Okay. So now what was Hume trying to say?
First, the backdrop to put him into perspective: He was one of the three Big British Empiricists (of Locke, Berkley, and Hume), and of that historically nomenclatured movement: The Scottish Enlightenment (of which consisted of Adam and Robert Ferguson, Adam Smith, Hume, Francis Hutcheson, James Mill, Thomas Reid, Walter Scott, among others). His interest (of which he was denied) was the philosophy of human nature. (I say denied, because he was ignored by society & contemporary culture at large, though perhaps not so much by his intellectual comrades.) Hume wished to ”empiricize’ and define the principles of human nature (viz: the psychological processes and moral behavior) and find their causes. (This coming from a man who found that ’causes’ could not be observed, seen, sensed.)
Start with empirical data (facts) and the method must be inductive rather than deductive. Interestingly (again) the method of introspection (which he uses) he is aware that this method of application is inapplicable outside the psychological sphere. He wished to ‘nail down’ this nebulous sphere where little had been done before.
But Hume (like Locke) derives all the contents of the mind from Experience. ”Perceptions” covers the mind’s contents, in general for Hume, and divides this arena into two: Impressions and Ideas.
Impressions <– the immediate data of Experience (e.g. sensations).
Ideas <– copies or faint images of Impressions (in thinking or reasoning).
Obviously, the former is primary; the latter, secondary.
Ideas are Representations of the Impressions.
Thus, for Hume, it is necessary to derive such Knowledge untimely from Impressions, from the immediate data of Experience.
The difference between these two: Vividness. Force and liveliness with which they Strike upon the mind and make their way into thought or consciousness. That which encounters the most Force (or Vividness) is Impressions. ”…the most lively thought is still inferior to the dullest sensation.” The crux: concern to distinguish between the immediate data of Experience and our Thoughts about these data. Ideas are copies of Impressions. If you clap your hands, the experience is immediate and the impression is instantaneous. Pondering upon this exercise tomorrow, is a faint replication of the impression in the form of an Idea.
We can reason and talk about Ideas (which are themselves ideas of Impressions), and we can frame ‘secondary ideas’ (which are derived from ‘previous ideas’ rather than immediately from Impressions); but, all in all, Impressions precede Ideas. Thus, for Hume, there are no Innate Ideas, and this separates him from Locke.
Ideas of the Memory and Ideas of the Imagination are different. Memory preserves simple ideas and their order and position. The Imagination, however, is not tied down thusly. It can ‘combine’ simple ideas arbitrarily or break down complex ideas into simple ideas, rearrange them freely. But this latter event works via some general principles of association: Resemblance, Contiguity (in space and time), and Cause and Effect.
Enough of St. David for today.
Today, President Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in Washington — the most comprehensive financial regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression. We shall see as the days progress just what this means.