is real perhaps including our existence. Hume says that we have no impressions of ourselves because our mind is always filled with impressions from this physical world, such as pain, heat, or pleasure. It is memory that gives the impression of our continuous identity. The thought of only consisting of impressions, ideas, and memories of them made me feel even more insignificant and at first I was in disagreement. I can not disprove this notion just like I can’t disprove his idea that the human mind is incapable of creating anything. This is grounds for me to doubt my former belief but at the same time I don’t believe Hume’s belief on the subject either but I am willing to accept the possibility he could be right.