Section 2


by David Hume Icon

Impressions are Feelings or Sensory Perceptions, Ideas are Thoughts

We should examine our impressions before we accept our ideas, since:

  • our simple impressions are prior to their correspondent ideas, and
  • exceptions to this pattern are very rare.

Impressions way be divided into two kinds, those of:

  • sensation
    • Sensation arises in the soul originally, from unknown causes.
  • reflection
    • Reflection is derived in a great measure from our ideas, in the following sequence:

An impression first strikes the senses.

It makes us perceive heat or cold, thirst or hunger, pleasure or pain.

A copy of this impression is taken by the mind.

This copy remains after the impression ceases.

We call this copy an idea.

Impressions of reflection

When this idea of pleasure or pain returns on the soul, it produces the new impressions of desire and aversion, hope and fear.

These may be called ‘impressions of reflection’ [ resulting feelings ], because they are derived from this idea. These again are copied by the memory and imagination, and become ideas.

These ideas lead to other impressions and ideas, so that the impressions of reflection:

  • come before their correspondent ideas, but after the ideas of sensation, and
  • are derived from the ideas of sensation.

The examination of our sensations belongs more to scientists than to moral philosophers.

We therefore shall not enter it presently.

The impressions of reflection which principally deserve our attention are passions, desires, and emotions.

These arise mostly from ideas.

It will thus be necessary to reverse that method which seems most natural at first sight.

To explain the nature and principles of the human mind, I will give an account of ideas before we proceed to impressions.

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