The Impressions of the Senses and Memoryby David Hume
The Initial Impressions Come from the Memory, Imagination, and Senses
In this kind of reasoning from causation, we employ mixed and heterogeneous materials.
These materials are essentially different from each other no matter how connected they are.
All our arguments on causes and effects consist of:
- an impression of the memory or senses, and
- the idea of that existence which:
- produces the object of the impression, or
- is produced by that object.
We have three things to explain:
- The original impression,
- The transition to the idea of the connected cause or effect,
- The nature and qualities of that idea.
I think the ultimate cause of those impressions from the senses are inexplicable by human reason.
It will always be impossible to decide with certainty, whether they: arise immediately from the object, are produced by the mind’s creative power, or are derived from the author of our being. Such a question is not material to our present purpose. We may draw inferences from the coherence of our perceptions, whether they are:
are true or false, represent nature justly, or mere illusions of the senses. When we search for the characteristic which distinguishes the memory from the imagination, we must immediately perceive that it cannot lie in the simple ideas it presents to us.
Since both these faculties: borrow their simple ideas from the impressions, and can never go beyond these original perceptions. These faculties are as little distinguished from each other by the arrangement of their complex ideas.
The memory preserves the original order and position of its ideas. The imagination transposes and changes them as it pleases. Yet this difference is not enough to: distinguish them in their operation, or make us know the one from the other. It is impossible to recall the past impressions, in order to:
compare them with our present ideas, and see whether their arrangement is exactly similar. The difference between memory and the imagination lies in its superior force and vivacity, since the memory is known neither by:
the order of its complex ideas, nor the nature of its simple ones. A man may indulge his fancy in feigning any past adventures.
It would be impossible to distinguish it from a remembrance of real adventures, if the ideas of the imagination were not fainter and more obscure than those of the memory. When two men have been engaged in any action, one frequently remembers it much better than the other.
He will have the most difficulty to make his companion recollect it. He runs over several circumstances in vain. He mentions the time, place, company, what was said and done on all sides. Until at last, he hits on some lucky circumstance that: revives the whole, and gives his friend a perfect memory of everything. Here the person that forgets receives at first all the ideas from the other’s talk, in the same time and place.
But he considers them as mere fictions of the imagination. But as soon as the circumstance that touches the memory is mentioned, the very same ideas now appear in a new light. They have a different feeling from before. Without any other alteration, besides that of the feeling, they: immediately become ideas of the memory, and are assented to. It may be proper to consider what is the nature of that feeling since:
the imagination can represent all the same objects that the memory can offer to us, and those faculties are only distinguished by the different feeling of the ideas they present. The ideas of the memory are more strong and lively than those of the fancy.
A painter, who intended to represent an emotion, would try to see someone actuated by a like emotion, in order to: enliven his ideas, give them a force and vivacity superior to what is found in those which are mere fictions of the imagination. The more recent this memory is, the clearer is the idea. If he returns to contemplate his object after a long interval, he would always finds its idea much decayed, if not wholly obliterated. We frequently doubt the ideas of the memory, as they become very weak and feeble. We are at a loss to determine whether any image proceeds from the fancy or the memory, when it is not drawn in such lively colours to distinguish the memory. One says, I think I remember such an event, but am not sure. A long tract of time has almost worn it out of my memory. It am uncertain whether it is purely from my fancy. Liars Increase the Strength of Their Imagination to be as Strong as Memory By losing its force and vivacity, an idea of the memory may degenerate as to be taken for an idea of the imagination.
On the other hand, an idea of the imagination may acquire such a force and vivacity, as to: pass for an idea of the memory, and counterfeit its effects on the belief and judgment. This is noted in the case of liars. By the frequent repetition of their lies, they come to believe and remember them as realities. In this case, custom and habit has the same influence on the mind as nature in fixing the idea with equal force and vigour. Thus, the belief or assent which always attends the memory and senses, is nothing but the vivacity of those perceptions.they present.
This alone distinguishes them from the imagination. In this case, to believe is to feel an immediate impression of the senses, or a repetition of that impression in the memory. It is merely the force and liveliness of the perception which: constitutes the first act of the judgment, and lays the foundation of that reasoning, which we build on it, when we trace the relation of cause and effect.