Hume and the mechanics of mind : impressions, ideas, and association

In David Fate Norton & Jacqueline Anne Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge University Press (2009)
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Hume introduced important innovations concerning the theory of ideas. The two most important are the distinction between impressions and ideas, and the use he made of the principles of association in explaining mental phenomena. Hume divided the perceptions of the mind into two classes. The members of one class, impressions, he held to have a greater degree of force and vivacity than the members of the other class, ideas. He also supposed that ideas are causally dependent copies of impressions. And, unlike Locke and others, Hume makes positive use of the principle of association, both of the association of ideas, and, in a more limited way, of the association of impressions. Such associations are central to his explanations of causal reasoning, belief, the indirect passions (pride and humility, love and hatred), and sympathy. These views about impressions and ideas and the principles of association form the core of Hume’s science of human nature. Relying on them, he attempts a rigorously empirical investigation of human nature. The resulting system is a remarkable but complex achievement.
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