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In David Hume’s “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,” he discusses our impressions that are based off of our emotions and senses and discusses that ideas are just people’s thoughts based on these impressions. If the mind is conformed to only previous experiences, then he is under the assumption that ideas are only based on the fact that those experiences are what formulate ideas, leaving people to the ideal that only their past experiences create a closed mind, even stating that people “select the most striking observations and instances from common life. place opposite characters in a proper contrast: and alluring us into the paths of virtue by the views of glory and happiness, direct our steps in these paths by the soudest precepts and most illustrious examples,” (Hume 5) which is a rather condescending statement about other philosophers.
By associating prior experiences with what formulates ideas, Hume assumes that people only can formulate thoughts and ideas based only on association. This undercuts that mindset by creating the assumption that new experiences cannot also change human thinking and behavior. He assumes that people are already predetermining concepts based on prior experiences rather than learning from new experiences. He states that man is a reasonable being and goes on to say that the “bounds of human hunderstanding, that little satisfaction can be hoped for in this particular, either from the extent of security or his acquisitions,” (Hume 7) which is again a cut to humans as if that during his analysis that his thought is the only method of thinking but yet he cannot even explain why he is thinking and reasoning this way.
Some of the ideas that Hume maintains is that people are unable to justify any inferences that are causal and are based only on unobserved causes. Through past observations, Hume expects for the human mind to only be able to work on a one way direction. If a person knows one thing is certain than if a similar experience arises, then that person would expect the same outcome. This is not necessarily true because people can in fact learn from prior experiences and react differently. This would insinuate that anything that a person has done in the past would cause them to have the same reaction to a similar situation. However, it seems that many people often learn from prior mistakes and do in fact react differently on some occasions based on their prior experiences too.
Hume states that He hints that people have certain reactions based only on prior reasoning and that those scenarios lead people to create a truth that is based only on that single instance. Judgment and morals are based only on those circumstances. Hume seems to presume that people have no reason to believe everything that people take in from the world and that reasoning things out that are intangible is almost a waste of time for if people never know the answers, then why would they ever seek them out to be true?
Hume claims that thinking philosophically is not something that is scientific. Instead, thinking is a way to be blinded by prior occurrences that have caused them a prejudice in a person’s thinking and mindset. Though people are able to think and reason, Hume seems to have the understanding that any of our principles of the methods people use for thought and reasoning are not concepts that people can grasp when making decisions or learning from them.
Through this method of philosophy, it seems that anything that happens in a person’s past would taint how we can learn from those experiences and make different decisions in the future. Thinking is not something that is based on empirical data as Hume suggests. As each day passes, people are able to gather more information to continue to build justifiable conclusions in their methods of thinking. Hume clearly states that he would be able to prove this, “First, when we analyze our thoughts or ideas, however compounded or sublime, we always find that they resolve themselves into such simple ideas as were copied from a precedent feeling or sentiment,” (Hume 15). As humans, people are always gathering information and it is not unreasonable to draw conclusions based on that of which is already known in order to create thoughts for the future.
Hume, David. .An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.