- All ideas derive from sense impressions
- Analogy- Mind is a Tabula Rasa
- Mind is 'furnished' with ideas through experience
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- All ideas come from sense impressions
- Shows link between ideas and sense impressions
- Sense impressions are 'forceful and vivid' , ideas are 'faint and obscure'
- Example: Strawberry. When i eat a strawberry the colour is vivid, the smell is real and tangible and the taste is seet and forceful. When i am remembering the strawberry in 2 days time, it is simply a faded and unclear copy of the original sense impression.
- It is impossible to have an idea not determined by a sense impression.
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Strength 1- Humes challenge
- Most of the things we think about are everyday objects - cars, mug of coffee etc..
- Seem plausible that our ideas derive from those original objects within my experience.
- This explains why our thoughts are about things.
- Hume challenges us to think of an idea that has arisen independently of experience.
- Humes claim: Ultimatley, all ideas can be traced back to impressions so his challenge cannot be met.
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Strength 2- Abstract ideas
- Example: Golden Mountain. This idea is derived from and determined by sense experience. You have had a sense impression of Gold and of a mountain and have synthesised these two (simple) ideas to form the complex idea of a golden mountain.
- Hume argues all ideas, no matter how abstract, can be explained in the same way.
- Imagination appears to be boundless in scope but is actually confined to the narrow limits of what you are able to experience.
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Strength 3- Sense defficiency
- Hume provides the example of the Blind and Deaf man.
- Such people lack the sensory capacity to experience particular things and so cannot form the corresponding ideas of colours or sounds.
- If you restored the missing senses - open up the inlet for sensation- they will be able to form the idea of colour and sound.
- This illustrates: The idea that all ideas come from sense impressions by revealing the casual relationship beteen ideas and sense impressions.
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Strength 4- Innate ideas are not possible
Lockes universal consent argument:
- If innate ideas were possible there should be universal consent
- Idea of God varies from culture to culture
- "Savages" have no idea of morality and those who do have conflicting ideas.
- "Children, idiots, savages and illiterate adults" cannot do maths
Innate ideas cannot be verified:
- Cannot aska neborn baby
- No way to check if the ideas came shortly after birth
- Hume- "frivolous"
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Weakness 1 - Sense impressions not necessary
- Sense impressions are not needed for ideas.
- Illustrations: Idea of Liberty,Justice, Beauty, Time
- Having an idea of these things does not seem to depend on your ability to have a sense impression of them.
- Notions: 'if', 'I', 'all' 'then' , 'some' , 'is', 'is not' play a central role in our ability to form ideas without corresponding to a sense impression.
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Weakness 2 - Innate ideas are possible
Leibniz veined marble analogy:
- 'Veined marble' better analogy for mind
- Innate ideas are contained in the mind like a figure in a stone
- Figure needs to be uncovered by a sculptur, ideas need to be uncovered, clarified and defined by experience.
- Mind must contain certain concepts - space and time, causation and number- in order for experience to be possible.
- They are needed for experience and so cannot come from experience so they must be innate/knon a priori.
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Weakness 3 - Sense impressions not sufficient
- Having a sense impression is not enough to form an idea
- If it was, we could form a clear idea simply on the basis of having a sense impression.
- Wittgensteins Illustration: Someone says "This is Tove" holding up a pencil. If sense impressions were sufficient for aquiring ideas, you would aquire the idea of tove from the impression of the pencil. This is not the case because "this is Tove" could mean anything e.g "This is hard", "this is wood" , "this is one" , "this is a pencil".
- Shows: Something else is needed.
- Nothing in our experience tells us how to interpret that experience.
- Implies: The claim that all ideas come from sense experience is at best imprecise and at worst mistaken.
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Weakness4 - Having an idea is not a mental image
- Empiricists-Hume- define ideas as mental images of some kind-faded copies of events/objects.
- Although intuitively plausible, we can form clear ideas of things without a mental image.
- Example:Form a clear idea of Ultra Violet, have a clear understanding of complex geometrical shapes - Chiliagons.
- We ought to question link between ideas and mental images.
- Helpful distinction - Between having a concept (general understanding) and a mental image. If by 'idea' e mean 'concept' we may be able to have ideas without sense impressions. Therefore the empiricist claim is wrong/needs modifying.
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