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Real Time Analytics
History of Modern Philosophy
by Falckenberg, Richard

David Hume was born in Edinburgh in 1711, and died in the same city, 1776. His position as librarian, which he held in the place of his birth, 1752-57, gave the opportunity for his History of England( 1754-62). His chief work, the Treatise on Human Nature which, however, found few readers, was composed during his first residence in France in 1734-37. Later he worked over the first book of this work into his Enquiry concerning Human Understanding(1748); the second book into A Dissertation on the Passions and the third into An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals These, and others of his essays, found so much favor that, during his second sojourn in France, as secretary to Lord Hertford, in 1763-66, he was already honored as a philosopher of world-wide renown. Then, after serving for some time as Under-Secretary of State, he retired to private life at home (1769).

The three books of the Treatise on Human Nature which appeared in 1739-40, are entitled Of the Understanding, Of the Passions, Of Morals Of the five volumes of the Essays, the first contains the Essays Moral, Political, and Literary 1741-42; the second, the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding 1748; the third, the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals 1751; the fourth, the Political Discourses 1752; the fifth, 1757, the Four Dissertations including that On the Passions and the Natural History of Religion After Hume's death appeared the Autobiography 1777; the Dialogues concerning Natural Religion 1779; and the two small essays on Suicide And the Immortality of the Soul 1783.[1] The Philosophical Workswere published in 1827, and frequently afterward.[2]

[Footnote 1: Or 1777, cf. Green and Grose's edition, vol. iii. p. 67 seq--Tr.]

[Footnote 2: Among the works on Hume we may mention Jodl's prize treatise, 1872, and Huxley's Hume(English Men of Letters), 1879. [The reader may be referred also to Knight's Hume(Blackwood's Philosophical Classics), 1886; to T.H. Green's "Introductions" in Green and Grose's edition of the collected works in four volumes, 1874 (new ed. 1889-90), which is now standard; and to Selby-Bigge's reprint of the original edition of the Treatise I vol., 1888, with a valuable Analytical Index.]]

Hume's object, like that of Berkeley, is the improvement of Locke's doctrine of knowledge. In several respects he does not go so far as Berkeley, in others very much farther. In agreement with Berkeley's ultra-nominalism, which combats even the possibility of abstract ideas, he yet does not follow him to the extent of denying external reality. On the other hand, he carries out more consistently Berkeley's hint that immediate sensation includes less than is ascribed to it (e.g. that by vision we perceive colors only, and not distance, etc.), as well as his principle--destructive to the certainty of our knowledge of nature--that there is no causality among phenomena; and brings the question of substance to, the negative conclusion, that there is no need whatever for a support for groups of qualities, and, therefore, that substantiality is to be denied to immaterial as well as to material beings. The points in Locke's philosophy which seemed to Hume to need completion were different from those at which Berkeley had struck in. The antithesis of rational and empirical knowledge is more sharply conceived; the combination of ideas is not left to the choice of the understanding but placed under the dominion of psychological laws; and to the distinction between outer and inner experience (to the former of which priority is conceded, on the ground that we must have had an external sensation before we can, through reflection, be conscious of it as an internal phenomenon), there is added a second, as important as the other and crossing it, between impressions and ideas, of which the former are likewise made prior to the latter.

Everyone will acknowledge the considerable difference between a sensation actually present (of heat, for instance) and the mere idea of one previously experienced, or shortly to come. This consists in the greater force, liveliness, and vividness of the former. Although these two classes of states (the idea of a landscape described by a poet and the perception of a real one, anger and the thought of anger) are only quantitatively distinct, they are scarcely ever in danger of being confused--the most lively idea is always less so than the weakest perception. The actual, outer or inner, sensations may be termed impressions; the weaker images of memory or imagination, which they leave behind them, ideas. Since nothing can gain entrance to the soul except through the two portals of outer and inner experience, there is no idea which has not arisen from an impression or several such; every idea is the image and copy of an impression. But as the understanding and imagination variously combine, separate, and transpose the elements furnished by the senses and lingering in memory, the possibility of error arises. A hidden, and, therefore more dangerous source of error consists in the reference of an idea to a different impression than the one of which it is the copy. The concepts substance and causality are examples of such false reference.

The combination of ideas takes place without freedom, in a purely mechanical, way according to fixed rules, which in the last analysis reduce to three fundamental laws of association: Ideas are associated (1) according to their resemblance and contrast; (2) according to their contiguity in space and time; (3) according to their causal connection. Mathematics is based on the operation of the first of these laws, on the immediate or mediate knowledge of the resemblance, contrariety, and quantitative relations of ideas; the descriptive and experimental part of the sciences of nature and of man on the second; religion, metaphysics, and that part of physical and moral science which goes beyond mere observation on the third. The theory of knowledge has to determine the boundaries of human understanding and the degree of credibility to which these sciences are entitled.

The objects of human thought and inquiry are either relations of ideas or matters of fact. To the former class belong the objects of mathematics, the truths of which, since they are analytic (i. e, merely explicate in the predicate the characteristics already contained in the subject, and add nothing new to this), and since they concern possible relations only, not reality, possess intuitive or demonstrative certainty. It is only propositions concerning quantity and number that are discoverable a priori By the mere operation of thought, without dependence on real existence, and that can be proved from the impossibility of their opposites--mathematics is the only demonstrative science.

We reach certainty in matters of fact by direct perception, or by inferences from other facts, when they transcend the testimony of our senses and memory. These arguments from experience are of an entirely different sort from the rational demonstrations of mathematics; as the contrary of a fact is always thinkable (the proposition that the sun will not rise to-morrow implies no logical contradiction), they yield, strictly speaking, probability only, no matter how strong our conviction of their accuracy may be. Nevertheless it is advisable to separate this species of inferences from experience--whose certainty is not doubted except by the philosophers--from uncertain probabilities, as a class intermediate between the latter and demonstrative truth (demonstrations--proofs--probabilities). All reasonings concerning matters of fact are based on the relation of cause and effect. Whence, then, do we obtain the knowledge of cause and effect? Not by a priorithought. Pure reason is able only to analyze concepts into their elements, not to connect new predicates with them. All its judgments are analytic, while synthetic judgments rest on experience. Judgments concerning causation belong in this latter class, for effects are entirely distinct from causes; the effect is not contained in the cause, nor the latter in the former. In the case of a phenomenon previously unknown we cannot tell from what causes it has proceeded, nor what its effect will be. We argue that fire will warm us, and bread afford nourishment, because we have often perceived these causal pairs closely connected in space and time. But even experience does not vouchsafe all that we desire. It shows nothing more than the coexistence and succession of phenomena and events; while the judgment itself, e. g, that the motion of one body stands in causal connection with that of another, asserts more than mere contiguity in space and time, it affirms not merely that the one precedes the other, but that it produces it--not merely that the second follows the first, but that it results from it. The bond which connects the two events, the force that puts forth the second from the first, the necessary connection between the two is not perceived, but added to perception by thought, construed into it.[1] What, then, is the occasion and what the warrant for transforming perceived succession in time into causal succession, for substituting must for is for interpreting the observed connection of fact into a necessary connection which always eludes observation?

[Footnote 1: The weakness of the concept of cause had been recognized before Hume by the skeptic, J. Glanvil (1636-80). Causality itself cannot be perceived; we infer it from the constant succession of two phenomena, without being able to show warrant for the transformation of thereafter into thereby]

We do not causally connect every chance pair of successive events, but those only which have been repeatedly observed together. The wonder is, then, that through oft-repeated observation of certain objects we come to believe that we know something about the behavior of other like objects, and the further behavior of these same ones. From the fact that I have seen a given apple fall ten times to the ground, I infer that all the apples in the world do the same when loosened, instead of flying upward, which, in itself, is quite as thinkable; I infer further that this has always been the case, and will continue to be so to all eternity. Where is the intermediate link between the proposition, "I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect," and this other, "I foresee that other objects which are, in appearance, similar, will be attended with similar effects"? This postulate, that the future will be like the past, and that like causes will have like effects, rests on a purely psychological basis. In virtue of the laws of association the sight of an object or event vividly recalls the image of a second, often observed in connection with the former, and leads us involuntarily to expect its appearance anew. The idea of causal connection is based on feeling (the feeling of inner determination to pass from one idea to a second), not upon insight; it is a product of the imagination, not of the understanding. From the habitual perception of two events in connection (sunshine and heat) arises the mental determination to think of the second when we perceive the first, and, anticipating the senses, to count on its appearance. It is now possible to state of what impression the idea of the causal nexus is the copy: the impression on which it is based is the habitual transition from the idea of a thing to its customary attendant. Hence the idea of causality has a purely subjective significance, not the objective one which we ascribe to it. It is impossible to determine whether there is a real necessity of becoming corresponding to the felt necessity of thought. In life we never doubt the fact, but for science our conviction of the uniformity of nature remains a merely probable (though a very highly probable) conviction. Complete certainty is vouchsafed only by rational demonstration and immediate experience. The necessary bond which we postulate between cause and effect can neither be demonstrated nor felt.

If all experiential reasonings depend on the idea of causality, and this has no other support than subjective mental habit, it follows that all knowledge of nature which goes beyond mere observed fact is not knowledge (neither demonstrative knowledge nor knowledge of fact), but belief.[1] The probability of our belief in the regularity of natural phenomena increases, indeed, with every new verification of the assumptions based thereon; but, as has been shown, it never rises to absolute certainty. Nevertheless inferences from experience are trustworthy and entirely sufficient for practical life, and the aim of the above skeptical deliverances was not to shake belief--only a fool or a lunatic can doubt in earnest the immutability of nature--but only to make it clear that it is mere belief, and not, as hitherto held, demonstrative or factual knowledge. Our doubt is intended to define the boundary between knowledge and belief, and to destroy that absolute confidence which is a hindrance rather than a help to investigation. We should recognize it as a wise provision of nature that the regulation of our thoughts and the belief in the objective validity of our anticipation of future events have not been confided to the weak, inconstant, inert, and fallacious reason, but to a powerful instinct. In life and action we are governed by this natural impulse, in spite of all the scruples of the skeptical reason.

[Footnote 1: Hume distinguishes belief as a form of knowledge from religious faith, both in fact and in name. In the Treatise--the passage is wanting in the Enquiry--our conviction of the external existence of the objects of perception is also ascribed to the former, which later formed Jacobi's point of departure. Religious faith is referred to revelation.]

In Hume's earlier work his destructive critique of the idea of cause is accompanied by a deliverance in a similar strain on the concept of substance, which is not included in the shorter revision. Substances are not perceived through impressions, but only qualities and powers. The unknown something which is supposed to have qualities, or in which these are supposed to inhere, is an unnecessary fiction of the imagination. A permanent similarity of attributes by no means requires a self-identical support for these. A thing is nothing more than a collection of qualities, to which we give a special name because they are always found together. The idea of substance, like the idea of cause, is founded in a subjective habit which we erroneously objectify. The impression from which it has arisen is our inner perception that our thought remains constant in the repeated experience of the same group of qualities (whenever I see sugar, I do the same thing that is, I combine the qualities white color, sweet taste, hardness, etc., with one another), or the impression of a uniform combination of ideas. The idea of substance becomes erroneous through the fact that we refer it not to the inner activity of representation, to which it rightly belongs, but to the external group of qualities, and make it a real, permanent substratum for the latter. Mental substances disappear along with material substances. The soul or mind is, in reality, nothing more than the sum of our inner states, a collection of ideas which flow on in a continuous and regular stream; it is like a stage, across which feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and volitions are passing while it does not itself come into sight. A permanent self or ego, as a substratum of ideas, is not perceived; there is no invariable, permanent impression. That which leads to the assumption of personal identity is only the frequent repetition of similar trains of ideas, and the gradual succession of our ideas, which is easily confused with constancy. Thus robbed of its substantiality, the soul has no further claims to immateriality and immortality, and suicide ceases to be a crime.[1]

[Footnote 1: Cf. the essays on Suicide And the Immortality of the Soul 1783, whose authorship by Hume, however, is not absolutely established [of. Green and Grose, as above, p. 221, note first.--TR.]]

Is Hume roundly to be called a skeptic? [1] He never impugned the validity of mathematical reasonings, nor experimental truths concerning matters of fact; in regard to the former his thought is rationalistic, in regard to the latter it is empirical or, more accurately, sensationalistic. His attitude toward the empirical sciences of nature and of mind is that of a semi-skeptic or probabilist, in so far as they go beyond the establishment of facts to the proof of connections under law and to inferences concerning the future. Habit is for him a safe guide for life, although it does not go beyond probabilities; absolute knowledge is unattainable for us, but not indispensable. Toward metaphysics, as an alleged science of the suprasensible, he takes up an entirely negative attitude. If an argument from experience is to be assured of merely that degree of probability which is sufficient for belief, it must not only have a well-established fact (an impression or memory-image) for its starting point, but, together with its conclusion, it must keep within the limits of possible experience. The limits of possible experience are also the limits of the knowable; inferences to the continued existence of the soul after death and to the being of God are vain sophistry and illusion. According to the famous conclusion of the Essay all volumes which contain anything other than "abstract reasonings concerning quantity or number" or "experimental reasonings concerning matter of fact and existence" deserve to be committed to the flames. In view of this limitation of knowledge to that which is capable of exact measurement and that which is present in experience, as well of the principle that the elements added by thought are to be sharply distinguished from the positively given (the immediate facts of perception), we must agree with those who call Hume the father of modern positivism.[2]

[Footnote 1: In the Essay Hume describes his own standpoint as mitigated or academical skepticism in antithesis to the Cartesian, which from doubt and through doubt hopes to reach the indubitable, and to the excessive skepticism of Pyrrhonism, which cripples the impulse to inquiry. This moderate skepticism asks us only, after resisting the tendency to unreflecting conclusions, to make a duty of deliberation and caution in judging, and to restrain inquiry within those fields which are accessible to our knowledge, i.e. the fields of mathematics and empirical fact. In the Treatise hume had favored a sharper skepticism and extended his doubt more widely, e.g. even to the trustworthiness of geometry. Cf. on this point Ed. Grimm, Zur Geschichte des Erkenntnissproblems 1890, p, 559 seq]

[Footnote 2: So Volkelt, Erfahrung und Denken 1886, p. 105.]

* * * * *

As a philosopher of religion Hume is the finisher and destroyer of deism. Of the three principles of the deists--religion, its origin and its truth are objects of scientific investigation; religion has its origin in the reason and the consciousness of duty; natural religion is the oldest, the positive religions are degenerate or revived forms of natural religion--he accepts the first, while rejecting the other two. Religion may correspond to reason or contradict it, but not proceed from it. Religion has its basis in human nature, yet not in its rational but its sensuous side; not in the speculative desire for knowledge, but in practical needs; not in the contemplation of nature, but in looking forward with fear or joy to the changing events of human life. Anxiety and hope concerning future events lead us to posit unseen powers as directing our destiny, and to seek their favor. The capriciousness of fortune points to a plurality of gods; the tendency to conceive all things like ourselves gives them human characteristics; the powerful impression made by all that comes within the sphere of the senses incites us to connect the divine power with visible objects; the allegorical laudation and deification of eminent men leads to a completed polytheism. That this and not (mono-) theism was the original form of religion, Hume assumes to be a fact for historical times, and a well-founded conjecture for prehistoric ages. Those who hold that humanity began with a perfect religion find it difficult to explain the obscuration of the truth, endow immature ages with a developed use of the reason which they can scarcely have possessed, make error grow worse with increasing culture, and contradict the historical progress upward which is everywhere else observed. The philosophical knowledge of God is a very late product of mature reflection; even monotheism, as a popular religion, did not arise from rational reflection, although its chief principle is in agreement with the results of philosophy, but from the same irrational motives as polytheism. Its origin from polytheism is accomplished by the transformation of the leading god (the king of the gods or the tutelary deity of the nation) through the fear and emulous flattery of his votaries into the one, infinite, spiritual ruler of the world. Amid the folly of the superstitious herd, however, this refined idea is not long preserved in its purity; the more exalted the conception entertained of the supreme deity, the more imperatively the need makes itself felt for the interpolation between this being and mankind of mediators and demi-gods, partaking more of the human nature of the worshipers and more familiar to them. Later a new purification takes place, so that the history of religion shows a continuous alternation of the lower and higher forms.

After depriving theism of its prerogative of originality, Hume further takes away from it its fame as in every respect the best religion. It is disadvantageously distinguished from polytheism by the fact that it is more intolerant, makes its followers pusillanimous, and, by its incomprehensible dogmas, puts their faith to severer tests; while it is on a level with polytheism in that most of its adherents exalt belief in foolish mysteries, fanaticism, and the observance of useless customs above the practice of virtue.

The Natural History of Religion which far outbids the conclusions of the deists by its endeavors to explain religion, not on rational, but on historical and psychological grounds, and to separate it entirely from knowledge by relegating it to the sphere of practice, leaves the possibility of a philosophical knowledge of God an open question. The Dialogues concerning Natural Religion greatly diminish this hope. The most cogent argument for the intelligence of the world-ground, the teleological argument, is a hypothesis which has grave weaknesses, and one to which many other equally probable hypotheses may be opposed. The finite world, with its defects and abounding misery amid all its order and adaptation, can never yield an inference to an infinite, perfect unit-cause, to an all-powerful, all-wise, and benevolent deity. To this the eleventh section of the Enquiry Adds the argument, that it is inadmissible to ascribe to the inferred cause other properties than those which are necessary to explain the observed effect. The tenth section of the same Essay Argues that there is no miracle supported by a sufficient number of witnesses credible because of their intelligence and honesty, and free from a preponderance of contradictory experiences and testimony of greater probability. In short, the reason is neither capable of reaching the existence of God by well-grounded inference nor of comprehending the truth of the Christian religion with its accompanying miracles. That which transcends experience cannot be proven and known, but only believed in. Whoever is moved by faith to give assent to things which contradict all custom and experience, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person.

Hume never denied the existence of God, never directly impugned revelation. His final word is doubt and uncertainty. It is certain that his counsel not to follow the leadership of the reason in religious matters, but to submit ourselves to the power of instinct and common opinion, was less earnest and less in harmony with the nature of the philosopher than his other advice, to take refuge from the strife of the various forms of superstition in the more quiet, though dimmer regions of--naturally, the skeptical--philosophy. Hume's originality and greatness in this field consist in his genetic view of the historical religions. They are for him errors, but natural ones, grounded in the nature of man, "sick men's dreams," whose origin and course he searches out with frightful cold-bloodedness, with the dispassionate interest of the dissector.

* * * * *

In his moral philosophy[1] Hume shows himself the empiricist only, not the skeptic. The laws of human nature are capable of just as exact empirical investigation as those of external nature; observation and analysis promise even more brilliant success in this most important, and yet hitherto so badly neglected, branch of science than in physics. As knowledge and opinion have been found reducible to the associative play of ideas, and the store of ideas, again, to original impressions and shown derivable from these; so man's volition and action present themselves as results of the mechanical working of the passions, which, in turn, point further back to more primitive principles. The ultimate motives of all action are pleasure and pain, to which we owe our ideas of good and evil. The direct passions, desire and aversion, joy and sorrow, hope and fear, are the immediate effects of these original elements. From the direct arise in certain circumstances the indirect passions, pride and humility, love and hatred (together with respect and contempt); the first two, if the objects which excite feeling are immediately connected with ourselves, the latter, when pleasure and pain are aroused by the accomplishments or the defects of others. While love and hate are always conjoined with a readiness for action, with benevolence or anger, pride and humility are pure, self-centered, inactive emotions.

[Footnote 1: Cf. G. von Gizycki, Die Ethik David Humes 1878.]

All moral phenomena, will, moral judgment, conscience, virtue, are not simple and original data, but of a composite or derivative nature. They are without exception products of the regular interaction of the passions. With such views there can be, of course, no question of a freedom of the will. If anyone objects to determinism, that virtues and vices, if they are involuntary and necessary, are not praise-or blame-worthy, he is to be referred to the applause paid to beauty and talent, which are considered meritorious, although they are not dependent upon our choice. The legal attitude of theology and law first caused all desert to be based upon freedom, whereas the ancient philosophers spoke unhesitatingly of intellectual virtues.

Hume does not, like nearly all his predecessors and contemporaries, find the determining grounds of volition in ideas, but in the feelings. After curtailing the rights of the reason in the theoretical field in favor of custom and instinct, he dispossesses her also in the sphere of practice. Impassive reason, judging only of truth and falsehood, is an inactive faculty, which of itself can never inspire us with inclination and desire toward an object, can never itself become a motive. It is only capable of influencing the will indirectly, through the aid of some affection. Abstract relations of ideas, and facts as well, leave us entirely indifferent so long as they fail to acquire an emotional value through their relation to our state of mind. When we speak of a victory of reason over passion it is nothing but a conquest of one passion by another, i. e, of a violent passion by a calm one. That which is commonly called reason here is nothing but one of those general and calm affections (e. g, the love of life) which direct the will to a distant good, without exciting any sensible emotion in the mind; by passion we commonly understand the violent passions only, which engender a marked disturbance in the soul and the production of which requires a certain propinquity of the object. A man is said to be industrious "from reason," when a calm desire for money makes him laborious. It is a mistake to consider all violent passions powerful, and all calm ones weak. The prevalence of calm affections constitutes the essence of strength of mind.

As reason is thus degraded from a governor of the will to a "slave of the passions," so, further, judgment concerning right and wrong is taken away from her. Moral distinctions are determined by our sense of the agreeable and the disagreeable. We pass an immediate judgment of taste on the actions of our fellow-men; the good pleases, evil displeases. The sight of virtue gives us satisfaction; that of vice repels us. Accordingly an action or trait of mind is virtuous when it calls forth in the observer an agreeable, disinterested sentiment of approbation.

What, then, are the actions which receive such general approval, and how is the praise to be explained which the spectator bestows on them? We approve such traits of character as are immediately agreeable or useful, either to the person himself or to others. This yields four classes of praiseworthy qualities. The first class, those which are agreeable to the possessor (quite apart from any utility to himself or to others), includes cheerfulness, greatness of mind, courage, tranquillity, and benevolence; the second, those immediately agreeable to others, modesty, good manners, politeness, and wit; the third, those useful to ourselves, strength of will, industry, frugality, strength of body, intelligence and other mental gifts. The fourth class comprises the highest virtues, the qualities useful to others, benevolence and justice. Pleasure and utility are in all cases the criterion of merit. The monkish virtues of humility and mortification of the flesh, which bring no pleasure or advantage either to their possessor or to society, are considered meritorious by no one who understands the subject.

If the moral value of actions is thus made to depend on their effects, we cannot dispense with the assistance of reason in judging moral questions, since it alone can inform us concerning these results of action. Reason, however, is not sufficient to determine us to praise or blame. Nothing but a sentiment can induce us to give the preference to beneficial and useful tendencies over pernicious ones. This feeling is evidently no other than satisfaction in the happiness of men and uneasiness in view of their misery--in short, it is sympathy. By means of the imagination we enter into the experiences of others and participate in their joy and sorrow. Whatever depresses or rejoices them, whatever inspires them with pride, fills us with similar emotions. From the habit of sympathetically passing moral judgment on the actions of others, and of seeing our own judged by them, is developed the further one of keeping a constant watch over ourselves and of considering our dispositions and deeds from the standpoint of the good of others. This custom is called conscience. Allied to this is the love of reputation, which continually leads us to ask, How will our behavior appear in the eyes of those with whom we associate?

Within the fourth and most important class, the social virtues, Hume distinguishes between the natural virtues of humanity and benevolence and the artificial virtues of justice and fidelity. The former proceed from our inborn sympathy with the good of others, while the latter, on the other hand, are not to be derived from a natural passion, an instinctive love of humanity, but are the product of reflection and art, and take their origin in a social convention.

In order that an action may gain the approval of the spectator two other things are required besides its salutary effects: it must be a mark of character, of a permanent disposition, and it must proceed from disinterested motives. Hume is obliged by this latter position to show that disinterested benevolence actually exists, that the unselfish affections do not secretly spring from self-love. To cite only one of the thousand examples of benevolence in which no discernible interest is concerned, we desire happiness for our friends even when we have no expectation of participating in it. The accounts of human selfishness are greatly overdrawn, and those who deduce all actions from it make the mistake of taking the inevitable consequences of virtue--the pleasure of self-approval and of being esteemed by others--for the only motives to virtue. Because virtue, in the outcome, produces inner satisfaction and is praised by others, it does not follow that it is practiced merely for the sake of these agreeable consequences. Self-love is a secondary impulse, whose appearance at all presupposes primary impulses. Only after we have experienced the pleasure which comes from the satisfaction of such an original impulse (e. g, ambition), can this become the object of a conscious reflective search after pleasure, or of egoism. Power brings no enjoyment to the man by nature devoid of ambition, and he who is naturally ambitious does not desire fame because it affords him pleasure, but conversely, fame affords him pleasure because he desires it. The natural propensity which terminates directly on the object, without knowledge or foresight of the pleasurable results, comes first, and egoistic reflection directed toward the hoped-for enjoyment can develop only after this has been satisfied. The case is the same with benevolence as with the love of fame. It is implanted in the constitution of our minds as an original impulse immediately directed toward the happiness of other men. After it has been exercised and its exercise rewarded by self-satisfaction, admiration, thanks, and reciprocation, it is indeed possible for the expectation of such agreeable consequences to lead us to the repetition of beneficent acts. But the original motive is not an egoistic, regard for useful consequences. If, from the force of the passion alone, vengeance may be so eagerly pursued that every consideration of personal quiet and security is silenced, it may also be conceded that humanity causes us to forget our own interests. Nay, further, the social affections, as Shaftesbury has proven, are the strongest of all, and the man will rarely be found in whom the sum of the benevolent impulses will not outweigh that of the selfish ones.

In the section on justice Hume attacks the contract theory. Law, property, and the sacredness of contracts exist first in society, but not first in the state. The obligation to observe contracts is, indeed, made stronger by the civil law and civil authority, but not created by them. Law arises from convention, i. e, not from a formal contract, but a tacit agreement, a sense of common interest, and this agreement, in turn, proceeds from an original propensity to enter into social relations. The unsocial and lawless state of nature is a philosophical fiction which has never existed; men have always been social. They have all at least been born into the society of the family, and they know no-more terrible punishment than isolation. States are not created, however, by a voluntary act, but have their roots in history. The question at issue between Hobbes and Hume was thus adjusted at a later period by Kant: the state, it is true, has not historically arisen from a contract, yet it is allowable and useful to consider it under the aspect of a contract as a regulative idea.

Only once since David Hume, in Herbert Spencer, has the English nation produced a mind of like comprehensive power. Hume and Locke form the culminating points of English thought. They are national types, in that in them the two fundamental tendencies of English thinking, clearness of understanding and practical sense, were manifested in equal force. In Locke these worked together in harmonious co-operation. In Hume the friendly alliance is broken, the common labor ceases; each of the two demands its full rights; a painful breach opens up between science and life. Reason leads inevitably to doubt, to insight into its own weakness, while life demands conviction. The doubter cannot act, the agent cannot know. It is true that a substitute is found for defective knowledge in belief based upon instinct and custom; but this is a makeshift, not a solution of the problem, an acknowledgment of the evil, not a cure for it. Further, Hume's greatness does not consist in the fact that he preached modesty to the contending parties, that he banished the doubting reason into the study and restricted life to belief in probabilities, but in the mental strength which enabled him to endure sharp contradictions, and, instead of an overhasty and easy reconciliation, to suspend the one impulse until the other had made its demands thoroughly, completely, and regardlessly heard. Though he is distinguished from other skeptics by the fact that he not only shows the fundamental conceptions of our knowledge of nature and the principles of religion uncertain and erroneous, but finds necessary errors in them and acutely uncovers their origin in the lawful workings of our inner life, yet his historical influence essentially rests on his skepticism. In his own country it roused in the "Scottish School" the reaction of common sense, while in Germany it helped to wake a kindred but greater spirit from the bonds of his dogmatic slumbers, and to fortify him for his critical achievements.


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