Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 38 (David Hume)

Hume, David
A Treatise on Human Nature

Purchased at the late, lamented Niagara Falls Outlets discount bookstore for $2.50. Unread.

I read Hume in my undergraduate course in Epistemology. I remember the textbook we used was a maroon (school color) paperback with white cover text. I think it may have borne the Fordhum University seal on the cover, and I think it was edited by a Jesuit. It definitely had a cross on it somewhere, and then a list of names: Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant.

Our professor was an obviously gay priest who often spoke at length about his love of opera. He always wore a drab gray, v-neck sweater over his priestly black, with his collar showing. His longish, brown hair, parted on the side, as was likely the fashion in his youth in the sixties, hung in a fop that often dangled over his his eyes as he spoke, and he habitually brushed it away with his hand.

We were not allowed to take a position in class that could be in any way construed as morally relativistic, and I recall he was a very strict grammarian. I don't recall anything else about the class, except some story about somebody proving something to somebody else by knocking his walking stick against a rock and making some sort of barbed witticism. It may have been Berkeley.

from A Treatise on Human Nature

Of the Understanding



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; such as, for instance, are all the perceptions excited by the present discourse, excepting only those which arise from the sight and touch, and excepting the immediate pleasure or uneasiness it may occasion. I believe it will not be very necessary to employ many words in explaining this distinction. Every one of himself will readily perceive the difference betwixt feeling and thinking. The common degrees of these are easily distinguished; tho' it is not impossible but in particular instances they may very nearly approach to each other. Thus in sleep, in a fever, in madness, or in any very violent emotions of soul, our ideas may approach to our impressions, As on the other hand it sometimes happens, that our impressions are so faint and low, that we cannot distinguish them from our ideas. But notwithstanding this near resemblance in a few instances, they are in general so very different, that no-one can make a scruple to rank them under distinct heads, and assign to each a peculiar name to mark the difference.

1 comment:

konrad said...

"I refute it thus," was said of Berkeley's philosophy of "immaterialism" by Samuel Johnson, empiricist, Tourette's sufferer & son of a book merchant, among other things.