‘The Most Lively Thought Is Still Inferior To the Dullest Sensation’
David Hume is one of the most interesting philosophers in history, and I normally tend to agree with most of his views. However, the issue in question is a controversial one and can be debated from a variety of angles. Hume uses the statement of thoughts and sensations when trying to explain the origin of ideas in human beings. He defines a sensation as the immediate feeling perceived in mind whereby a person can feel pain due to heat or feel pleased due to a warm environment. A thought, on the other hand, is a remembrance or imagination of an earlier feeling perceived in mind (Hume, David).
When he says that even the liveliest though is inferior compared to even the least sensation, he means that sensations are superior because they are more immediate, objective, and have a greater force the thoughts. Thoughts are inferior because they are basically derived from sensations, such that, a thought cannot come about if there is no sensation to instigate it. In his statement, Hume is generally saying that a sensation can be the source of myriad imaginations. He argues that only a sick or insane person cannot be able to distinguish between imagination and reality. Therefore, imagination or thought is more controllable and lacks a force in it compared to a sensation hence the inferiority (Hume, David).
To add weight to his argument, Hume explains his assertions using a scenario of man without particular sensory organs, for example, a blind or deaf man. He argues that a blind person cannot conceive ideas of color because he has never seen any colors while a deaf person cannot form ideas regarding sounds because of inability to hear. However, if their organs are restored, there would be room for sensations, and consequently, they would be able to form notions. After regaining his eyesight back, a blind person can be able to form imaginations regarding color because he is now familiar with colors, so is for a deaf person after regaining his hearing back (Hume, David).
Hume goes further to distinguish between facts and ideas or thoughts whereby he argues that idea relationships are associated with mathematical verities. On the other hand, facts are characterized by common verities that are inferred from experiences. Factual matters are understood based on the cause and impact whereby impressions will enable deduce unobserved causes, for example, assuming that it will rain tomorrow because it has been raining for the past one week. Hume denies rationality in cause and effect ideas whereby he argues that habits are behind perceptions that complete events. This is because if an event is conjoined to another, we tend to believe that a connection exists between them based on imagination rather than reason even when there is no rational basis (Hume, David).
While arguing that every happening should have a cause that necessitated it, he seems to favor determinism rather than a free will because he does not believe in rationality. He says that human acts are causally instigated, and people cannot behave differently because of this. Simply, Hume does not see any compatibility between his determinism ideas with free will that champions rationality (Shaw, Andy). In conclusion, Hume’s work is significant in shedding light on key issues to do with human behavior thus a key figure in philosophy.
Shaw, Andy. “Philosopher David Hume On The Origin Of Ideas Summary”. Living Philosophy, 2016, http://www.livingphilosophy.org.uk/philosophy/David_Hume/The_Origin_of_Ideas.htm.
Hume, David. “An enquiry concerning human understanding (Harvard Classics).” New York: PF Collier & Son. On-line edition: 18th. eserver. org/hume-enquiry. html 10 (1910).