Study Questions for David Hume
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

© by Dr. Jan Garrett

Last modified March 5, 2004

The questions are keyed to the version of Hume's Enquiry in Ariew and Watkins, ed., Modern Philosophy (1998), pp. 491-521.

1. Into what two classes does H. divide perceptions? How does he distinguish them? (497)

2. To what does the creative power of the mind amount? (497)

3. What two arguments does H. give in support of this conclusion? (497-98)

4. How should we ascertain the meaning of a philosophical term? (498)

5. What three principles of association does H. find? (499)

6. Into what two kinds does H. divide "the objects of reason or inquiry"? Give examples of each. (499-500)

7. Upon what relation do all reasonings concerning matters of fact seem founded? Why? (500)

8. How is knowledge of cause-effect relations attainable? (501) Are any laws of nature knowable a priori? Explain. (501)

9. Does natural philosophy let us discover the ultimate causes of things? (502) What should we say to those devotees of science who look to it to unlock the ultimate secrets of natures?

10. How would H. reply to those rationalists who would say that physical knowledge is mathematical and hence a priori?

11. Can it be demonstrated (i.e., by reasoning a priori) that because (1) all X's have in the past been followed by Y's, (2) X's in the future will be followed by Y's? (503)

12. Why is it circular to argue in a probabilistic manner that the future will be like the past? (504)

13. From the answers to 11 and 12, what follows about the epistemological status of the principle "similar events have similar effects"?

14. What "principle" determines us to infer the existence of one object from another? (507)

Without the influence of this, of what would we be entirely ignorant? (508)

15. What is the basis for our justified beliefs in historical matters of fact? (508)

16. In what does the difference between fiction and belief lie? (509.1) How does H. describe the sentiment associated with the latter? (509-510)

17. How does the belief in the existence of things not present to sensation arise, according to H.? (512)

18. On what ground does H. argue that it is not probable that causal inferences could be trusted to the "fallacious deductions of our reason"? (512.2)

19. What is the "chief obstacle" to our improvement in the moral or metaphysical sciences? Upon what group of ideas is H. going to focus now? (514)

20. How are complex ideas known? What may we do if definition is not sufficient? What might we call "Hume's microscope"? (515.1)

21. What are we never able to discover when we consider the operation of causes in the external world (515.2)

Are we able to discover it when we consider the internal operations of the mind? (What three arguments does H. give to support his view?) (516.1-517.1)

22. Can we discover a clear impression corresponding to the idea of power associated with our apparent ability to entertain and dismiss ideas? (517)

23. What philosophical view about the mind-body relation and the internal operations of the mind does H. consider on p. 518 in order to reject on p. 519?

24. What claim does H. make about the way "all events seem" to philosophical introspection? What does the "necessary conclusion" seem to be? How does he avoid this radical conclusion himself? Why does he say his own position is "somewhat extraordinary"? (520)

25. What, for H., is the only immediate utility of all sciences? (521)

26. State H's two definitions of cause. (521)