David Hume Glossary

Last modified: October 21, 2010

EHU=Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding,

T=Treatise of Human Nature,

EPM=Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals

perceptions of the mind — any content of the mind or consciousness (EHU)

impressions — the more lively perceptions; e.g., pain of excessive heat, pleasure of moderate warmth (EHU, 10)

ideas — the less lively and forcible of the perceptions of the mind (EHU, 10)

matter of fact — contingent truths, which may be discovered a posteriori, i.e., from experience. (EHU)

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original impressions — e.g., bodily pains and pleasures; impressions that "without any introduction arise in the soul." (T2.1.1 [Book 2, part 1, section 1])

secondary (or reflective) impressions — "passions and other emotions resembling [original impressions]"; they "arise either from original impressions or their ideas" (T2.1.1)

calm reflective impressions — (= "other emotions") , for example, the sense of beauty and deformity in action, composition, and external objects (T2.1.1)

violent reflective impressions — another name for passions (T2.1.1). Examples are love, hatred, grief, joy, pride, humility.

passions (T, p. 25) -- an original existence or modification thereof (it contains no "representative quality that renders it a copy of any other existence or modification"; if it did, it would be or contain an idea)

direct passions — passions that arise immediately from good or evil, pleasure or pain. (T 2.1.1) If X arises immediately from Y, then X is distinct from Y. Examples of direct passions: desire, aversion, grief, hope, joy, fear, despair, security. (T 2.1.1)

indirect passions — passions that do not arise immediately from pleasure or pain, but only mediately, i.e.,"by the conjunction of other qualities" (T 2.1.1). Examples are pride, humility, ambition, love, hatred, envy, pity, malice, generosity.

reason — the operation of the mind that seeks to discover the relationship between ideas, including cause-effect relations, which is the foundation of our knowledge of how means are related to ends. Reason seeks to discover truth or falsehood (T, p. 33). Reason per se is inactive, but "passion" can use reason to pursue its ends. (p.34)

truth — the agreement either to the real relations of ideas or to real existence and matter of fact (T, p.33)

falsehood — the disagreement to the real relations of ideas or to real existence and matter of fact (T, p. 33)

praiseworthy/laudable — that which we are disposed to approve (the contemplation of it causes pleasure because of the association of the object and pleasure based on experience)

blameworthy —that which we are disposed to disapprove of (the contemplation of which causes pain because of the association of the object and pain)

sympathy — that feature of the mind by which "we enter into the sentiments" of others and "partake of their pleasure and uneasiness." (T 2.2.5) Sympathy makes the virtue of benevolence and the sentiment of humanity possible.

(elemental) self-interest — what is common to our passions insofar as sympathy does not operate

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In the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Hume speaks of the benevolent principtle [Section V, part 2], benevolence [Conclusion, part I], the "selfish theory" [Section V, part I], and self-love [Section V, part 2].

reason &mdash faculty that enables us "to attain knowledge by a chain of argument and induction"; "like all sound judgment of truth and falsehood, [its conclusions] should be the same to every rational intelligent being [human or not]" (EPM, section 1) "Reason judges either of matter of fact or of relations." (EPM, App. 1) Contrast with Sentiment.

sentiment — "immediate feeling and finer internal sense"; "like the perception of beauty and deformity, founded on the particular fabric and constitution of the human species." (EPM, section 1) The term "sentiment" in EPM seems to replace "passion" in T, but it is obviously related to "sense," since Hume distinguishes in one place between outward sentiment (i.e., the perceptions of the five senses) and inward sentiment. "Inward sentiment" is then shortened to "sentiment" for discussion of emotions, moods, and similar feelings.

benevolence — (1) as a meritorious quality of a person or virtue: a benevolent person would be one in whom the benevolent principle operates more appropriately and frequently than it does on average; (2) the benevolent principle: what is common to our passions insofar sympathy does operate in us.

humanity, sentiment of — "a feeling for the happiness of mankind and a resentment of their misery." (EPM, App. 1: "utility is only a tendency to a certain end; and were the end totally indifferent to us, we should feel the same indifference toward the means. It is requisite a sentiment should here display itself, in order to give preference to the useful above the pernicious tendencies. This sentiment can be no other than a feeling for the happiness of mankind, and a resentment of their misery… Here therefore reason instructs us in the several tendencies of actions, and humanity makes a distinction in favor of those which are useful and beneficial.")

Hume sometimes uses "benevolent principles" and "principles of humanity and sympathy" as virtually interchangeable and synonymous. (EPM, Section V, part 2)