Hume, Impressions vs Ideas

david hume

David Hume’s philosophy is entirely based on this principle that experience causes our ideas : hence Hume is a empiricist. Hume differentiates between impressions or the immediate result of the experience and ideas, or the result of impressions.

Impressions or Ideas ?

Impression is the result of direct experience both internally and externally, is engraved in the soul with great vivacity. By idea, it means the image of these impressions weakened (the faint image of These), used in the Judgement and Reasoning. While the impression is received from outside, the idea is a simple copy, a reproduction of the spontaneous impression. The object is printed twice in the subject: one way in the bright but fleeting sense organs, and in a way lower but more stable in the mind.

Hume follows from these definitions that ideation in the role of the mind is purely passive, and in this sense that Hume can be considered the founder of empiricism, of  more than Roger Bacon, or Locke , who had kept in mind one’s own activity. The result is that the system still banned all metaphysical ideas about the substance, cause and God, or, at least, these ideas become mere nominal form, without objective value. The experience is moving in a narrow field: a specific and concrete in nature, it can not go beyond the individual and the concrete, if the mind is devoid of any clean energy, he will never open the horizons of generality and transcendence.


Hume : Simple Ideas vs Complex Ideas

Simple ideas, and heard, combine in an automatic process, called the association. The association is a kind of attraction that unites and makes mental representations by virtue of their natural affinity. This affinity is manifested in three forms, which are the laws of association: resemblance, contiguity in time and space, and causality in Hume attaches special meaning to the word. Again, the principle of union among ideas is not the energy of the mind, this principle is simple qualities which nature has marked some thoughts as a special sign, and predestined them to spend in a complex. Hume’s philosophy is not an agent of his forces, from inside to outside, it proceeds from outside to inside: it is the perceptions and combinations that make up the minds and perceptions have their own history in qualities of external objects. It would be easy to show that Hume’s arguments have no demonstrative value, but this is not the subject of this work, we merely recall briefly the basic principles of his philosophy, and we try to show the great influence they have exerted on contemporary English school.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Hume, Impressions vs Ideas, May 4, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 4, 2012,

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